St. Johnsbury Athenaeum Restructuring

The VLA Board Members want everyone to know that we are aware of the restructuring at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum and are working diligently with the ALA on a statement and a course of action. Stay tuned.

Letter from the Athenaeum Board of Trustees

Article from the Caledonian Record reposted by VT Digger

If you have any comments, suggestions, etc. re: VLA & the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum restructuring, please feel free to contact VLA President Deborah Gadwah-Lambert at deborahlle [at] yahoo [dot] com.

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Posted in News, Public Libraries Section.


  1. Unfortunately Vt Digger re-posted a thin and sensationalized report in the Caledonian Record about the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum restructuring.

    The Athenaeum board welcomes direct contact by the VLA Board (or the ALA) for more factual information.

  2. This is indeed a travesty! In this day and age, libraries are definitely evolving but they are not in decline by any stretch. Making a statement about the Internet being to blame is idiotic at best, ignorant and uninformed at the worst. Unless the Athenaeum is an anomaly in the library world, both visits and circulation to public libraries is ever-increasing. Here at the Pierson Library in Shelburne, for example, our circulation has increased annually by 5% or more every year since 2008; we’re up 9% YTD this year so far. We just completed our 3-year strategic plan last December and we rewrote our mission statement to reflect the library’s changing role – “Creating a place people want to be!” The library is evolving to be a community gathering place and we need more qualified staff…not less. Library users still depend upon the library for reading/viewing materials; last year, more books than ever before were published in this country. Under-served residents depend upon the library for Internet access. Patrons are looking for eMaterials and they’re looking for assistance with how to access those items. Families are looking for storytimes and other programs. Literacy and, to a lesser degree, curriculum support is expected from the library. The library is a place where young and old come together and interact. There is no excuse for a library to be shrinking its staff or its services in this so-called Internet era. Business is booming and unless funding has been cut thru short-sightedness and poor planning/failure to explain the evolving/growing role in the community, then the Athenaeum board has done tremendous harm to the community it professes to serve!

  3. The Board of the Athenaeum is excited and optimistic about the future of libraries and the future of the Athenaeum in particular.

    We agree with what Kip Roberson says about books and the future of libraries.

    We are not radically cutting librarian hours, and plan expansion of our programs and services.

    We plan to close our budget deficit largely with new income.

    Starting February 1st, our librarian jobs will be different, as we adjust to the changing needs of our patrons and making use of the new technology.

    We see the Internet as a sea of new possibilities, not a reason to reduce staff at libraries. This year the Athenaeum will become a port on a super-speed internet feed, and we look forward to serving our patrons with new services based on this new capability.

    We will always have traditional books.

    There’s a lot more to be said. But a good place to start is the letter from our Board Chair, Bill Marshall. See comment number 1 above for a link.

    Gil Steil, Vice-chair, St. Johnsbury Athenaeum

  4. Caledonia Record
    For four years I had the privilege of serving as Executive Director of this institution, the jewel in the crown of St. Johnsbury. I worked side by side with many of those who were terminated. I knew their professional dedication to serving the needs of anyone who came to the Athenaeum, adults and children alike. And, I cannot fathom why they have been subjected to such treatment.

    In a letter addressed to donors, patrons and friends, the current leadership has stated the reasons for this drastic action. They bear little relationship to reality. The implication that the Athenaeum is operating in an earlier century is simply not true. In my experience, Lisa von Kann and her staff demonstrated a constant curiosity and implemented appropriate contemporary library systems and practices while never losing sight of traditional library services.

    The Athenaeum is not merely a repository for information that can more easily found on the Internet. It provides a haven for children after school, daily newspapers for those with limited means, concerts and lectures and other exhibitions providing cultural enrichment not otherwise available. It has remained relevant to the needs of the community for 140 years. Like other institutions patronage varies from year to year. If attendance has been down, perhaps a lack of creative programs and exhibits is the reason.

    The art gallery has always been the jewel in the Athenaeum’s crown. Conservation of the unique and valuable art collection has always been a priority; during my tenure, that was under the watchful eye of the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, one of the finest in the country. The resources of the WACC are extraordinary, and I can only hope this valuable curatorial oversight is still in place.

    Visitors to the Athenaeum, whether those who come for the first time or those who visit daily, are always warmed in its intellectual and artistic glow. It is a shame to see one of our most lively, respected, and beloved institutions put in harm’s way.

    Irwin Gelber
    Executive Director (2006-2010)
    St. Johnsbury Athenaeum

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