'Community conversation' at Brooks Memorial Library solicits input


BRATTLEBORO — The library is getting into planning mode.

"We are in a very important time of change," said Jane Southworth, the library's strategic planing committee and library trustee, who welcomed guests to a second "community conversation" at Brooks Memorial Library on Monday afternoon.

The events were aimed at helping with the development of a five-year plan as the last one will expire at the end of this year. Southworth noted a $1.2 million donation made to the library and the new director Starr LaTronica.

"We all know libraries are important. But for what?" Southworth said. "That's one of the things we're going to find out."

Without community, said LaTronica, the facility would just be a warehouse. Libraries are now responsible for not only providing access to books, digital databases and resources but also loaning out items like fishing pools, screwdrivers, umbrellas and infrared goggles.

LaTronica asked attendees what they enjoy doing in town. Invitations were sent to people due to their connections with others in the community,

"I like to plan because I like to dream. My background is in youth services. I know about the power of wishes. To me, wishes are the original out-of-the-box thinking where you envision what can be possible," LaTronica said. "Once you articulate what you really want, it can become true."

Attendees said they liked walking, art gallery shows, gardening, meeting people, sharing information, having small group conversations, hearing live music, volunteer work, eating out and swimming.

"Being part of a small community," added state Rep. Mollie Burke, P/D-Windham 2-2.

What did attendees want to see that's not currently there? More interaction with those who visit, youth mentoring, development of a sister city relationship, no more homeless, fewer people who are food insecure, and connection with marginal communities.

Attendees would like to see things made more affordable, a better sense of safety for children, decommercialization of the downtown, a dedicated bike lane, a town-sponsored community kitchen and additional trails.

"I would like motorists to slow down," said Peter Falion, who also wondered how to expand the relationship between the library and the schools.

For change to happen, suggestions included looking at the system of governance to make people feel more empowered, growing the grand list, improving access to child care and creating more jobs with livable wages.

LaTronica asked people to write a common theme for all the topics coming up during the discussion. She planned on typing the themes out and sending the list via e-mail to people who signed up for future notifications.

"Let's funnel it down to what the library can do to help bring about these changes," she said.

Attendees recommended holding more discussions, having a one-stop shop for event tickets, getting the library to act as a hub to share resources between different entities, reserving a shelf for books written by authors living within the community,

"I think your idea, Starr (LaTronica), of cataloging the community is really where it's at," said Jerry Carbone, former library director.

Town Planning Director Rod Francis responded to a call for making audits and reports available all in one space.

"For a community our size, we've been measured and weighed mostly by ourselves quite rigorously for awhile now," he laughed.

The next step, LaTronica said, would be approaching the rest of the community to ask the same questions. Pam Becker, president of the library's board of trustees, said other residents are free to submit suggestions and ideas. One way is by e-mailing info@brookslibraryvt.org.

President of Friends of Brooks Memorial Library Joyce Marcel said her group is looking for members.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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