The library: A community for young families

Eds’ note: Jen Bradstreet shared with NGX her letter to the select board, budget committee, and interim town manager (emphases are hers).

Re: Proposed Reduction of Library Staff and Hours

Date: March 23, 2020

Dear Friends,

I am writing this letter is to express my profound support for the New Gloucester library and to vehemently reject the current proposal to cut the library budget, effectively eliminating the Assistant Librarian position and reducing library hours substantially.

I had hoped to share my story in person at the public hearing (despite my dread of public speaking), but I appreciate you taking this letter as a substitute given appropriate COVID-19 precautions.

Admittedly, my family and I are fairly new residents to New Gloucester — we purchased our home in December 2017. I normally wouldn’t get involved in things like this, thinking it isn’t my place as a newcomer. However, I’ve read several letters in support of the library recently from more established residents and I think it’s important that the town understand how this decision would affect young families like mine — and those who may consider moving here in the future.

My husband, Evan, and I started seriously considering New Gloucester as a potential residence in the fall of 2017. I was pregnant with our first child, he had just started a new job at Pineland, and we wanted to find a good, safe, rural community to raise our family. When I drove out to New Gloucester to see what it was like, I was charmed by the Village Store, of course, but my very next stop was the library. I was so impressed with all the resources this small town library had to offer and it was this positive visit that cemented our decision to move to this town.

Fast forward a few months later, our first son, Jonah was born. My husband went back to work and I was feeling very alone in a new town with a new baby, miles from friends and family. I was desperate for community and very lonely, so, even though Jonah was just an infant, I decided to attend the children’s storytime at the library. I felt silly bringing a baby for what was clearly not a baby event, but I was welcomed warmly by Sue and Carla and the families they brought together there. Being able to meet and talk with other parents and residents was so important — it really helped my survival as a new mom. It also helped me start to feel part of the town we moved to for the first time. Not being a part of the local school system yet and also working from a home office can be isolating. As such, the library has really been my single source of community.

Jonah and I have been going to the library storytime for two years now (and counting!). We aren’t able to come every week, but when we do, we are both greeted by name by both Carla and Sue when we enter the door. Jonah knows and loves them both and it’s a joy to see him toddle around the place as if he owns it! I visit the Village Store, town hall, Hannaford, and the post office all on a regular basis… yet the library is the only place in town where my son and I are greeted by name and I feel like I am known and valued as a member of the community.

The library has also been an amazing resource for my husband and I. As recently as this past Christmas, when being home with a toddler was just too much, I visited the library alone during their late hours and worked on the puzzle for a bit, chatting with Carla and just having some time to relax. Even my husband, who is not natural “joiner” of activities, participated in the recent Cribbage Night after work. He really enjoyed it and it’s now on our regular event calendar! Having extended hours means that we are able to go to the library after work or after Jonah is in bed. Too many local places are only open during “bank hours,” which significantly reduces the time people with “9 to 5’s” are able to use them.

Having two librarians with such different and complementary personalities is key to the chemistry of the place. I can’t imagine eliminating the Assistant Librarian position, not only because I like Carla, but because I don’t see how the library could do as much as they do now with just one staff member. Both librarians are integral to the programs like Cribbage Night and the Summer Reading Program — programs that bring residents of all ages together in a positive way.

Our town is growing with young families every year — on my dirt road alone, there are currently no less than three new family homes being built. We would do these families and our community an extreme disservice to cut our library funding in the manner that has been outlined. Quite simply, I find this decision to be extremely short-sighted as we look to grow our community.

I sincerely hope that the town staff can put their heads together to figure out another way to meet our budget needs without cutting this vital community resource in such a drastic way.


Jennifer Bradstreet