Well, here I am, back working at the Derry Public Library after almost 30 years. Thank you to the entire community for your warm reception - please continue to stop in and say hello when you are visiting the library. One old friend from my previous time at the library came in to welcome me back and told me that her children, who were in my storytimes way back then, are now 38 and 30 years old! Today she brings her 4-year-old grandson to the library with her. It's hard to believe so much time could have possibly passed. I would also especially like to thank Jack Robillard, the previous Assistant Director of the Library, who mentored me in this new position before he left to begin his retirement. Best wishes to Jack for a healthy and happy retirement.
Since I had a week off in between jobs I spent a good part of it sorting through boxes and boxes of paperwork at home. I am happy to report that I found a treasure of newspaper clippings and photographs from my time as the Director of the Derry Public Library in the early 80's. The library then was just the small little building in McGregor Park on the corner of Marlboro Road. My duties included hoisting the flag every morning when I arrived to let people know we were open and shoveling the driveway when it snowed. I found my way around the small dark office that was now mine and began to think about ways to grow the library. In no time we were off and running with projects and ideas. In the folder I found photographs from our annual Pet Show, the famous Chicken Barbecue put on by the Friends of the Library, Tasha Tudor drawings and musical performances by Charlie and Marilyn Dent. I found articles describing programs on energy efficiency offered by the NH Extension Cooperative, volunteer programs that were started, bedtime storytimes where children wore their pajamas to the library in the evenings. There were news articles about budget cuts, budgets increases, hours added, additions to the staff, changes in the Board of Trustees and many more stories that brought back memories.
Annie Ashton had been the Derry librarian for almost 20 years before I took over. The trustees then included Fran Mannarini, Dr. Emery, Mr. Pillsbury, John Cadieux and Marsha Hepworth Cook. We entered the little library through the front door, there was one bathroom in the basement, no staff kitchen, no meeting rooms, (we used the Masonic Temple when we showed Disney 8 mm movies) and only six staff members. Many will remember Bertha MacDougall, Ruth Goodchild, Lou Levandowski, Cindy Hinkley, and Jean Griffon. We had a card catalog, ink pads and hand stamps for checking out books, a safe where shelf list cards were kept and a steno pad where the magazines were checked in as they arrived. Now books are checked in and out electronically, computers are in every possible spot and security systems are in place to protect the holdings of the library. The library is part of a consortium, the Greater Manchester Integrated Library Cooperative System (GMILCS) where Derry residents can use their card in 11 other libraries and request almost every type of material whether or not the library owns it. In 1980, the library staff was fairly insulated. They had not been to many of the area libraries so we decided to take field trips to visit other communities to see what their libraries looked like and compare our space with theirs. I drove my Ford Pinto to Merrimack, Bedford and Nashua with all of us packed into the little car. We went out to lunch on the way back home, of course, because we didn't open until 2 p.m. on many days!
It is interesting to compare and contrast the library from the way it was then to the way is now. Suffice it to say that we strove to provide quality service way back then with our manual checkouts and children's programs conducted with the help of the Derry Junior Women's Club. We bought and catalogued the newest material we could within our small budget and we borrowed materials that we did not own through a very different Interlibrary Loan system. We could not click on the books we wanted from a library website from the comfort of our home and have them delivered by van to the library almost instantaneously. Instead we would send paper requests to the State Library in Concord where they would search for the materials for us and let us know whether or not that item was available for loan anywhere in the State. It could take weeks for items to be sent to fill these requests.
We did our best to bring the library into the 20th century. We joined the Merri-Hill-Rock Cooperative so that we could learn from others around us who were faced with the same issues and concerns. We tried to become a presence in the community so that the library would not be considered the forgotten step-child of the town. We always knew that we had much to offer and wanted the community to imagine the possibilities a growing community could have with a quality library. This is still our goal here at the Derry Public Library in the 21st century with a population four times the size, a larger, more modern building and an information and technology driven society. Please let us know how we are doing and what you would like to see us accomplish in the next 30 years. We are constantly working on improving, upgrading and being a vital service for the Town of Derry. Check us out!
Diane Arrato Gavrish is the assistant director of the Derry Public Library. She can be reached at 432-6140.