They say you can know the value a town assigns to an activity by looking at the building where the activity occurs. If that’s true, it’s obvious that the folks in New England love reading. Every town we visited — from tiny Tamworth, New Hampshire, to bustling Woodstock, Vermont, to the transitional city of North Adams, Massachusetts — had a very memorable library that seemed perfectly suited to the town it served.
In Tamworth, the Cook Memorial Library, pictured above, dates back to the late 1800s. It’s a beautiful little white wooden structure with a white picket fence located right in the center of town. The library’s clock tower, with its beautiful design elements, still keeps good time.
The North Adams Public Library, shown at left, finds its home in former mansion. In 1896 the first mayor of North Adams, Albert Houghton, bought the striking brick residence and donated it to the city for use as a public library in memory of his brother; he also donated $10,000 — which was real money in those days — to renovate the building for use as a library. (Isn’t that the kind of mayor every town really needs?) With its turrets and towers and chimneys and graceful windows, the library beautifully anchors one end of the North Adams downtown area along with neighboring churches and an art museum.
The Norman Williams Public Library in Woodstock, Vermont, pictured below, is a stunning structure found at one corner of the village green, with a stone marker to the Revolutionary War dead in its front yard. Built in the 1880s, the library features a pink sandstone facade and an entrance through curved stone arches. Inside a visitor will find shelving on the first floor and a terrific open and airy reading area on the second floor below the library’s vaulted ceiling.
The histories of these libraries shows that people still care deeply about books and learning; each library has undergone recent renovations and improvements that demonstrate that it remains a valued member of the community. The beauty and continued vitality of these wonderful libraries says something very positive about their towns.