Carrie Kline: 0:00:00 Okay. We are in the meeting room, downstairs in the Concord Free Public Library. I'm Carrie Kline, here with Michael Kline, and would you introduce yourself—say, "My name is."
Sherry F. Litwack:
CK: And I'll be glad to hold that, just get comfortable.
SFL: Thank you. My name is Sherry Forman LitwaCK:.
CK: Okay. And date of birth, for some perspective.
SFL: September 11, 1951.
CK: Okay. And tell us about your people and where you were raised.
SFL: Well, I grew up in Newton, Massachusetts and uh in the fifties and the sixties and really was a kind of um an idyllic time to grow up, to be living in Newton. Um, for one thing, they had great schools and um it was—you know—the days when, in the summertime, you could just stay out after dinner outside and play ball in the street, until someone's mother called them home, until it got dark. And you know, it just was a very uh kind of freeing, creative place for kids to grow up and it was wonderful. Um, after that—let's see—I went to college and graduate school in the Boston area. Uh, I went to Brandeis Undergraduate and the Harvard School of Ed. Um and then after that, I um got married to someone I met in college. His name is Steve LitwaCK:. And uh, he was finishing graduate school in—at Syracuse. So um, I then—I got a teaching job in that area and we lived there for two years, while he finished his program. And um, at the end of that time, we decided we both wanted to come baCK: to the Boston area um—and uh, I actually ended up getting a job in publishing. I thought I'd be continuing in teaching, but I had the opportunity to get into publishing and uh I did that and stayed with that my whole career.
CK: 0:01:59.3 Publishing?
SFL: Yes. Uh well, let's see. The publishing was more educational publishing. Um, I worked—uh—I worked both in-house and independently um in the field of Reading and Language Arts in particular and also Children's Literature. So um—so, that's—so, we were both—that brought us baCK: to the Boston area. My husband, his first job was as a school psychologist at the Hamilton-Wenham High School. So, I—
CK: I'm sorry. Hamilton—
SFL: Wenham High School.
SFL: And uh, that's in uh Hamilton, Massachusetts on the North Shore. And um, so um, we actually lived in two homes there, house—both housesitting—and one in Wenham and one in Beverly Farms and it was really such a beautiful place to live. Um, also horse country and um—but then after we were there for three years, we started—we decided it was time to look for a house—to buy a house—purchase a house and we looked on the North Shore, in that area. We loved that area. Um, but then we both changed jobs and I started working—because at that time I was working in Boston for a publisher. Then I started working for a publisher in Lexington and my husband—um—got a job in the Brookline school system. So, we were both commuting and we said, "Maybe we should also start looking for houses some place closer to where we're working." So, we started to look in Concord and Lexington as well. But um—but we fell in love with Concord and um—for so many reasons. Um, for one thing, it reminded us of the North Shore in many ways. There were aspects of the community that were similar. Um and for me, um the literary history, um the architectural preservation of the town, um and the sense of community were just a great combination. And so, we were fortunate enough to find a house in Concord. First it seemed like, oh, we couldn't afford anything in Concord. This was in 1979. Um and—but we were kind of determined to keep trying and fortunately we finally were able to find a house on monument street. And uh—and it was actually quite charming. When we first moved in, our newspaper was delivered by a young boy on a pony. (Laughing.) We used to call it—we used to refer to it as the pony express (laughing). I know. It was—it was really pretty neat. And uh—
CK: 0:04:52.5 What year was this?
SFL: This was 1979—1979. And um, I actually never get tired of driving the three miles down Monument Street, because we live three miles from the Colonial Inn, so we're quite a ways down there. Um, but it's so beautiful in all seasons. Um and we love how the landscape transforms from suburban to rural. When you sort of start in the town of Concord and then you keep going further and further out and it gets quite rural. Um and of course, highlights along the way—um—are the Old North Bridge and the Old Manse, the view of Hutchins Farm and Waters Edge Farm, which is out near where we are. Um, so for us, it's like you see the town's revolutionary, literary, and agricultural history—um—all the things that really make Concord special along the way, so.
CK: I'm not familiar with those farms you mentioned.
SFL: Well, then you have to take a ride out—down there. The uh Hutchins Farm is—that's about a mile-and-a-half from Concord Center and it's an organic farm. It was—and I'll be actually mentioning the Bemuses—but it was owned by the Hutchins family—um—um—Mr. Hutchins—well—became the—it was the mother, whose last name was Hutchins, and she married a Bemus and I'll talk a little bit more about that family. But um, when you—the vista is just one of the most beautiful scenes. I mean people stop their cars just to see it, whether they're on bike or—you know—in a car. People paint it all the time. It's just a beautiful, agricultural scene. But they also grow wonderful organic vegetables. So, um and the Waters Edge Farm is a horse farm and that's out—that's almost the three miles to where—a few houses beyond that. So again, their beautiful vista of just horses grazing and um—it's interesting, because my parents, whenever they would visit and they would drive by that farm, they'd always say that you couldn't find a prettier rural view um even in the English countryside. And it does have that feel about it. So, you must drive down that far. Just keep going, about three miles.
0:07:16.4 Um and I also wanted to talk a little bit—when I think about Monument Street and um just talk about some of our neighbors, because um we have had some wonderful neighbors and in particular the Woodmans, who are really a multigenerational family on Concord, lived here for um probably at least three generations. Um, but Mr. Woodman, who has since passed away—um, but his wife Ethel still lives across the street from us—um, but he really defined what it meant to be a good neighbor. He was—he was the type of person that would get up at the craCK: of dawn in the winter to plow our driveway uh during a snowstorm, so that my husband could get to work on time. It—this would be like six o'cloCK: in the morning. We would hear Mr. Woodman. He'd be on his—you know—one of those sort of um—you know—well, like the rider type of mowers, but with a plow and he'd just come over and plow the driveway. And another thing that we always remember that he did was um, when we wanted to put an addition on our house, um he made sure that he went to the hearing, so that he could speak on our behalf. And we didn't know he was going to be there, but there he was just to say what good people we were and why we should be able to do this project. And of course, everybody respected him. So, it—he really was quite a special—quite a special person.
CK: Do you remember his first name?
SFL: Yes, yes. So, this is kind of—kind of odd. So, his first name was Byron. And Byron is a family name, so that—so uh—his name was Byron; his son's name is Byron and Byron is actually a lawyer in town and has a—um—is a wonderful person and businessman in town. And um—but people called the son Byron Woody as he was growing up. But then that Byron had a son and—named Byron—and of course, as he was growing up, he was called Woody. So now, even though when we first moved here, we would refer to our neighbor's son as Woody, now we call him Byron and we call his son Woody (laughing). So, it's really a funny—a fun—uh—family name.
Um, but um another nice connection, actually, to the uh Woodman family is when our daughter, who is now thirty-five—she was born two years after we moved to Concord—um, the Woodmans across the street, Ethel and Byron, their granddaughter, Hunter, babysat—was our daughter's first babysitter. And we had her babysit um when Caroline was just six months old. We looked baCK: on this. It was just six months old and Hunter was ten years old. Um and so we say, "How could we have let a ten-year-old babysit for a six-month-old?" Um, but the truth of the matter is that besides the fact that Hunter was very mature for her age and loved children, we really had the whole extended family that were babysitting: the grandparents across the street and then um her parents um behind them. So, it was really a nice situation. Um and Hunter now has three children of her own and the other—the Woody I was talking about—that's her brother—you know—her brother Woody. Um, but she has three children of her own and for many years now—because her oldest is at least in high school—um, but they would always, at Halloween, um go to visit her grandmother across the street to show their costumes and she would always make a point of coming to our house too, so that we could see their costumes. And I have many pictures through the years of them growing up and—yeah, so you could see a very special family in so many ways.
