Morristown Library To Double In Size

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(Host) One of Vermont’s classic Carnegie Libraries is about to get its first major addition. And it’s the last of its kind to do so.

As VPR’s Amy Noyes reports, the project comes as the century-old Morristown Centennial Library readies for its next 100 years.

(Noyes) Of the nearly 1,700 public libraries that Andrew Carnegie paid to build at the turn of the last century, only four were in Vermont. Of them, the Morristown Centennial Library is the only one that still looks much the same as when it was built.

But now, after more than 20 years of planning, the Morristown library is about to get bigger.

(Sargent) We’re underway.

(Douglas) You bet!

(Noyes) Governor Jim Douglas helped Library Trustee Chair Sue Sargent break ground on the project. When completed, the new library will more than double in size.

Librarian Mary West is looking forward to the change.

(West) Well it feels wonderful to think that, finally, we are making progress on this and are going to be able to relieve our cramped conditions and provide more services for the community.

(Noyes) Library use is on the rise in communities across Vermont. In these tough economic times, Vermonters are borrowing more books and taking advantage of free library computers and internet access. Carnegie seems to have predicted this trend. He called libraries "the never failing spring in the desert."

House Speaker Shap Smith, who lives in Morristown, said the library continues to fulfill Carnegie’s vision for his family and others.

(Smith) The importance of the library, from my perspective, is illustrated by the kids that go to the library, and have a place where they can drink in the world of knowledge and appreciate just how wonderful the world is. And they see it through the library – that’s sort of the access to the world – and I know that my kids love going to the library.

(Noyes) But over the years, many of the libraries that Carnegie’s philanthropy built have grown cramped. In Vermont, Burlington’s Fletcher Free Library, the Fair Haven Free Library and the Rockingham Public Library have all been expanded. Even Norwich University’s Chaplin Hall – the only academic library Carnegie funded in Vermont – has undergone a major renovation.

The Morristown library will retain the traditional look of a Carnegie building. The façade of red brick with a portico and classic Greek columns will remain. The expansion will extend off the back, leaving the streetscape largely unchanged.

On the inside, the library will have a new children’s section, a community meeting room, and more space for computer users. And even though it will look different, librarian Mary West says the building will still fill the original purpose that Andrew Carnegie had in mind with his building campaign a century ago.

(West) Our intent is to just build a better library, with lots of wonderful services, and to support the community in every way we can.

(Noyes) Morristown residents can only hope this project will see them through another hundred years.

For VPR News, I’m Amy Noyes.

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