Brooks Memorial Library

Friends of Brooks Memorial Library

Libraries go virtual

… with a human touch

By Joyce Marcel, president of the Friends
Photo: Jeff Potter
Reprinted with permission of The Commons (

When Gov. Phil Scott issued his emergency orders that shut down most public spaces last month, the Agency of Commerce stated that libraries were among those services “not considered critical to public health and safety or economic and national security.”

And amid the global pandemic, 183 Vermont libraries closed their doors.

If that sounds like a lot of libraries and a lot of doors, it’s helpful to know that the state ranks first in the nation in the number of libraries per capita.

“Libraries are the shared resources of the community,” said Starr LaTronica, the director of Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro. “This is what the community thinks is of value, whether they’re physical items or online resources. The community pays for the staff, which is the greatest resource. And the library is there for everyone.”

“There are very few institutions left where that is true. That’s what libraries do,” she added. “We find a need in the community and try to fill it or facilitate it.”

But librarians being librarians, closing the doors wasn’t the end of it.

In fact, it was only the beginning, certainly in Windham County. The quarantine just moved library services online.

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Life in the Time of Corona

With all due apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, this just seemed like an appropriate title for a library newsletter.

Things have moved both fast and slow lately. Obviously things seem to be slow at the library, but behind the scenes it has been anything but.

Early on, before the library closed for good, the staff was still offering front-door pick-up service, but returns became untenable because of the need to wipe down and sequester books and limited space to hold them, and it became too risky.

The decision to close for good was reluctantly accepted by the staff, but with the governor’s executive order for “Stay Home, Stay Safe” and the clarification that library materials are not considered essential (as hard as that is to believe!), the decision was taken out of Starr LaTronica’s hands.

Everyone is still working from home on projects and preparing as best they can for reopening. Staff have had their library extensions forwarded to their homes so they can still answer calls.

The Children’s Librarians are assisting with resources for homeschooling. They are also getting ready for the Summer Reading Program and preparing pieces for online components in case they are needed.

Jeanne Walsh is still fielding reference questions and working on a database of agencies and organizations that can help connect individuals with resources they may need to access.

Courtney Carey has helped to set up a site for people to get library cards online and is posting lots of links and websites on the library and the Friends Facebook pages as well as the library website. She and Jeanne are also ordering new downloadable audio books.

Matt Wojcik was instrumental in helping all the Town departments set up their systems to work from home. He is also working with Starr, Jeanne and Chloe Liotta-Jones on the new library website.

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Meeting Minutes 7/15/2020

The meeting was conducted via GoToMeeting and was called to order at 4:30pm.

Participating were Joyce Marcel, Connie Kimball, Betsy Wagenknecht, John Komar, Sue Dyer and Karen Duggan, with Starr Latronica and Courtney Carey for the library and Howard Burrows for the trustees. Cindy Hutchenson and Kate Wylie were excused.

The secretary’s report was approved.

The treasurer’s report was accepted and will be filed for audit. Our June 30, 2020 treasury balance was $43,740.74.

Joyce introduced Christopher Ilstrup, head of the Vermont Humanities Council, who joined us virtually. He gave us a brief history of their organization and an explanation of their funding. For this year, they will continue to offer their First Wednesdays programs to nine libraries, with a tenth to be offered virtually. This year’s fee will be on a sliding scale, with libraries contributing what they can.

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  • Libraries are for everyone.

Our Mission

The mission of the Friends is to support the Brooks Library through advocacy, public relations, and fundraising in order to provide the highest quality library services to the community.

All material on this website © 2015-2017 to the Friends of the Brooks Memorial Library or to its respective creators with rights reserved.

Friends of Brooks Memorial Library

224 Main Street
Brattleboro, VT  05301