0:11:14.0 Um, but uh—but then thinking about other neighbors and what makes them special, um, there's Mary Lawrence, um—who and I—I don't know if she's done an oral history, but if she hasn't, she would be a wonderful person to do it. She's well into her nineties um now and um her husband, Raymond, his family owned much of the land on Monument Street, near where we are. And she um—well, when I take my walks, if I'm luCK:y enough and I see her sitting outside—she loves to—and by the way, she still mows her lawn (laughing)—you know—a hand-mower and does her—does—you know—a lot of the gardening and so on—a remarkable woman. But um, if I'm luCK:y enough and she's sitting outside while I'm taking my walk—you know—I stop by and we have a chat. And um I love to hear her talk about the stories of Concord when she was first married—when she first—I think she was—in fact, I know—she's English, so she was born in England. And um, but she—you know—came when she was living in Concord as a young bride. And um, so she tells wonderful stories about—there was a cabin in the baCK:. There's like a small pond and a cabin, where they would have these wonderful parties all summer and you can just kind of imagine what that was like.
And another neighbor across uh from her—I think it was the McLaughlan (??sp??) family that I know is connected to Hope Mifflin (??sp??)—Winston Churchill visited that home and uh—and I think—believe that Mary had a chance to meet him and—you know—loves to share those stories. So, it's fun to think of our neighborhood before we were there. Um, another great thing about Mary is she has a great sense of humor. So, she is an arch republican. And um, so when there's an election, she finds—gets the biggest sign she can for her candidate and I—in particular, I remember one of George Bush—probably both George Bushes over the years. But the fun thing about it is her neighbor across the street for many years was Cory Atkins, who is a democratic Massachusetts congresswoman. And so—so, Mary—so, Cory's driveway is right across from Mary's house. So, Mary would get the biggest sign she possibly could and make sure she planted it right—you know—where Cory would see it every morning. But of course, they were also great friends. And uh, when I think about that—you know—you wish that the political parties today—you know—that people could still get along like that as people, even if they have some different opinions in terms of their political views. But we always got such a great—
Michael Kline: Great story.
SFL: (Laughing) great kiCK: out of those sides. Um—um, another neighbor—and I actually mentioned them when I mentioned Hutchins farm—um—I hope this is okay talking about the neighbors.
CK: This is fabulous.
SFL: This is okay?
SFL: 0:14:20.5 It's definitely a sense of the community for me.
SFL: Um, when our daughter was um six months old—about six months old or so, when she was a baby—somebody said, "Oh, there's another baby about the same age in the house in the woods behind you." And actually, literally, it was like this path that led into the woods behind. So, I said, "Oh, well that's good to know." So, I put Caroline in the—in the stroller and we walked down this—you know—kind of dirt path to this house. You know, sounds a little bit like a fairy tale, but that's exactly what it was like. And knoCK:ed on the door and uh Jane Bemus opened the door and I—you know—I mentioned—I said, "Somebody said that you—you know—you might have a baby about the same age and I just wanted to meet you. We're neighbors." She invited me in and um—and her daughter is Liza Bemus. And um, so I always say that Liza was my daughter's first friend. And they're friends to this day. Um, Liza uh was actually—was also a um—a bridesmaid in my daughter's wedding four years ago. So—you know—that's really obviously a special, special relationship.
Um and—and then I thought I would—um, so that hopefully gives you a little bit of a sense of our—of our—kind of the neighborhood and how it's changed. And of course, when we moved to the neighborhood in 1979, we were the new—you know—like kind of the new family and now we're—we feel like now we're the (laughing) you know, we're the elders in many ways too. But uh, as it should be—you know—as neighborhoods change.
SFL: Um, but then I thought I would talk a little bit about how I started to get involved with the community and the library and all of that. Um, so I guess I started uh getting involved with the community um as—when my daughter was young, when she was growing up. And the first volunteer um experience I remember was at her preschool, which was The Barn Nursery School. It still exists. And it was a parent cooperative, so um—uh—that meant the parents would help out. Um and we loved her teacher, Frances Webber. Um and we actually ended up following Frances to the Nashoba Brooks School, where she ended up teaching kindergarten and then she ended up teaching first grade. So, my daughter had her for like two years of nursery school, kindergarten, and first grade. So, it takes a very special teacher to—you know—want to have a teacher for that many years.
Um, but the special way that I like to help out at the school for the—like the parents' association was running the book fairs, which—
CK: Is there some sort of crinkling I'm hearing? Okay. Is that you? Crinkling. All right. Anyway, baCK: to the books.
SFL: 0:17:12.2 Yes. Um, so—um, so I would run the book fairs. And as you can see, there was a theme with my um publishing experience. And um, so uh we were—besides it being a wonderful book fair where people could buy books, one of the things I wanted to do was bring children's authors and illustrators to the school to do presentations. And because I had some connections um to publishers, I was able to do that. And we brought people like Tomie Depaola; and Mark Brown, um who is known for the uh Arthur series; and Natalie Babbitt; Lois Lowry; Jane Langton; uh Barbara Cooney, who—these are just some of the—for people who know children's literature—you know—really some of the best writers and illustrators. So, that was a very special uh experience.
Um and then—and then the next probably major volunteer um experience I had was on the board of the Friends of the Library. And uh, I was actually the president from 1990 to 2001. It sounds like an awfully long time—you know—to be president, but uh—but I loved it and it was something that I wanted to continue to be involved in. And when I was president, um we actually initiated some of the—some programs that are still going today, um such as the Music from the Library series; Friday FliCK:s at Fowler, which is a film series; and um, the Miller Award for Excellence in American History. Um and so—anyway, I'm just thrilled and delighted that those programs are still going strong today.
CK: And the music, is that indoor and outdoor, both?
SFL: Well, we actually have both. This particular series—um the Music from the Library series is indoors and it's um held in the rotunda of the main library, which interestingly has excellent acoustics and you wouldn't—that wouldn't necessarily be the case. But the person that we found and the reason that it became so successful, um is that we found another Concordian named Sally Sanford. Uh, she's married to Sandy Smith, who is a trustee of the library—now is a trustee of the library. Uh, but Sally is a very talented singer herself um and really uh an expert in music. So um, somehow we connected with her; asked if she would be interested in trying to start a series like this; and she took it on and is just doing it to this day with the Music Committee. And the quality of the programs has been incredible. We've been fortunate to get people like Russell Sherman, who might be wanting to try out a new program, so he'll do it here. Um and we've got—uh had many emerging artists, who have then have gone on to have—you know—very nice—very good careers. But um, it's interesting, because—you know—all our programs are free and open to the public, as are the music programs. But with the Music series, it's been so successful that you have to reserve, because we run out of space. You know, there's no charge, but you have to reserve. And you have—you can't—you have to do it—you can't do it any earlier than two weeks, I believe it is, before the concert. So, when that—and we advertise and on the website—you know—and we let people know—you know—when it is. Within ten minutes, it's full. (Laughing.) It's like people know—must put it on their calendar, "Call—call at this time," and it's a nice problem to have, but um, when we have even more space at the library—which I'll talk a little bit about too—uh hopefully, we'll be able to have even more people—you know—experience these concerts. So, those—those are indoors. They usually are about three to four a year.
0:21:20.7 Then outdoors, there are actually also our summer concerts. And Karen Ahearn, the children's librarian—um, I think she may be the one who started it uh a number of years ago. But that's often—those are more like family concerts, where people picnic on the lawn and some people do like a—almost like a Tanglewood—you know—sort of fancy picnic. But most people just—you know—just have a much more casual approach to it. Um, but it's uh many different like uh—more like folk music and a lot of different ethnic groups um come—you know—Latin music and just really many different styles of music. And so, there usually—I think there are usually about three of those in the summer and those are really a lot of fun.
CK: Just by—just outside the front door?
