The following was written by the Killingworth Library Association’s first President, Margery Hennen in 1973. The original typewritten pages are on file in the Library today, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the KLA in 1964.
TEN YEARS HAVE PASSED
This history of the Killingworth Library is a continuing story of superb volunteer effort and cooperation in a small Connecticut town which, in 1964, had a population of about 1,000 spread over thirty-five square miles. It is also the story of the growing pains of an embryonic library.
The first meeting was called by a group of mothers, including Janet Welter, Florence Marrone, Dorothy Leekley and Barbara Doster, who worked in the school library and felt that it did not answer the needs of some of the more advanced students. So, at a meeting in January 1964, a group of about twenty-two residents voted to start an adult library. Many were tired of going to neighboring towns for their reading matter.
The Board of Education agreed to let them have space in the back of the school library. It was to be an organization separate from the school library, with its own by-laws, policies and money raising projects. Margery Hennen was chosen as a temporary chairman, and $25. was loaned to it by the school library.
Husbands, following good old New England thrift, purchased second-grade pine shelving, paid cash and toted the wood themselves, thus getting a better price! The shelves, made by a group including Donald Welter, Ralph Marrone, Edward Hennen and Roy Alexander, and stained by wives, made space for about 1,500 books.
The Killingworth Library formally opened April 16, 1964 when the following officers were elected: President Margery Hennen, Vice-president Edith Downing, Secretary Janet Fisher, and Treasurer Marion Lauer. There was literally fourteen dollars then in the treasury. So, a silk hat was passed and $96. collected plus $14. from charging 25¢ for library cards.
This was a time when everything was desperately needed – trained volunteers, books, library supplies and, of course, funds. The school librarians taught the new volunteers correct library procedure. Among those early volunteers, in addition to the officers, were Dawn Reid, Margaret Mitchell, Sigrid Clarkson and Dorothy Leekley. Libraries including Henry Hull, Essex, and Farmington gave books, and the West Haven Library gave two fine file cabinets. From the remodelled Scranton Library in Madison came metal shelves which were stored at the Hennen’s for a future building.
230 Books came from the Henry Seidel Canby library, and by June the shelves were full. More were built in the — section of the school library by new volunteers including Jim Devaney, Bob Cass, and Stu Campbell. At this time all books were marked with an “A” to distinguish them from the school library. Some books even had this sentence pasted in them to satisfy a few early critics: “In keeping with our policy that it is the right of the individual to read whatever he wishes, we have placed this book on our shelves. However we warn that the contents may be offensive to some.” !!
At the first annual meeting in April 1965 the president reported 2,500 books on the shelves, 2,250 had been circulated and 175 borrowers cards issued. Also $2,425 in the treasury. The first of the Library’s additional services to the community started this summer with a children’s bedtime story hour. Also, a “welcome” letter was sent to all new residents by Louise Beattie.
Then the Board of Education announced that it needed the Library’s space! So all books were packed for the summer of 1965, hopefully we awaited new quarters. The Town Office Building was bought, and the Selectmen offered the Library two bedrooms and the hall. They specified that bookshelves could be built only around the perimeters of the rooms as the structure would not take the weight of books in the middle of the rooms. Also the Library would have to be ready to move out on ninety days notice, no smoking and hours when it could be open would have to be approved by the selectmen. But the Library, with no alternative, accepted all these restrictions.
Old shelving was used where at all possible, and all shelves were built from uneven floor to ceiling under the supervision of two new volunteers – Albert Fisher and Will Carver. The Library also paid for the decorating, also new volunteers – Margaret Simmons, Marian Carver, Sally Echlin and Sally Devaney.
Marge Hennen made appeals for furniture and typewriters, and soon she no longer had to carry her own office typewriter up those steep stairs. Table and chairs, desk, typewriter and stools to reach the high shelves were donated. Philip Bulger donated the typewriter.
In January 1968 the Library was finally incorporated as the Killingworth Library Association, a private corporation, offering free library service to the town. On that basis it was formally accepted by the Town of Killingworth as its public library, and the State of Connecticut recognized it as such. A year later the first money $600. other than from private donations, was received from the town, and the state started a year later.
By-laws were drawn up by Will Carver, Clarissa Dundon and Frances Noble. At the annual meeting in April 1968 the following first directors were elected: William Carver, Sally Devaney, Janet Fisher, Marion Platt, Frances Noble, Philip Bulger, Josephine Goldsmith, Marion Lauer, George Mitchell, Edith Downing, Joseph Curtiss, Elizabeth Dudek, Ruth Healey, Dawn Reid and Margery Hennen. Also, the same four officers were re-elected.
Lack of money was always a problem. At the beginning only five new books were bought a month! It was decided not to buy grade school age books as the school had a fine library, and this duplication of money spent in a small town would have been extravagance! So the Library, in addition to adult books, bought only for the pre-school child. Early money came from the first Friends of the Library appeal, headed by Joseph Curtiss who sent a personal letter to thirty of his friends and realized about $400. Also, borrowers were encouraged to join the Library Association, $1. for single person, $2. per family and thus have a vote in the Association.
Money was also raised each August when the Library sold its duplicates and surplus books at the Congregational Church Fair. The first sale in 1966, under the broiling sun brought in $148. Since then, under a comfortable tent rented for us by a friend, the amount has grown to $550. in 1973.
