Solomon Wright Public Library
The transition from neighborhood book-swapping shelves to a centralized public library for the Town of Pownal, Vt. was begun by a committee consisting of Genevieve Barber, Elizabeth Burrington and Ruth Gardner. In 1947 the book collection was moved into its original location, the Baptist Church vestry, from “Rightholme” the residence of Agnes Rathbun, who had been acting librarian.
The first Pownal Public Library report of Jan 2, 1948 lists selected titles, expenses, donors, new bookshelves and a new volunteer librarian. Helen Thompson Renner, Pownal native, graduate of Oak Hill School started by the Pownal Literary Association, and later a graduate of Syracuse University’s Library Science program began her devoted library oversight and duties which lasted for 40 years. The “bookwagon” visited, donations were catalogued, and many part time volunteers helped guarantee service for the rural community.
Solomon Wright, Jr., native son, businessman and philanthropist who had supported for many years the library since its inception, realized the importance of a designated building for library use. With a bequest of $1000. in 1952, he enabled the purchase of the Main Street site for a library which could have room for growth, correct conditions for collections, a welcoming interior for the town’s citizens and adequate heating, lighting, work spaces and storage.
Henry W. Bassen, chairman of the library trustees, had the vision and foresight to apply for federal funds and with Librarian Helen Renner lead the drive to raise matching monies for library construction. The Town of Pownal, with population in 1965 of 1,756 became the first community in Vermont to build a completely new library under the Aid to Library Services and Construction Act of the 84th U.S. Congress.
Private donors included: Pownal Fire and Protection Association and Auxiliary, Pownal Tanning Co., Cleveland Dodge Foundation, Northeast Wood Products, Mrs. Solomon Wright, Mr./Mrs. Peter Case, and Willard B. Wright along with many other town citizens pledging contributions that helped the trustees build a library with no local tax dollars. Library trustees in 1965: Henry Bassen, Donald Rogers, Gladys Smith, Thomas Hurley, and Dorothy Pudvar.
Architects for the building were Edward Baker and assoc. William M. Kirby, Jr. with the contract to build awarded to Northeast Wood Products of Pownal. The 40’ x 50’ colonial style brick veneer building was named the Solomon Wright Public Library in memory of Solomon Wright, Jr. “whose lifetime support and bequest was the basis for the new structure”. Groundbreaking took place August 1965. In January 1966, five thousand books and equipment were moved across the street primarily by members of Boy Scout Troop 347 while library trustees and staff packed, organized and shelved materials. Dedication of the facility and Open House was held on April 17, 1966 with Mrs. Solomon Wright, Jr. cutting the ribbon.
Library holdings and services have expanded since 1966. With the advent of the State Department of Libraries Automated Library System Pownal’s library (P87) in 1993 became the first to “connect’ in Bennington County. With a donated computer and modem the interlibrary loan requests and research were handled faster. Today the library has public access computers with database and internet available. The library’s collection which has more than doubled in size now offers a large number of children’s materials, up to date reference sources and a variety of media.
Furthermore, in 1995 the entire building was upgraded to meet ADA standards along with the addition of a “community” room and office. Again private donations were used for this effort and the extra space expands the role of the library for Pownal allowing diverse programming, displays, meetings, and instruction.
To this day the Solomon Wright Public Library is staffed by volunteers. Many of the dedicated “librarians” have served for decades ensuring personalized and efficient service. Town support, first voted in 1956, has increased to allow the library to apply for and meet Vt. Minimum Standards for the first time for the year 2006. It is one of the goals of the present library director and board of trustees to maintain standards while continuing the tradition of free public library service in Pownal, Vermont.
Board of Trustees; Ruth Botzow, chair; George Renner, Treasurer; Andrew Dequasie, Secretary; Helen Rogers, Julius Rosenwald, H. Trey Carter, Jeanne Overstreet, Helen T. Renner, Emeritii; Linda G.Hall, Director.
Note: This information was transferred to House Resolution 334: See Attached .pdf file: HCR334