SFL: Just outside the front door, on the lawn. Yeah, yeah.
CK: Not a huge space. I bet that's crowded too.
SFL: It—oh, it—it is. I mean you'd be surprised how many people you can get there. But it's—yes, it also—much of the—most of the lawn is covered (laughing), which is really delightful. Um, which I—then take—reminds me of the Friends um Library book sale, because that's also held on the lawn. So um, the Friends of the Library have been having the book sale as their major fundraiser for many years, definitely before I was involved on the Friends—on the board of the Friends of the Library. And it is—as I said, it's the major fundraiser. And um, I always—and I still—now I'm not on the board of the Friends—I'm on the Library Corporation board—but I still volunteer for the library book sale, because I—people have often heard me say it's one of my favorite days of the year. It's like just the best community event. Um, it's just—I don't know if you've ever had a chance to go. But if not, and if you like books, um I'd strongly recommend it.
CK: Can you describe it?
SFL: Yes, I'd be happy to. The um—so, what—what makes it so successful—lots of things make it so successful—but one of the main things is that we have um book sorters—they're all volunteers—and have had for many years. And you know, some people are book sorters for many, many years and then new people come on. Um, but all year round, people from the community donate books. And because of the town we live in, the quality of the books is—and the number of books—is really great. Um, I mean you'll get hardcover books that—you know—look brand new basically and they're sold for two dollars. And you know—so um, people know—including dealers—know that the Concord Book Sale is really something special. And um, so the book sorters, as books are donated, they sort the books into categories. And they have refined it over the years more and more and more categories. But everything they've done has made a difference. When I was president of the Friends—I believe, because it still was our major fundraiser—I think we raised in the vicinity of eight thousand—eight to ten thousand and we were thrilled. I mean we thought that is just terrific. Now it's closer to eighteen to twenty thousand in this one-day book sale. I mean it's—it is—it's unbelievable.
So, the sorters are amazing. One of the sorters is um Janet Kaminstein. She started getting involved—I don't know—at least five years ago, maybe longer. But she has retail experience. So, what she's brought to it—well, she's brought many things to it—but just the way things are displayed and things that really make a difference, in terms of people buying more or being able to see the books better, whatever it is. And so, it's wonderful to see volunteers like that—you know—be able to make such a difference. And um so, as I said, it's um one of my favorite days of the year. We usually try to have some music. Um, there's someone named Tom Ruggles who lives in town—and he'd be a good person for the oral history too, if he hasn't done it already.
CK: 0:25:42.2 R-u-g-g-l-e-s, Ruggles?
SFL: Ruggles, yes. Yes, R-u-g-g-l-e-s, exactly. And his wife um—her name is Janot and she has been a book sorter for many years.
SFL: Janot, J-a-n-o-t. And um—and Tom um—one of the things that he does for fun is he has um a band/barbershop quartet. I don't know—I'm not sure exactly how to describe it—but really fun music. And so, for many years, they—those musicians have volunteered and they'll play, so that adds just a really nice atmosphere to the whole event. And it's just very festive and a lot of fun.
CK: Just tables and table and tables?
SFL: Tables and tables and tables, but as I say, very well organized, um in terms of subjects. You know, so people—you know—some people go right to the cookbooks and—you know—they know what they're looking for. We always have a Specials—we call them Specials section. And those are books that are special for—that we might not want to sell for just, say, two dollars or, in the case of a paperbaCK:, one dollar—uh, but that we want to charge a little bit more for, because of its nature. Sometimes they're related to the history of Concord or—you know—various things can make them special. Uh, so we um—that's a separate section and um, some people come especially for that—that aspect.
0:27:18.3 Um, but just over the years, uh the volunteers that we've had um—you know—I think of um—you know—Clayborn Dawes who has been a volunteers for many, many years as one of the sorters and—you know—she just—people—just what people bring to the experience um is really incredible and it's really special. So—
CK: And you hope it doesn't rain.
SFL: Yes, so—right. So, we always have a rain date, uh which is the following Saturday. There have been times—when I was president of the Friends, it's the president's job to make the call if there's a question of whether it's going to rain or not. And there are times when that's a very hard—you know—decision to make, because it could go either way. And as you can imagine, even if it doesn't start off raining, if it starts later on, that's—you know—your merchandise is ruined. And so um, yes. So, there are times that we've gone to the rain date and there was at least one, if maybe a couple of times, where we had to go to yet another date.
Um, but one year was really interesting, because um what happened is we had the sale and it—and it's busiest—it opens at ten and um—and people wait—you know—like crowds gather. We have like a rope that goes around the periphery. Crowds gather and then we drop the rope and people come running in (laughing). It's like—it's really—it's really something to see. We always say we have to take an aerial photograph of it. It's really an amazing sight. So um—so, this one year, uh it was probably about maybe eleven o'cloCK:, twelve o'cloCK:, so the rush piece was over, but there still were quite a few people and it's open till three o'cloCK:. Um, it started to rain. So um, we had tarps um and so people went rushing to—you know—put the tarps over the books and try to preserve the books. Well, most people who were shopping didn't leave. And we have pictures of people like lifting up the tarps and—you know—piCK:ing out their books and (laughing)—it's like—that's like the dedicate—I don't—you know—it's really amazing to see um that love of books or love of something. But um—and so, both thought, "Okay, so this year, we're not going to do as well um as we usually do. But you know, we can't help—that's the one thing we can't control is the weather." We ended up breaking a record that year. None of us could still believe—like how could that possibly have happened? It happened. So you know, it's really—lots of fun, fun stories uh to tell about the book sale.
Um, so um—so after—so that sort of, I think, kind of represents my experience with the Friends, in particular, and I do continue through my volunteering for—to work on the book sale. Um—oh, one other thing I do want to say about the book sale is that there's been a really fun tradition where we sell refreshments. So, we always try to get kids of um either people on the Friends board or—usually it's children of people on the Friend's board to sell the refreshments, because—you know—to try to get the kids involved. It's almost like having a lemonade stand and that kind of thing. But one of the most wonderful stories was that um a number of years ago um a mother came by and we were setting up for the book sale—which by the way, we start setting up at six in the morning and the book sale actually opens at ten. But you know and we get the—it's all volunteers. You know, they come and set up the—you know—just set everything up and we've had to come up with a real process, as you can imagine, for getting—because—now, I don't remember the number of books, but if you heard the number, I mean you wouldn't—it was like—I wanted to say twenty thousand. It's probably more than that. I mean it's an incredible number of books, but they all have to be brought up to the lawn and put in the right place and so on.
0:31:35.2 So, one year we were setting up and a mother came with two young boys. And she said, "Can you use their help?" And they—the expressions on their faces didn't look like they particularly were interested in helping, but clearly the mother was—wanted them to—you know—learn what it was like to volunteer or just give them something to do or something. So, we never turn away a volunteer, obviously. So you know, we—I gave them some things to do to help with the set up. Um, but then they ended up staying after the uh book sale opened. So, I said, "Okay. We need you to sell refreshments." So, they liked that idea, because it was kind of like their own thing to do. And I'd say at the time, they were probably about—probably maybe middle-school age at the most, maybe even younger than that. So, the next year, they just showed up. (Laughing.) It was—you know—and so, we said, "Oh, great, great!" So, of course, "Yeah, you're in charge of the refreshments." They showed up the next year, the next year. Now they're in high school and I have a picture of them through the years. So, of course—you know—just because of the way boys—you know—develop and grow, they looked like little boys when they came and they looked like men—you know—when they left. They actually came baCK: year after year, until they were seniors in high school. And um, they actually, I think, did come the next year just to like visit and say hi. But you know, for these two young boys who were not happy about—you know—it was one of their mothers—you know—who kind of got them into this thing. It turned out to be something that, I think, became really a special thing for them and certainly a special thing for us. And so, um—I could go on and on about the book sale, but it gives you an idea.
CK: Oh, this is all great.
SFL: (Laughing.) Good, good.
CK: It's really inspiring.
SFL: Good. Um so, let's see. After being involved with the Friends um of the Library, um I was invited to join the board of the Louisa May Alcott Memorial Association, which is the board that um runs Orchard House, the home of the Alcotts in Concord. And um, so um that was something that was special to me. As I had mentioned, one of the reasons I moved to Concord is I—you know—the literary connections for me were very special. And um, I still have my childhood copy of Little Women, as I know thousands of other women do and probably some men too. Um, so it really—you know—felt like a privilege to actually be on the board. Um and uh during my tenures, we had some very interesting times. Um, we purchased the house next door uh, which allowed us to preserve the historic house more, because we could move some of the administrative offices to that house, um because—have you ever been in Orchard House? Have you ever been? It's on Lexington Road, um but—you know—it's a very old house, for one thing, and the weight-bearing—the offices were on the second floor and you have the copy machines and equipment and it was really doing a job on the historic house. And so, it enabled us to move all that over to um this other house and um also some of the programming that—obviously, we do—like to do a lot of the programs at Orchard House itself, but um—but anything that involved maybe children doing craft projects or something messy like that, again, we could have it—you know—at another location. Um and the caretakers of the house were able to live there as well. So, it really did um help us to preserve the historic house, by purchasing the house next door.
0:35:29.7 Um, another project we did—and this one is—still I don't quite even understand how we were able to accomplish this—but the house had to be—the basement had to be reinforced. And the way—and other work done in the basement. In order to do that, they had to actually lift the house—the whole historic house. Which, again, for an old house—you know—that's pretty precarious to begin with. But the amazing piece is that the house museum never closed during this whole process.
CK: The what never closed?
SFL: The—well, it's the house, which is just—it's an historic house that people come to visit, you know. And um so, here—there was actually a picture that you can see, if you're ever at Orchard House, that shows the historic house on this kind of metal crane or lift. And again, the fact that they remained open—well, the Director, Jan Turnquist, is an amazing woman. Uh, some—you know—the fact that they were able to remain open during this whole process is quite incredible. But anyway, the work was done and it was successful and so, it was great.
Um and another highlight when I was the—I actually became the president of that board for a few years—is that the First Lady, Laura Bush, came to visit. And um, one of the reasons she came is that Little Women was one of her favorite books growing up and, as you may know from some of the work she did, is—not only when her husband was President, but afterwards—that literacy is uh—you know—very important to her as a cause. So um, this was just something that she wanted to do. And I don't think she had ever—in fact, I'm sure she had never been there. So um, it was interesting. Um, there were certain protocols that you had to follow, as you would imagine. And um, we were like—we said—we were instructed not to put our hand out; to wait till she—and this wasn't her—these weren't her directions. This was obviously the um—the security—you know—for the White House that um—that had these rules. And they said, "No, don't extend your hand to her. Wait till she extends it to you," and things like that. But she, herself, couldn't have been nicer. Um, she was very warm um and um it really was—it was a—you know—a pleasure to have that opportunity and to meet her.
CK: That was when she was—
SFL: 0:38:07.5 And it was when she was First Lady—yeah, yeah—which made it, obviously, extra special because of that. Um, but also for her, Orchard House and Louisa May Alcott and Little Women had a special connection to her, because of her mother. You know, she remembered reading the book with her mother and she grew up in Midland, Texas. And you know—and that's where you see, again, what makes Concord so special. You know, Orchard House and many other places in Concord are really pilgrimages for people. You know, Walden Pond, the Library Special Collections, and just so many places in town um and—so, I'm sure some people here take it for granted. I know there are people in Concord who have never been to Orchard House and I'm always amazed by that. Um, but then when you hear about people coming from—and not just all over the United States, but all over the world to visit these places—you know—it gives you a renewed—I guess a renewed appreciation.
So um, so I enjoyed my tenure at the uh Louisa May Alcott Memorial Association on that board. Uh, but after I had done that for a few years, um I was invited to become a trustee of the Library Corporation. Um and that, for me, that was really a very special honor, because it means that you're a steward of the library and um—
CK: A steward?
SFL: A steward, in term—and this is what I mean by that. Um, the library was founded in 1873 by a man named William Munroe. He lived in town. And he donated the land and a building to be used for the purpose of a um public library. But the way he set it up was as a public-private partnership. And what that meant was that the Library Corporation, which he created, um would—which would be a nonprofit organization—would own the buildings, the grounds, and the Special Collections, which I think he referred to as special holdings um at the time. And I—you know—we sometimes speculate why did he set it up that way and we can only guess that perhaps that was his way of protecting—you know—the assets, in a sense. You know, because if a—you know—sometimes if a town runs—is running short on money, they might say, "Oh, let's sell this painting," or—you know—or something like that. I don't—we don't know, but that is how it was set up. And um, so—and I think that has really ended up being a real—very much of an asset to the town. Because what that means is if the library needed to do a renovation, um it is the responsibility of the Library Corporation to raise the money to do that. It's not the obligation of the town to pay for it through taxes. Um and so—well, of course, the town would—you know—support the project in various ways um and we need to work very, very closely with the town uh if we—when we're doing these kinds of renovations or projects, because the town is responsible for the staff. They hire the staff and pay for the staff. And so, the Library Corporation can't just go about saying, "Oh, we're going to add on—you know—all this space, or you know, do whatever we might do and the town just needs to pay for the staff—you know—to support it." So, that's not the way we work. The way we work is together—you know—if we have a need, then we work with the town to figure out how we can make it happen together.
0:42:04.8 Um, another thing that William Monroe did when he set up the library is um artwork was always—from the very beginning was a special part of the library, which I know is not true probably for most libraries. So, it's almost more what I might say—like an athenaeum in that sense. And so, that—the artwork um has really become part of what we now refer to as Special Collections. And that also—some of that is artwork, as you see on the walls here, um but it also includes um manuscripts and um special—like town papers and a variety of things that are in our archives. Um, but again, he just—we think baCK: on how wise he was to kind of set it up the way he did and it really ended up being even a more special gift to the town because of that, I believe.
Um—and um, so the Library Corporation—um, I guess I became a trustee in 2007 and I've served as president since 2011. Um and there have been some highlights so far and I hope there will be more to come.
CK: I'd like to hear about some.
SFL: Okay, great. Um—well, one of them is that we renovated the Fowler Branch Library. Now—and that was probably about—hmm—about five years ago. And this was—again, this is a reflection of Concord as a community and what the community values. This was a time when it was a—there was more—close to the recession, when we were starting to talk about it, especially—you know—doing it. And people were saying, "This is not a good time to fundraise." Um, but—and not only that, but many towns were closing their branches—you know—branch libraries. They couldn't support them anymore. But our community—and the corporation was responsible for raising the money, but how does that happen? It happens with the support of—you know—people in the community who want to support the project. Um, we—we were able to do this major renovation at that time. And one of the things that worked in our favor, as far as the recession was concerned, is prices were better, in terms of materials, and so that was a big selling point that we said, "If we do now, it's going to cost us a lot less than if we—you know—wait a few years and try to do it." So, a lot of people who had the means to support us thought that—you know—they'd be getting a much better value for their money—you know—if we were able to do it at that time.
CK: And that was under the guise of the corporation, not the Friends. Is that right?
CK: Can you distinguish those two?