From the beginning the state library extension in Middletown loaned us books – school age in the summer when the school was closed, and books answering specific requests from our borrowers. It also has always been a great help with advice, and once even set up our ego by bringing down a visitor to show what volunteers could do.
During the years at the Town Office Building such routines as using the Town Clerk’s telephone in emergency (we used our personal phones at home to call borrowers that we had books they wanted); getting the key from Griswold’s to open on Saturday mornings, passing a key to the right librarian for Tuesday night openings during the summer months. Often there would be a pile of books – returned or donations – on the steps to be toted up. Once the Library had to be closed for a day because the Town Offices had been robbed and the State Police would not let us go upstairs! Also, on Election Days, it would be closed as the voting machines were downstairs.
After a few years the Library became more than a Two Bedroom Library. Shelves were built in the narrow back hall to accommodate paper-backs and magazines.
After five years a new slate of officers with Molly Paton as president, Edith Downing vice-president, Janet Fisher secretary and George Mitchell treasurer. The new president brought a lot of business experience with her, improving and enriching the Library’s service to the town. With more money exciting progress was made. We had our own telephone, library carts and kick stools made sorting and shelving books much easier. An electric typewriter and mimeograph were purchased and space was made in a third bedroom for the equipment.
Ex Libris was started with not only news about the Library’s activities and acquisitions, but also notices by local organizations. The Antique Show, started in 1969 and promoted by Molly Paton, has grown in prestige and money-raising results and many new volunteers. Under her guidance “The Birds of Killingworth” was published, a booklet designed by Vern and Bosco Noll and illustrated by Louise Beattie. Another publication was “Seasoned in Killingworth,” a delightful cookbook, illustrated by Louise Beattie, with recipes not only from Killingworth but also from famous authors. A new map and Guide to Killingworth was printed, to be sent to new residents. All these items were sold for the benefit of the Library.
Sally Devaney soon became the “gal Friday” for all projects relating to the Elementary School age and younger. She organized story hours for special occasions, with Bosco Noll the Story Lady. There were poetry, short story contests. The art Contest and display at May Day in conjunction with the Brownies’ Maypole has been a great success. To Sally Devaney also goes credit for the idea of the Book-Author luncheon, given in cooperation with the other shoreline libraries, and directed by Sally. Over 200 attended the second one in 1973.
Soon it was evident that the two-bedroom plus space was not adequate for the fast growing Library. Good books were removed from shelves for lack of space. Also the town officers wanted the Library’s quarters. The Board of Directors authorized Edward Hennen and William Carver to look into the feasibility of building our own Library quarters. A report is on file with the recommendation to look at the new Library at Lyme. Then it was realized that the old firehouse, belonging to the town, was a distinct possibility for a new location.
So, in September 1972, the eight year old Library moved to its third home. Early in the history of the Library, any gifts of money over twenty-five dollars, for the most part, were put into a savings account. Our treasurer, George Mitchell, very carefully did not ear-mark this as a “building” fund, so that when this big move came, we had the money to renovate the ex-school house, ex-fire station into a workable, attractive Library. Remodelling the interior was carried out under the very capable hands of Molly Paton plus an architect. The old metal shelves from Madison were hauled out of the Hennen’s basement, thus saving a considerable amount. The old shelving was moved down and fitted in. The decorating committee, consisting of Bosco Noll, Louise Beattie and Janet Fisher did a superb job of brightening the interior.
Once again volunteers to the front! In order to move the thousands of books from upstairs in the Town Office Building, the town’s pay-loader nestled up to the windows and the books, in carefully numbered boxes, were loaded on trucks, and various groups including the Lions and the town crew helped tote them into the new quarters.
Following Killingworth tradition various organizations helped. The Lions gave the new desk and chair. Various homemakers’ groups made the drapes, gave the children’s table and individuals gave clocks, flags, pictures, screens for all the windows, electric fan, tiny refrigerator etc. And the Library was opened with a festive Silver Tea.
On the shoulders of the third president, Very McClave, elected in April 1972, before the last move, fell the weight of “settling in.” Through her efforts more volunteer librarians were trained, and the hours the Library was open was increased to twenty-three with one evening a week during the summer. Over thirty volunteers including a trained staff of book-menders, and even a cleaning committee, keep the books and their surrounding in splendid shape.
But things are never static, and finally, to relieve the heavy burden of the president, a paid secretary was decided upon – one of our own volunteers Jeanne Sedik on a part-time basis. Also paid advertisements in Ex Libris were tried. Three directors were added, making eighteen in all. Circulation passed the 10,000 mark during the past fiscal year. Now that there is a bit more money and space, Vera McClave has been doing a big job of replacing out-dated non-fiction and replacing them with current ones. She has started a pamphlet file, and is currently working hard on cross-reference file cards to really show the depth of out collection of books. A new mimeographing machine has improved the handling of Ex Libris, and is also a means of raising money. Large Print books and magazines are available. Want to borrow a jig-saw puzzle?
Ten years have passed – three locations, three presidents and many many volunteers giving of their time and talents – have made the Killingworth Library a viable part of the community, a Library that all can be proud of.
Margery C. Hennan
November 15, 1973