make room for the post office parking area. The thought of a new “modern” building had great appeal. This was a period in history when many old buildings were thought to have outlived their usefulness. Central schools, large single-story flat-roofed buildings, were being constructed in many communities. The old school building was used for other purposes or simply razed.
Library volunteer, Marguerite Douglas recalls Miss Taft, the librarian of the old Brooks Library.
“She was always shushing us kids,” Douglas said with a smile.
In 1958 the American Library Association sponsored the first National Library Week to offset the influence of radio and television. According to Jerry Carbone, director of the Brooks Memorial Library, the 1960s marked a change in the role that libraries would play in the community.
“Informal settings, large open areas and children’s rooms, where it was okay for kids to lie on the floor and look at books, was promoted by library schools as a way to meet community needs. And indeed it did. Library attendance and book circulation rose during this period. A review of the library board minutes from around the turn of the last century shows a concern on the board’s part that a greater amount of fiction was being read as opposed to nonfiction. The concern was that people were reading for entertainment rather than self-improvement. Today, the concern is focused on material available on the Internet,” Carbone said.
Junia Bryant, 91, has worked at the Brooks Memorial Library since 1955. She continues
to drive herself to her part-time position at the library where she is responsible for notifying patrons that their books have arrived. Recalling her early days at the old library, she echoed Carbone’s comments about how much more relaxed and informal the library is today.
“There are all kinds of programs to encourage people to use the library, especially the children,” she said.
Starting in the 1920s, the use of the automobile to bring services to people who lived in remote areas and did not own an automobile was growing. Mobil units for chest x-rays, traveling dentists, barber shops, blood drives and child health services were being used and welcomed in these communities. The bookmobile was part of this trend.
Doris Bates was in charge of a bookmobile that the state of Vermont housed in the basement of the old Brooks Library. Deborah Tewksbury, often seen at the circulation desk of the library, remembers Bates at the old library stocking the bookmobile with volumes she knew were popular with the readers of a particular community.
“Long before computers that could tabulate the popularity of a particular book, Miss Bates kept the information in her head,” Tewksbury said.
The Brooks Memorial Library’s total circulation last year was 167,678 and the library will be celebrating National Library Week April 14-20. Shushing, however, is no longer practiced.
Wayne Carhart is president of the Brattleboro Historical Society.
OLD AND NEW — Both library patrons, above and at right, use the Dewey Decimal Classification System developed by Melvil Dewey in 1873. The system is accessed through the computer at Brooks Memorial Library, above, as opposed to searching through card catalogs, at right.
Pages in time
Library history is marked by changes at Brooks Memorial
OVERLOOKING — A patron sits in the reading room at the old Brooks Library where a portrait of George Brooks hangs over the mantle. A sign on the rack of record albums, near center of photo, cautions patrons not to stack books on top of
Courtesy Vermont Department of Libraries
BOOKS ON WHEELS — For communities that did not have their own library, the book wagon or bookmobile offered people in rural areas a choice of reading material. The book wagon from the 1940s was operated by the state of Vermont and served the Rutland region.
At top: Wayne Carhart photo, above: Biglow photo
CHILDREN’S ROOM — At top, Jack Baker, 5, visits the children’s reading room with his dad, John. In 1932, the children’s reading room at the old Brooks Library, above, had a different atmosphere. At right is Sara Taft, librarian of the children’s section during the 1930s.
Wayne Carhart
MEMORIES — Junia Bryant, 91, works part-time at the Brooks Memorial Library. “When I left Turners Falls (Mass.) to come to Brattleboro, I told the librarian how much I would miss the library. She assured me that I would like the one in Brattleboro. She was correct, I have been working here for quite some time,” she said in a recent interview. At right, a drawing depicts the old Brooks Library. A gift to the town from George Brooks, the library opened in 1886. It was razed to make room for the post office parking lot.
STACKED — Books line the shelves of the old Brooks Library.