SFL: Yes, yes. That's a really good question. Okay, so there are basically three groups related to the library: one is the Friends of the Library, which I talked to—talked about to begin with, who sponsor the book sale. And the Friends, also a nonprofit group—and I think the Friends started in the seventies. I think that's when that group began, like in the 1970s I believe. But what the Friends do is the money they raise goes primarily for programs. They sponsor a lot of the children's programs and adult programs. It goes for things like museum passes and large print books and CDs and a variety of materials. Um and so, that's—and they get their money mainly through the book sales. There's also a book sale um in—around the holiday time as well. And also, they have membership as well. So, that's where their money comes from and they use that money to sponsor the programs and um some of those services I mentioned. Okay.
0:46:02.2 The Library Corporation has a very different—and that's where the word steward sort of comes in again too. Because the Library Corporation owns the buildings, the grounds, and the Special Collections, we are responsible for preserving and maintaining the buildings and the grounds and the Special Collections. And so, if we ever want to renovate uh or expand, um it is the Library Corporation that is responsible for raising the money to do that. So um—and also make—you know—doing—hiring the architect and—you know—the contractors and all of that piece.
So um, and then the third group is the Library Committee. And that is more of the—like a town committee—just like there would be the school committee and there are various town committees. So, the Library Committee is the town-library kind of connection and they're responsible uh mainly for long-range planning, policies, things like that.
Um so, the three groups together really are more than the sum of its parts. Because, again, the community just benefits from the combination. And we all have very specific missions, very different missions, but we work together very closely. Obviously, any project that we did for um, let's say a building project, clearly would benefit the programs, which the Friends—you know—plan. So they—you know—then we could have more programs, because of—you know—some building project that we might have. Um and actually a really good example—well, I'll um just finish talking a little bit about the Fowler Project and then I'll mention another big project that we have coming up.
So, the Fowler Project—what happened—this was an interesting example of how this happened. In the 1990s—
SFL: Fowler, F-o-w-l-e-r. Named after Loring Fowler, who lived in Concord.
CK: 0:48:16.4 But this was—this was not the main branch.
SFL: Right. This is in—and it's in West Concord. It's the branch library that's in West Concord, uh-huh. And um, so that building originally was built, I believe, in like the 1930s. And then um it—there was a renovation in the 1990s. But at the time, the Library Corporation could only um—only wanted to take on—you know—a certain size project, raise so much money. Um so, they were able to actually create a much bigger and better—they added on a little bit to the building, but also were able to really have a much better children's room and they were able to make other improvements. But one of the other things they did is they put in an elevator shaft. And um, what that meant was that um in the future, if another Library Corporation board—you know—wanted to take on the project and take it to the next step or the next phase, the whole bottom level could be developed and essentially double the space of the library. And um, because the basement was being used for storage and a few things, but it really could be developed as very usable space.
CK: It's on one level now. Is that just the first floor?
SFL: When—well, as of the 1990s, it was just still on one level. It was built on one level. And there was a basement, but as I said, it was more of a basement and not particularly usable space. So, in the nineties, they did a lot with the first floor. They put in this elevator shaft, should in the future—you know—just as a way of maybe hoping that in the future more could be done. So, our board um—well, the project, I think, was finished about five years ago. But when we started planning it, maybe closer to something like eight years ago, um decided that time had come that—you know—first of all, West Concord was growing and um people—you know—more and more people were using the library. You're using both libraries. And so, we said, "This is the time." And so, we decided to take it on as a project and we were able to complete it. And that's when I got baCK: to the fact that it was good timing because of costing less money, because materials were less at that time. Um and we were able to finish the bottom floor and now that's really a very beautiful space and there's a huge meeting room that many community groups will use uh for meetings um and other workspaces. Um so—but that's a nice example of one board being able to take the project so far, making some great improvements, and then setting it up so that a future board, which was uh how many years later—let's see—'95, 2005, probably at least fifteen years later, maybe even more that that happened. Um, you know we appreciate their foresight and then we took advantage of it. (Laughing.)
CK: So, Concord does have to think ahead and do—
CK: Go the extra stretch.
SFL: 0:51:32.8 I think that's really true. Um so then—okay, so the next—the next big thing um was about three years ago, almost exactly, the house next door to the main library was for sale. And that's 151 Main Street. So, when that came to our attention, the board discussed whether we wanted to consider—again, it would be the Library Corporation board that would be responsible for buying it, not the town. And so um, we said, "This is something we should seriously consider, because we're landloCK:ed. And so, if we do have some ideas of ways we might want to expand, that's probably the only way we're going to be able to do it." Um and so, we did decide to buy it. We were able to do that mainly because we had received a wonderful bequest from someone that really—that significantly increased our endowment. And again—you know—the power that a gift can make, this is like a perfect example of that. Because I'm sure that without that gift, we would have said no. You know, "It's a great idea, but how can we afford to do it?" I mean we—and especially to have to raise the money after the fact and—you know—and just it would have been too frightening and scary and I don't know that I would have been able to make that leap responsibly.
CK: The bequest is at the time of death? Isn't that a bequest?
SFL: Yes. Yes, yes. And I hope I'm using the right term, but it was at the time death. And it's actually a wonderful story about this particular woman who did it, because she—her name was Helen Codere.
SFL: C-o-d-e-r-e. She volunteered at the library for many years and she became—she and the director really became friends over the years. And um—and when she passed away, she left a considerable sum to the library. And um, she wasn't married, did not have children, and um she did leave some of her money to other family members, but a very substantial amount she left to the library. And with that gift—you know—I mean even—first of all, it was able to help us with Fowler as well, because of the timing of it, but really it enabled us to buy this property next door, which is going to have a tremendous impact to the future of the library. So, you just—you know—you just never know—you know—when these opportunities are going to come and how wonderful they are.
Um so—but the triCK:y part about the buying of the house was that it was around Memorial Day weekend. That's how I know that it was almost exactly three years ago. And um, as a result of that, many of the board members weren't around. I mean—you know—they—it was a holiday weekend. They weren't around. But we had to put—if we wanted to put in a bid, we had to put it in by—well, Monday was a holiday—by Tuesday at noon and because there was already interest from other people in the house. So, through a series of phone calls—conference calls—we had—we felt that we had to do certain things—do our due diligence before making that decision, because it was a significant purchase. And so, we first of all wanted to establish the need, even though—you know—we didn't have a lot of time to do that. So, we worked with our Library Director, Kerry Cronin, to talk about—you know—if we had more space, how might it be used? I mean we knew that our programs—like I mentioned the Music series and other programs—were over-subscribed—you know—in terms of people wanting to attend these programs. Um and we also knew that libraries were changing in certain ways and we wanted to be able to adapt and evolve with changing times. So, Kerry was able to speak to the staff and come up with things that—you know—if we were able to, what we could do with additional space.
Um, we—it was at that time that I think I never appreciated more than ever how wonderful our board is. You know, you always hope that a board will have the skills that you need to do what they need to do, make decisions. But it's at time like this when you know you have the right people. Because we had the financial people, who were able to run the numbers and—you know—let us know whether we were going to be okay as far as that was concerned; we had people with legal expertise, who were able to help with the drawing up of the contract and getting that signed in a timely manner, as the right questions legally; we had people with building expertise and contracting expertise, who were able to meet with the zoning people and the building commissioner in town, to make sure that it was going to be something that would be okay for the library to do; and it—and we had someone who had town governance experience, so she knew the right questions that we needed to ask again, to make sure that we were doing this—you know—that this was something that was going to work as part of the public-private partnership. And it's just like all the pieces came together. And um—and so, by the end of the series of conference calls, we made the decision that we wanted to move forward, but we felt that it was essential to talk to the Town Manager before we actually made the move. And because Monday was a holiday and we had to have our bid in by noon on Tuesday, um Kerry Cronin, the Director, she had meetings scheduled already with the Town Manager on Tuesday morning and she said, "I'll get in touch with him and see if you can meet with him during that time that I was planning to meet with him," and she would join us. So, she did that. He said yes. So, a couple of the trustees and Kerry sat down, told him about this opportunity. He thought it was a wonderful one. Apparently, that house had come up for sale quite a few years before and he had thought at the time, "Wouldn't it be nice if," although the library wouldn't have, I'm sure, been able to do it at that time. So, he was very supportive of the whole idea. Um and while we were meeting with him, the Town Manager, the person on our board who has this building experience was meeting with the zoning person and the building commissioner, asking those questions. Then we got together—we said, "Okay. Looks like it's a go." So, we had another trustee at the lawyer's office ready to draw up the purchase and sales and he did that. Um and then I went to the office, we signed what we needed to sign, got those papers, and we got it. (Laughing.) And so, it really—it just was—it was just such a great example of having to work together in a really short period of time to accomplish something that was really important.
SFL: And so—well, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Um, so this house is an historic house and it's really a very unique house inside. Um, but we have—now at this point, we have architectural plans of how we could integrate the two buildings. We went through a series of—did a lot of market research to make sure that we knew how libraries are evolving and what our needs might be for the future. Um and that included doing—uh—we did surveys; we brought many groups into the house; we did focus groups; and we just—you know—we really did all the things we thought we should do to make sure that we had a good plan for how we would use this additional space.
1:00:16.9 Now, we're at a point where we're onto the next phase, which is—um—the Library Corporation, as I mentioned, we're responsible for being able to raise the money to make this happen. And so, we're at beginning stages to—um to do that. And um, we've hired a feasibility consultant who's met with quite a few people, where we were feeling confident at this time that it is something that people will support. Um, but we have a lot of work to do to make it happen. So um, that's one of our big initiatives in coming years. But what it will do is we'll always preserve what makes our library very special and unique.
And as you know, we have some beautiful historic spaces and wonderful spaces to reflect and write and all of that. And at the same time, we see libraries changing. Some people would say that libraries are going away, but research shows otherwise and our own personal research definitely shows otherwise. We—our library is busier than it's ever been. Circulation is up. So, it's interesting, because it's busier, yes, because people want to—want programming and we've got lots of—you know—wonderful programming. And that makes sense that libraries of the future, but that's what a lot of people are going to want to come to a library, to learn and be exposed to different things and so on. But we're also hearing—well, one of—obviously our technology will continue to be updated and that will be a very important part of the new plan. At the same time, we're hearing from parents, "Don't get rid of all the books." Because they feel that their children are so plugged in so much of the time that they want to still have experiences with print books—you know—whether it's a child sitting on a lap and reading a book or just—it's a different kind of reading experience and we believe we live in a town that can support both. You know, that we can have the updated technology and we can still have the printed books and we can still have our Special Collections, which—you know—or even special manuscripts and all of that.
So, we were fortunate enough to have someone named John Palfrey come and speak.
CK: John who to speak?
SFL: Palfrey, P-a-l-f-r-e-y.
SFL: Yes, f-r-e-y. He's actually the head of Phillips Andover Academy. But he wrote a book called Bibliotech and I think it's something about how libraries are changing in the digital age—I believe is the rest of the title, something like that.
1:03:07.5 Once again on the title.
SFL: Bibliotech, t-e-c-h, as in technology, and how libraries are changing in the digital age. So, he's actually kind of known as the expert now on how libraries are changing and evolving. And um, whenever there's a program about that topic, he's usually quoted and so on. So, we were fortunate to invite him to the library and speak and ahead of time, we shared our plans with him. And we were very impressed that he actually read them, because during his talk, he referred to them. Um, he even said—we had the program in our rotunda, which is that very historic space, part of the original 1873 building. Um, he even said—when I introduced myself, he said, "Is this the part—is this the part that's part of the 1873 building?" I thought—you know—for him to have taken the time to actually—you know—read and absorbed so much was really quite special. But um—but the more important thing was that he reinforced everything we're planning to do, including—you know—he said, "Including of preserving some of the special spaces that we have," because people still want some of those—those kinds of spaces too. Not everything should be social and not everything—I mean you do need spaces for collaboration and things like that, um maybe some more hands-on types of experiences. But at the same time, there are still people want to have the quiet spaces and the reflective spaces and we're fortunate to have those as part of our historic building.
So um—so anyway, that's kind of where we're going with the library and it will be interesting, as time goes on, as we listen to these tapes—you know—people look baCK:, I hope at that time, this will be a reality and it will have a very positive impact on the community. That's what I'm hoping. And there's no reason to expect that it won't, based, I guess, on our history and the way this community really supports and cares about the library—cares about literacy in general.
Um and that—I mean this is—um—you know, my husband and I, because we moved to Concord in 1979, I guess we've been here about thirty-seven years, we sometimes think about where will we go next. If we—you know—just what might we do in future years. But we're not ready to leave Concord. Um, all the things that brought us to Concord, really to begin with, are still so important to us—its history, culture, the landscape, the sense of community. We just feel so luCK:y to live here. And so, those are some of the things that I wanted to share.
What a testimonial.
CK: Sounds like you've devoted every free moment to the library.
SFL: 1:06:28.1 (Laughing.) Well, it may seem like that. I mean you—I'm glad my passion comes through, because it—it's really something I feel very deeply. I mean that being said—you know—I do—I have worked professionally all along.
CK: You have?
SFL: Yes, oh absolutely. I'm fortunate in that um the work that I do—that I still do and that I have done—I've had some flexibility in how I've done it, although that's partly choices that I've made along the way. As I mentioned, I'm in the publishing field and I have worked in-house and I've had some responsible jobs. I was the Director of Product Development for a publisher for a few years and I've had some—you know—in-house jobs that required a lot of responsibility. But much of my career, I've been an independent consultant and I've done projects with different publishers. And what that's enabled me to do is, first of all, have flexibility while my daughter was growing up, so that I could volunteer at her school and do some things that were important to me um in that regard. And also, that I've been able to take on some of these other volunteer responsibilities of places that I really care about and love. So, I feel fortunate to be able to have done both. But yeah, there are some weeks—you know—you look and you—because Kerry, the Director, will sometimes ask us on the board if we can estimate the number of hours. Because when you fill out, I think—
In kind (inaudible) 1:08:19.2.
SFL: Right, exactly. You need that for grants and different things like that. Well, when we actually do start to think about the number of hours—you know—sometimes even we're surprised. Um and it's certainly not just me. I mean I would say everybody on our board. We're—we're a very hands-on board. And the people that are on the board, because they're very well-respected people in the town, they could be prima donnas in a way, but they're not in any way, shape, or form. I mean they are just people that—you know—each and every person on that board contributes in a very significant way. And so, I like to call it the dream board sometimes.
CK: The dream board.
SFL: Yeah (laughing), because we are so fortunate with that. And um—
CK: Is it a very large board?
SFL: No, uh not particularly. It's nine people. And again, with our bylaws that were started in 1873, it was established as a nine-person board and we maintain that to this day and um, it seems to work. But you do need dedicated people and you do need people that really—you know—want to really take on responsibility.
CK: 1:09:40.5 And you run the meetings, as president?
SFL: Yes, uh-huh.
CK: That must be something.
CK: That's its own set of skills to run a meeting effectively.
SFL: Um, I think that's true and I—uh—it's something—it's interesting, because I always am trying to continue to learn and do a better and better job, in the sense of because—again, anybody on the board could be the president, as far as—you know—their capability is concerned. And I'm sure they've been presidents of other boards—you know—over time. And many of them serve on other boards and—including boards for Boston institutions and so on. And so, sometimes—so, there's one person I'm thinking in particular has sometime—you know—he's been on—is on many Boston boards. You know, he's given me some wonderful pointers and these were actually because sometimes with—uh—he said that the boards that he's on have had workshops—you know-on leadership and that kind of thing and he'll share those materials with me. And so, I try to apply some of what he's shown me and shared with me.
