Listening Post: A library catalog

Sarah Harris got the ball rolling this week, with these reports on how North Country libraries are faring in tough economic times:

North Country libraries: balancing services, budgets

Librarians talk about their jobs

My home away from home. Photo: Trevor Alford

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m in the middle of my second term as an elected trustee of Potsdam Public Library, but I’ve been a card-holder there (and an enthusiastic patron) since I got my very own round-cornered ivory-colored library card in 1958 at the age of five. To me, the library has always been the sovereign antidote to ignorance, isolation, and boredom. I have become what is now called a “power-user” of this most American of civic resources.

And I’m not the only one to feel this way. Brian Mann picked up the thread in this In Box post:

So how’s your local North Country library doing…and do you care?

So far, 24 people have weighed in, almost all singing the praises of their own local library.

In many smaller towns, the public library is the last institution standing, making the difference between a hamlet surviving as a going concern, or becoming just another rural housing cluster. That’s why it was such great news to hear the story of the Wells Memorial Library in Upper Jay. Both building and collection were heavily damaged by Irene flooding. But through a huge outpouring of volunteer community support, it’s back up and running five months later. You might want to stop in at their re-opening celebration Saturday at 1 pm:

If your local library is still a blank space on your mental map of the community, drop by sometime. Here’s a little love poem,  “Men at the Library,” for my favorite home away from home.


1 Comment on “Listening Post: A library catalog”

  1. With a tip of the hat to North Country libraries for their survival skills, I thought it might be worth remembering one of the great “library experiments” in our region: the former Brautigan Library in Burlington. I founded the Brautigan in 1990 with the help of a group of like-minded visionaries. Our little library, inspired by a fictional one in a Richard Brautigan novel, only accepted unpublished writing. Manuscripts arrived from across America and around the world.

    We quickly determined that many of these unpublished works fell into the gray area between fiction and nonfiction, and we knew the Dewey Decimal system wasn’t going to work. So we devised our own classification method, dubbed the Mayonnaise System (another nod to Richard Brautigan). As a child, I frequently explored the shelves at the Lake Placid Club Library, the very place where Melville Dewey experimented with his system.

    The Brautigan Library eventually ran out of money and volunteers. Burlington’s Fletcher Free Library housed the Brautigan collection for some years after that. In 2010, the Brautigan Library reopened in Vancouver, WA with a new lease on life. It’s now a joint effort between Washington State University and Clark County Museum. You can visit online at:

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