Farewell to Newfane librarian


NEWFANE -- Climbing the front steps of Moore Free Library, Meris Morrison points out a few small bowls near the door.

"I have a policy of letting the dogs come in," she says with a smile. "As long as they're well-behaved. If they're not, they're banished."

But it won't be the neighborhood pooches that Morrison misses most when she retires in a few weeks after nearly a dozen years as librarian in Newfane. Rather, she'll miss the volunteers and patrons who have kept the community institution going and growing even in an increasingly digital age.

"I can't say enough about how friendly and welcoming the community is," Morrison said. "That will be the hardest thing to leave."

The entire "library community" is invited to the West Street facility for a reception honoring Morrison from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 7. Coincidentally, that's also Morrison's 75th birthday, and she said the decision to leave her job as of Sept. 14 was not difficult.

"I'm going to paint and read the stacks of books I have at home and spend more time with my family," she said.

This is actually Morrison's second retirement: The Brattleboro resident served as librarian in that town until retiring at age 55, and she subsequently spent seven years away from the bibliothecal business.

"I traveled a lot. I went to Spain and a lot of other places," she said. "And then I saw this job advertised and I just thought, ‘That sounds like the perfect job for me.'"

She settled easily into the Moore Free Library, which still operates in the historic Newfane Village home that was the residence of its namesake, Philura C. Moore.

An account of the village's history says Moore, at the age of 72 and after the death of her husband, "set about providing the town with a much-needed library" in the late 1890s.

She expanded her home and established a library in the southeast corner room. Moore "equipped it with her own furniture and 2,000 books and deeded it along with $2,000 to the Moore Free Library Association, which was established Oct. 22, 1898," the village history says. "She herself was the librarian and served until her death in 1915 at the age of 90."

The home also served for a long time as the Newfane town clerk's office. And while that's no longer the case, Morrison believes the library still is an important gathering place for the community.

In addition to serving the towns of Newfane and Brookline, "we also have people who come from Wardsboro and Jamaica," she said. "We have lots of people who come here for meetings."

The facility also houses the Robert Crowell art gallery, which was established in an attached, renovated barn.

"We have changing exhibits," Morrison said. "There are a lot of artists in this area, and this is a wonderful space."

Under her watch, the library's physical space has expanded, as has its collection. Moore Free Library now has about 600 DVDs, which were not yet in vogue when Morrison took the helm.

"Everything is changing fast now ... e-books, Netflix," she said. "But we do have a pretty good circulation."

Some patrons visit for the library's two public computers. The facility's high-speed Internet service will get much more speedy when a fiber-optic connection is complete, likely later this year.

"We're hoping to bring in new borrowers just for that," Morrison said.

Still, the longtime librarian is not giving up on the printed page.

"Some of us still like to hold a book in our hands," she said.

That's a sentiment shared by Morrison's successor, Louise Sirois. Officially, she is scheduled to begin work Sept. 10, but Sirois already is on location.

The Maine native has taken a circuitous route back to this part of the country, having lived in Montreal, Florida and Arizona, where she worked as a librarian for more than a decade.

"I'm back in New England, and I'm very happy to be back," Sirois said. "I'm home here."

Sirois met Morrison last year during a visit to Vermont, and she calls the Moore Free Library job opportunity "serendipitous."

She said she is looking into expanding the library's offerings -- one possibility is an e-book service -- while also focusing on what libraries do best.

"The printed word is still a viable resource for information," Sirois said. "And libraries are much more than a collection of books."

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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