We’re fortunate here at CLiF to have a committed and wide-ranging collection of partners, many of whom we’ve known and served for decades. The Waterville Town Library, which received a Rural Libraries grant for 2022-23, is one of these programs. Grant coordinator and volunteer trustee Chrissy Wade wrote and received a CLiF Rural Libraries grant twenty years ago when she first moved to Waterville, Vermont! Here is her story.
How did you get involved with your local library?
I moved to Vermont from Alaska with my husband, toddler, and pregnant with my second child in 1997. After renting in Chittenden County and desperately missing rural country living, we moved to Waterville, VT. I sought out the local town library, looking for my lifeline to literature and community.
I was surprised to learn that the library had been dormant for many years, and was only available to visit by appointment. I recall walking into the historic old schoolhouse and inhaling that old dusty book smell that I found nostalgic but lonely. The trustees were very happy and supportive of my optimistic passion for the library and encouraged my dream to see the library reopen with fresh books and programs.
What motivated you to get the CLiF grant 20 years ago? What about now?
When I noticed the CLIF grant and applied for it back in 2002, I had no idea how great of an impact it would have on the library. We basically got back on the map as a reactivated library in Vermont. People read the story on the front page of the News and Citizen about “The Day the Books Came Back!” and I started getting letters of support, encouragement, and even financial donations and new books sent to me in care of the library! The grassroots efforts brought more community support and the trustees became more involved in the regular operation of the library, especially as it became clear that I would need to step back in order to become a single mom running a full-time child care program in my home.
The greatest accomplishment coming out of that period was that the library kept trucking along without me when I had to lighten that load. New trustees and volunteers became involved and carried the torch–I remarried and had two more children, started college full time, and kept my child care in full swing. The greatest setback came in 2007 when a pipe burst and the library flooded. I was minimally involved at the time, but I saw the community pull together again with volunteers redoing the floors, painting the walls, and unfortunately discarding many soggy books. I was impressed and somewhat jealous (in a good way) seeing other trustees so passionately involved in keeping the library running as the years ticked by.
After some time away, I returned to the library as an elected trustee and I’m so grateful that our volunteer (and my good friend) Patty Genadio encouraged and supported this CLIF grant application to reinvigorate our collection with new books as well as partner with our local elementary school.
What are some of the challenges in running a small, rural public library?
Perhaps a unique expectation for all Waterville Town Library trustees is that they are willing to work a shift at least once a month at the library since we still don’t have any paid staff. Our annual budget is around $1875, which is approved by the Town of Waterville taxpayers who also elect the Library trustees at Town Meeting Day. Our town population is around 700 people, and we happily serve the nearby towns of Belvidere, Jeffersonville, and sometimes Johnson. It takes a village to run a library, especially without paid staff, but maybe that’s part of the charm of our library–pure grassroots power!
One of our greatest challenges is that we are not handicap accessible and this hinders us from meeting minimum library standards which disqualifies us from many grant opportunities. The cost of installing handicap accessibility has proven prohibitive for the Town of Waterville so far.
How about some of your successes?
Some of the most successful programs we offer have been live animal presentations (recently VINS), an annual cocoa & sledding party collaboration with the local Waterville Elementary Parent Organization, a Halloween party with pumpkin carving, yoga, knitting, and a StoryWalk funded by Healthy Lamoille Valley.
What are you looking forward to with this grant?
We are super excited to potentially have the entire school come to the library for the Spring 2023 CLIF grant finale with a famous author/storyteller!
The Vermont Department of Libraries offers StoryWalks on loan to public libraries.