Pin It
Favorite

Rural Librarians Unite in Solidarity With the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum 

State of the Arts

click to enlarge St. Johnsbury Athenaeum
  • St. Johnsbury Athenaeum

Think librarians are mousy types? Think again. This Saturday, a group of mad-as-hell members of Rural Librarians Unite (RuLU) will convene to demonstrate in support of the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, whose trustees laid off its entire library staff last month to cut costs. According to a recent vitriolic release from RuLU, the move would save only 8 percent of the budget.

The largest library in the Northeast Kingdom is also a state treasure. In its elegant Second Empire building, it provides visitors from across the region with not just books, educational programming and internet access but also a world-class collection of paintings — including a jaw-dropping 10-by-15-foot canvas titled “Domes of the Yosemite,” by Alfred Bierstadt — and sculptures (thank you, Horace Fairbanks). Unfortunately, the Athenaeum is suffering a financial crisis, like many libraries in this age of advanced information technology and diminishing resources of that low-tech kind: money. As board chair Bill Marshall wrote in a recent letter justifying radical changes, “What we cherish and appreciate is in jeopardy.”

Still, the members of RuLU are outraged that the library staff was sacked (though are free to apply for new positions). Writes Penny Pillsbury, director of the Brownell Library in Essex Junction: “Having worked with Lisa von Kann, the director of the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, for over 20 years, I’m horrified that a consummate professional of her caliber would be treated with such brutal lack of respect … In my 48 years of library work, I can’t think of a worse time to ‘fire the librarians.’”

To be sure, the board of the Athenaeum — which has vowed to balance the facility’s budget by 2015 — has a difficult road ahead, and the firing of its staff cannot have been an easy decision. But on Saturday, RuLU — a volunteer group formed “to promote and support libraries, library staff and librarianship in rural settings” — will underscore its ire at the “heavy-handed approach” by gathering to “hug” the Athenaeum. “We will be holding hands around the library in solidarity with Athenaeum library staff,” promises the RuLU. Stay tuned for updates on this page-turning story.

Rural Librarians United will lead a demonstration in solidarity with library staff this Saturday, January 12, at noon at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, 1171 Main Street. rurallibrariansunite.org, stjathenaeum.org

The print version of the article was headlined "Book 'Em".

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Pin It
Favorite

More by Pamela Polston

About The Author

Pamela Polston

Pamela Polston

Bio:
Pamela Polston is the cofounder, coeditor and associate publisher of Seven Days.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Seven Days moderates comments in order to ensure a civil environment. Please treat the comments section as you would a town meeting, dinner party or classroom discussion. In other words, keep commenting classy! Read our guidelines...

Note: Comments are limited to 300 words.

Latest in Books

Recent Comments

Social Club

Like Seven Days contests and events? Join the club!

See an example of this newsletter...

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
e-newsletters:

All content © 2016 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So Champlain St Ste 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation