Vermont Libraries

Yesterday, on my way to a state library conference, I exited I-89 and took a short-cut, trading an urban confluence along the Connecticut River for a winding dirt road.

Library conference? Ho-hum, you’d think. Instead, Vermont’s department of libraries is staffed with witty and super-smart people, full of insight and generosity. The second-in-command I ate lunch with offered to attend my trustee meeting.

Vermont has its large libraries, but the room yesterday was filled with many “library directors” like myself – primarily female – heading up tiny often one-room libraries, doing everything from chatting with kids about graphic novels and puppies to submitting data and vacuuming the carpet.

Zeal is a word I rarely use, but, quirky as librarians often are, they embody the best of democratic principals, ruggedly determined to preserve not only individual liberty and privacy but also the freedom to think, read, write, create.

Couple this with a reading last night of two writers at my library, packed full with appreciative townspeople. Antidote is the word I held in mind last night.

Two inches of fresh snow this morning. Temperatures in the seventies predicted next week…..

I wondered what on earth this Mencken had done to call down upon him the scorn of the South….

Now, how could I find out about this Mencken? There was a huge library near the riverfront, but I knew that Negroes were not allowed to patronize its shelves any more than they were the parks and playgrounds of the city. I had gone into the library several times to get books for the white men on the job. Which of them would now help me to get books? And how could I read them without causing concern to the white men with whom I worked? I had so far been successful in hiding my thoughts and feelings from them, but I knew that I would create hostility if I went about the business of reading in a clumsy way.

Richard Wright, from Black Boy, 1944


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