Um, this is the most difficult part, I'd say, is knowing how long to let a discussion go—keep going and when to cut it—either cut it off or to say, "Well, we need to talk about this in more depth, so we'll follow-up and do that at another time." Because everything that's—I believe that—everything or most of what people are saying is worth hearing and we are making some important decisions and discussing lots of important things that make a difference. And so, you don't want to really cut off the discussion. But in order to end the meeting in a timely manner and to keep things moving, give everybody an opportunity to speak—you know—you really do need to keep it moving and know when it's time to kind of—to move along. And so, I'm always learning and I hope that I am doing a good job and that I continue to do—maybe I can do a better and better job (laughing).
CK: Because they're expecting you for there for, say, an hour?
SFL: 1:12:21.8 Well, I'd say on average, our meetings start at 7:30 and they end up usually at 9:00, when the library's closing. Not that—we actually can close the library, but we generally like to finish by then. So, they're usually an hour-and-a-half. But that being said, we have many committees and so people are—you know—then can do more in depth worth through the committees really and that's what often happens.
CK: A complicated and worthy pursuit.
SFL: Thank you. Thank you. It's definitely worthwhile. It's definitely worthwhile.
CK: Hats off to you.
SFL: Well, thank you. Thank you. But I really—uh—you know, I just really can't take any credit without recognizing the other trustees. I have—the vice president is Mario Favorito and he's the one with the legal experience. And I always say that he's the one that enables us to sleep at night (laughing). Because as you can imagine, the fact that we actually own the buildings and the grounds and the Special Collections, it's a big responsibility. And so, he is—you know—really make sure that we—you know—everything is done properly, whether it's related to insurance or security or just a number of things that we need to consider. Any time we're doing any kind of an agreement—you know—we never do anything without running it by him. Then we have the Greggs—
SFL: RiCK: Greggs is the treasurer and has been for a number of years. And he um obviously is very good financially, but he really keeps us paying attention to our budget and, again, serves us very well, in terms of being able to be run in a very professional way. And um, then there's—I don't know who to mention next, because each person is so important—Fred Lovejoy. Fred has lived in town—he actually was born in Concord, lived in town for many, many years and went to the Fenn School and he's the person, I imagine, who's on a lot of Boston boards. He is a physician at Boston Children's Hospital. And now—I'm not sure if he's at—I think he may be—may not be an emeritus position, but he—at this point, he's um there—well, one of the very important things he did recently is he wrote the history the Children's Hospital in Boston. And so—because for him, it's very important to document the history of organizations. And because everything builds on what everyone else does. And as we've seen with the library, for sure. And so, he likes to recognize and record that. But he is the clerk. And again, he could—you know—he's willing to take notes and has been taking notes for so many—way before I was president, because he's been on the board for many, many years. You know, this, again, shows his commitment and his passion for the library.
1:15:53.9 And then there is Jeff Adams. And Jeff Adams is a contractor in town and seems like he's involved in practically every building project in town. Not quite, but almost. And so, the fact that we own the buildings—you know—his expertise is really invaluable—unbelievably important to us, as well as this project that we're about to engage in.
And then Di Clymer—Diana Clymer?
CK: Di, as in D-i?
SFL: D-i, yes, yes.
SFL: Yes, yes. And Di um is—has also been on the board for a number of years, but she adds so much in terms of her grace, her enthusiasm, her passion. Really, she's been the one from the beginning with this project that has—she's our cheerleader. She just expresses it so well. She happens to also be in charge of the Grounds Committee. But uh—but really the way—her vision for the future is really remarkable and keeps us going many times.
And then Sally Schnitzer, who was the honored citizen this year in Concord. And in fact, we've noted that a number of the honored citizens have been trustees of the library, which is kind of a nice, nice connection. And Sally was a board—on the Board of Selectmen—I think it's called the Select Board now—but the Board of Selectmen for a number of years and she was chair of that board. So, what she's been able to bring to us, besides just being so intelligent and articulate, is the best ways to work with the town and understanding how the town works and that's obviously invaluable to what we do.
Um—and um—let's see. I have to make sure that I've thought about everybody. So um—
1:18:12.7 (end of audio, Part A)
0:00:00 And um Sandy Smith—he's actually head of our Investment Committee. And because of his profession, he was able to—because I had mentioned our endowment had increased, so we wanted to make sure that the way we were managing our funds was really the best way that we could. And so, he was able to set up meetings with a variety of investment firms that we could interview and then make sure that we were doing—you know—the right thing for the library. So again, it's the combination of people, as you can see.
0:00:41.2 There's one other thing, actually, that related to Special Collections, that I'd love to mention, if I could.
CK: Before we go on, are there people on those committees who aren't on the corporation board then?
SFL: There—well, that's a really good question. For the most part, the people on the committees are a combination of trustees, but different combinations of people. That being said, as we're entering into a campaign, we're going to be bringing on more and more people um in a variety of ways. And so, I think at this point, when I think of like our Development Committee—well, Marcy ECK:el, who is our Director of Development—
SFL: E-c-k-e-l. The Library Corporation has three staff memberSFL:: one is Marcy and she's the Development Director; and then the assistant to her is Laurie, Tousignant, T-o-u-s-i-g-n-a-n-t; and then our bookkeeper, Melissa Anthony, so.
CK: And Laurie, how does she spell her name?
SFL: Her last?
CK: Her first name.
SFL: First name, L-a-u-r-i-e.
CK: Okay, good.
SFL: Yeah. And so, the Development Committee consists of Marcy, but then the other people are some of the trustees. And um, the Building Committee, it's primarily Jeff Adams, as I mentioned, but he works very closely with Kerry Cronin, the Director, and Al Rodriguez, who's the main custodian of the library. So, we do bring other people on, but it's just kind of depending on what the job is. We just bring in the people that we need.
CK: What a hefty mix of operations.
SFL: 0:02:40.8 (Laughing.) It kind of—it is, I guess. It is. It is. But it seems to work, so that's good. That's good. Um, but you know as—when I mentioned the responsibilities of the corporation, I did mention the Special Collections. And it's interesting, because up until a few years ago, we never had a Special Collections Committee, which we realized was a um—was a problem, because it's one of our most important assets. And so, it's something that we created. We wrote a charge and we created one a few years ago. And it has really made a tremendous difference in, first of all, the trustees understanding more what—well—how special this collection is; what it means to scholars, researchers, to the public; um and also it made us understand ways in which we can support it.
And um, so we—I think it was really a very important thing that we did to get a better understanding of what it was all about. I guess in the past, it wasn't that the trustees didn't care about it, but they just figured that Leslie Wilson, the Curator, she does her job and she needs to—if she wants to let the trustees know about something—you know—she does. But for her, it's been so much better, now that we have—that she has this direct support from the trustees, because we meet monthly; there are many issues that come up; and for—like an example is she has projects that need to be done. And the idea of the projects is to take a collection—for example, the First Parish Church gave—and the First Parish Church is very much connected to the history of this town. And so they gave their—basically their archival materials to our Special Collections. But it was just boxes and boxes and boxes and so what good does that do anybody? And to have the resources—I mean Leslie has a staff, but they have a lot of things to do. They don't have the—I mean it would take them years to go through all of that. So, when she brought that to our attention, we were able to hire an archivist and because of the way the town pays for staff, we gave a gift to the town to be used for this purpose. And that project, among other projects, we are to—they were able to hire somebody to complete it and now it's done. And it was a big project, but it got done.
And of course, there are always projects that need to be done. And what that means is that our collections become much more useful and accessible—you know—as I said, to scholars, to researchers, and you know, even to the general public, because anybody can come in and access the collections. So um, I think that's really important, because it feels like what good are they if people don't either know about them or can't use them. And so, we're doing more and more with that, which is exciting.
