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Reading Matters

Doug Wilhelm is a full-time writer and an independent publisher in Weybridge, Vemont. His newest book is the novel STREET OF STORYTELLERS (Rootstock, 2019). His 15 previous novels for young adults include THE REVEALERS (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003), which has been the focus of reading-and-discussion projects in well over 1,000 middle schools.

A community's love letters to its library

Like its counterparts all over the U.S., the public library in Montpelier, Vermont is in a challenging time. Its budgetary belt has been pulled very tight, even as its staff faces a growing demand for services. With Town Meeting Day approaching earlier this month, the Kellogg-Hubbard Library faced an annual judgment: voters in the city and five neighboring towns would be deciding whether to approve their year’s local allotment for the library.

That was when Hilari Farrington had an idea.

Kellogg-Hubbard's interim director knew how much people use the library, and she sensed how much they value it. But how to put that into words? She could compose a “10-second elevator pitch,” as she calls it — but that would be the librarian talking.

What if the community spoke instead?

“On a table where we usually do book displays, I put up a little sign: ‘Write a valentine to your library here,’” Hilari recalls. On the table were a big red heart a little mailbox, and a stack of sheets of paper with this heading: “Dear Kellogg-Hubbard Library, I love you because ...”

“The response was immediate — and it was ongoing,” the librarian told me. As the completed sheets piled up, she posted them. That’s where I discovered these love letters to one of my favorite libraries — festooned all over its entryway and foyer, soon after all six communities had approved Kellogg-Hubbard’s annual funding.

Here’s a selection of the letters, written by patrons of all ages. I think they say so much about what libraries truly mean to the people who use them, why our families and communities need them — and why they must survive this time of change.

Dear Kellogg-Hubbard Library,
I love you because ...

You are part of my childhood history that has continued to flow through my life.

We have come almost every day and you treat us like family and we love it here!
      Four-year-old adds: Superhero Books!

Books are food!

Kellogg-Hubbard isn’t just a building with books — it’s a greenhouse, a museum, a refuge and a vacation — an atheneum and a cozy nook — with a fantastic staff who really make a difference! Thanks

The warm orangish glow from your windows at night calls me inside
where I find kind guides and books, movies and music
to take me

you are awesome and sweet

you are always here

Ryan does comics club!

I always found great things to read as a child ... nearly 40 years later I still remember my number!

I do, I just do! It feels like home

You are always here for all of us, and you give safe refuge to children of all ages who can read their hearts out and feel safe and happy. Thank you!

You are the greatest library. And, because you have great books that I may not have heard of until today.

I have been reading from here since I was in kindergarten. I’m now 67. You are a big part of my life!

I like diggers and you have digger books

... you radiate warmth, serenity, happiness, imagination, intelligence ... you share everything with everyone ... you love me back!

The library has always been my second home since before I could walk. The first thing I do when I move to a new town is get a library card. It helps me feel settled and connected.

I feel part of the family — like you remember me — part of community, of not being one alone

You are quiet and safe and warm and full of books and quiet people and old wooden shelves

You are perfect.

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