Georgia Public Library
1697 Ethan Allen Highway, Fairfax, VT 05454
The History of the Library
The Georgia Public Library was established in 1896, when the State of Vermont offered each town a gift of $100 for the formation of a library, with the condition that each town appropriate an additional $25.00. The library was first located over the Post and Bliss Store (now Center Market). Abner Bliss served as librarian, until his death in 1909. At that time, his widow, Effie Bliss, took the position and served for one year. In 1900, the Georgia Society Reading Club was formed, There were around 30 members, who spent afternoons reading aloud in the library. Membership was $15.00 for two years.
In 1910, Cora Webster became librarian. The library was moved into the home of Mr. and Mrs. Newell Coburn (Cora's aunt and uncle), located directly across the road from the small white frame house that would later serve as the library for 73 years. At this time, the library contained 659 books. Cora Webster served as librarian from 1910-1920.
In 1920, the library was moved to the Congregational parsonage, occupied by Carrie "Grandma" Ladd, who served as librarian from 1920-1955. On May 9th, 1924, Carrie bought a small colonial revival frame house on Route 7 for $1,000. The house had previously been owned by Jane and Emma Boyden. Carrie lived in the house, and operated the library out of it. In 1941, the Town of Georgia voted to purchase the house for $100 per year for eight years, and to allow Carrie to continue living in it for the rest of her life.
In 1937, Carrie earned $52 a year, and like many librarians, gave "over and above" service by opening during "off" hours when anyone needed a book. The library advertised no specific hours, and due to Carrie's constant presence, it was unofficially open from daylight to bedtime.
"Grandma" Ladd welcomed anyone and everyone to the library, and under her care it quickly grew into a social center as well. A croquet set on the front lawn lured many locals to frequent contests. To the south were aged apple trees begging to be climbed. During the summer, wild strawberries ripened in the back meadow. A wicker rocker on the porch no doubt often held someone or another, resting and watching passing traffic.
The library's first bookcase was built by Elliott Darling, and the second by Charles Janes. Later on, a third was added by Alice Sunderland. A telephone was installed at the library in 1938. By 1959, the library held approximately 1,000 books, with additional materials provided by frequent visits of the St. Albans book wagon, driven by Christine Saunders.
The library was closed in 1955, due to Carrie's poor health (she died on March 21st, 1959). It was reopened in May of 1957. Frances Mallett served as librarian, two afternoons a week, with additional unpaid hours staffed by the trustees. Frances received $2.00 for one afternoon's work. She served as librarian until 1967.
Under the pressure of standards outlined by the Vermont Library Association, the Georgia Public Library was almost closed permanently in 1967. However, the trustees concluded that so long as the people of Georgia continued to use the library, it was their responsibility to keep it open. Although the library's collection of 2,500 volumes was 100 over the VLA requirements, many of the other standards were not being met. The VLA suggested (among other things) that libraries should be open for 10 hours per week (the GPL was open only 3); that $5.00 should be spent per capita on library services (Georgia spent only $1.00 per capita); and that 65% of the library budget should be spent on salaries (the GPL spent only 10%). The trustees decided to to increase hours per week from 3 to 6, and compensated the additional cost in salaries by cutting the acquisitions portion by $300.00. Members of the trustees staffed the library on Friday nights in order to save money.
Although the library trustees had to make some tough decisions in 1967, the people of Georgia came through and helped the library to continue its services. The Grange provided money for the purchase of two fine books (one on gardening and one on cooking). The Georgia Elementary School eight grade, under the guidance of Edith Pattee, compiled an index for the library's collection of Vermont History Magazines.
Following Frances, the position of librarian was filled by Mrs. Paul Wells from 1967-1979; Carolyn Pattee from 1979-1994; and is now held by Sue Webster. Since its formation 101 years ago, the library has been staffed by 8 librarians (including Sue).
In 1996, the Vermont Department of Libraries, faced with cuts in funding, decided to close the Northwest Regional Library (NWRL) branch in Georgia. This decision created another problem for the State: the NWRL had been built with 50% federal funds, and the Library Services and Construction Act title II regulations stated that the building must remain a library for 50 years (until 2023). In order to avoid having to return the federal money, the Department of Libraries had to find some way to see the agreement through. The solution settled upon was to deed the building to the Town of Georgia, for use as a library.
The former NWRL building was purchased by the Town of Georgia on November 12th, 1997, for the price of $1.00. Conditions of the transfer stated that the town must use at least 50% of the building (3500 square feet) for library facilities until the year 2023. In line with the LCSA title II regulations, the Georgia Public Library had to meet the minimum standards for Vermont public libraries from day one of operations in the new facility.
Throughout 1996 and 1997, the librarian and trustees worked to meet minimum standards, and prepare for the move. Due to the departure of the Northwest Regional Library, residents of Georgia began seeking the services of the town library in increasing numbers. A librarian's assistant was hired to help meet the growing need for services. The library closed on December 15th for a month, to allow staff and trustees time to move it to the new location.
It has been several years since the library has moved. We are now "at home" in the building and thoroughly enjoy all the space. Please stop in and see for yourself, the Georgia Public Library.
Compiled by Mae Shell. December, 1997.
Note: Every effort has been made to present only factual information in this history.
Georgia Library Drawing by Faith Newton