And um, but another really very exciting Special Collections project took place this past year. It was a collaboration with the Concord Museum. And what it had to do with the illustrator,
N.C. Wyeth. And N.C. Wyeth is known—he was illustrating in the early 1900s. He's known mostly for illustrating classics, like Treasure Island and The Last of the Mohicans. And so, when people see those old classics, often it's his illustrations that people grew up with and know very well. He was considered—and still is considered—one of the best American illustrators. And it was—it was during what they called the golden age of illustration in this country.
So, N.C. Wyeth was obsessed Thoreau so—and he was actually born—Wyeth was born in Needham, although he lived much of his life in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. But he visited Concord many times and he was really inspired by Thoreau. Now at that time, the writings of Thoreau weren't as well-known as they are now. So, you say, "Well, a lot of people are inspired by Thoreau." But he actually—he had discovered some of these writings in some of these journals, but not when it was like so widespread as it is now. And he really felt that Thoreau influenced his work quite a bit. So obviously, this Concord connection. The library happens to own five Wyeth paintings—well, actually they own three and two are on a loan—long-term loan—from a book that Wyeth did called Men of Concord. And really what the book is about is Wyeth's appreciation for Henry David Thoreau. That's really what the book—that's why he wrote the book.
0:08:25.8 And not only that, he had wanted to do this book for many years, but the—but because he had to make a living, his publisher kept coming to him with other projects and saying, "Oh, no. We need you to do this book. We need you to do this classic." So this project that he was kind of obsessed with just kept putting on the baCK: burner—on the baCK: burner. He also had several children. Most people know his son, Andrew Wyeth, who became, obviously, a very successful artist, and then his grandchild, Jamie Wyeth, is actually today also an artist. And um, so again, having to make a living, he was also doing ads and um—I'll talk a little bit more about those ads in a minute—Coca Cola ads, cigarette ads—you know—that kind of thing, commercial work. Bu the was really conflicted about that, because you can see he was influenced by the teachings of Thoreau and—you know—the importance of nature and just much higher kinds of ideas and philosophies and thoughts. And so, the whole commercialism of sort of being an illustrator was something that kind of bothered him throughout his life.
Um so, the Concord Museum approached us, because they had a thought of trying to gather the twelve paintings from the book Men of Concord and bringing them to Concord for an exhibition. And as I said, the library has five of those paintings. So unless we were willing to participate—you know—it probably wasn't going to happen. And those paintings usually hang in the Thoreau room upstairs. Um, so we agreed to do it. But what was kind of fun is the museum said, "You know, we want to bring the twelve paintings together, so that they can hang for the first time in Concord." And so, Leslie said, "Well, it's actually the second time, because when the book first came out, all twelve of the paintings hung in the gallery at the library." And um, so they actually have quite a special relationship with the library. And what happened was the library—as I mentioned, the original building was built in 1873. It was a Victorian building. But in 1930, the corporation did a major renovation to turn into the building that it looks—the revival style that it looks today. When you look at the building, it basically looks like the 1930 renovation. And so, at that time, as part of that renovation, they created a gallery, which is still the gallery that we have today. And I believe it was a Concord resident arranged with Wyeth to have all twelve paintings displayed and it was probably one of the first exhibitions that we had in that gallery. And Wyeth referred to it as, "that corking little gallery." We love that phrase. We're not sure what he means, "that corking little gallery," which he liked very much. So um, that's sort of what started the relationship of the paintings with the library.
But then, one um—one of the residents of Concord—her name was Ruth Wheeler—her son unfortunately died in World War I. I mean World War II. I believe World War II. And um, in his memory, she contacted N.C. Wyeth, because she had seen the paintings at the library when they hung here on exhibit, and said that she'd like to purchase one for the library in his memory. So, we have the—there was correspondence between them and the—you know—piCK:ing out which one he was recommending, which one and they had a nice discussion about it. They made a decision about it. Unfortunately, Wyeth died before the transaction took place. So, Ruth ended up writing to Wyeth's son, Andrew, and mentioned the discussions that they had—what they had planned to do and Andrew honored the—you know—fortunately—you know—he said—first of all, they were able to relate to each other in certain ways, because Mrs. Wheeler had lost a son; he had just lost his father; you know, there were things that they—and in the letters, they kind of connect—you know—with some of that as well. So, we were—so, Mrs. Wheeler was able to purchase that painting, which she then donated to the library.
0:13:43.2 And then after that, another—somebody else, in memory of a family member, purchased two other of those paintings. And then, a number of years later, a family loaned two of the paintings to us and they've been on loan for a number of years. We hope they'll be on loan for many more years to come. So, that's how we have acquired the five paintings. But also what we love is that special connection to the library from the very beginning.
So, this collaboration with the museum is also historic, because we've worked with the museum before, in some smaller ways. Like maybe we've borrowed something from them. More often, they've borrowed something from us to supplement exhibitions. But this was what we consider a full partnership, meaning that from the—and it was very important to us, if we were going to lend these paintings, that this be a full partnership, not just kind of like, "We're going to lend you the paintings," and that's the partnership—that's the relationship. But instead, we decided to create concurrent exhibitions that would be publicized together; come up with programming that would coordinate together. And um, we really feel that this is a wonderful precedent for working together, not only with the museum, but with other institutions in town. And because it's been going so well—in fact, the exhibition's just recently opened—because it's been going so well, um we—you know—we really believe that this will become a model for how to do this kind of collaboration. And I've mentioned Mario Favorito a few times. He's the vice president of the board, but he's the one with the legal experience. He actually drew up the agreement. And what was important is up front people said what was important to them. The library said, "These things are important to us," the museum said, "These are important to us," and then we came to an agreement. Had we not done that, it could have broken down in so many places along the way. So, that was like such a smart thing to do. And the museum has actually mentioned that they've been able to use that model with some other collaborations that they're doing, so that's wonderful to know.
So, the exhibitions have opened. And with the museum's exhibition is they were able to collect all twelve paintings, which is pretty amazing since some of them are in private collections and they're just—you know—they're scattered about. And so, that's been really a wonderful thing, plus they have some of the sketches from the book. Actually, Andrew Wyeth did some of the sketches, even though he wasn't credit—you know—he was his young son at the time, but he was very talented and he did some of the drawings in the book and they actually have some of the drawings. And of course, people at the time wouldn't have known that he would have become such a renowned artist himself. But our exhibition really tells the story of the making of the book. And because there is quite a story there—you know—with the fact that he was so obsessed with Thoreau and he had been wanting to do it for so many years, but wasn't able to actually—and the book that he turned out—that he ended up creating wasn't what he originally had in mind. But over those many years—and I forget how many, but it was quite a few—it turned into a different project, a different book. But finally, he was able to realize this dream.
0:17:30.2 And uh, so I mentioned those ads. Part of what was getting in the way of him doing this was having to make a living and so he was doing these ads. And one of them is a LuCK:y Strike ad. And so, we have that in our exhibition. If you have a chance, you might want to go upstairs and see it. Um, but what's priceless is there's a quote from Emerson in the ad. You know how there's a quote from Emerson almost everywhere? But the last place you would expect probably to see a quote from Emerson is in a cigarette ad (laughing). So, we really got a kiCK: out of that, I must admit.
But anyway, it's just been a wonderful collaboration and it's something that we're proud of. And so, I thought it was worth mentioning.
CK: Yeah. Congratulations and thank you so much for your work and for spending this time with us.
SFL: It really was my pleasure. You know, I know that Leslie said—well, it takes approximately two hours and I said, "There's no way I'll be able to talk for two hours." And I think I've talked for almost two hours, so hopefully it's been worthwhile and interesting, but I've enjoyed it.
Very worthwhile. Thank you.
CK: Oh yes, thanks.
0:18:43.1 (end of audio, Part B)