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Holderness Library named state's best



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Beaming Holderness Library Director Victoria Lang shows off the plaque presented to her by NH Library Trustees Association President Conrad Moses during a ceremony last week celebrating the building’s selection as New Hampshire’s Library of the Year. (Brendan Berube) (click for larger version)
September 29, 2010
HOLDERNESS — The group of volunteers who set out two years ago to give the Holderness Library a much needed facelift, calling themselves the Wow Committee, brought a whole new meaning to that name last week with the news that their small community is now home to New Hampshire's 2010 Library of the Year.

State dignitaries, local officials, trustees, and proud spectators gathered on the library's front lawn Sept. 22 for a small ceremony marking the occasion.

Victoria Lang, who took over as director of the library two and a half years ago, beamed with pride as she accepted a plaque recognizing the building's newfound status as the best in the state from Conrad Moses, President of the New Hampshire Library Trustees Association (which presents the annual award).

Praising the work of the directors who came before her, and who she said left her "a good foundation to build on," Lang also extended a heartfelt thank you to the local community, which she said has been an overwhelming source of support.

"It's such a joy to come up those stairs every morning and come to work," she added.

Throwing a nod to the Wow Committee, which has worked with her over the past few years to make its vision for the library a reality, Lang said the group had accomplished its mission, "with more wows to come."

During an interview shortly before the ceremony, Lang explained that when she first stepped into her position, the 100-year-old library "needed some sprucing up," to put it mildly.

The extensive renovations and improvements that have unfolded over the past two and a half years, she said, include the installation of a new furnace, new lighting, and new insulation; the replacement of the building's roof, which was funded through a generous donation made by one of the library's patrons; the replacement of the floor in the building's original wing; and the construction of a new children's room on the ground floor.

Lang has also worked to give the library a presence on the international stage during her tenure, partnering with a foundation created by Holderness residents Robert and Sara Rothschild to keep the libraries they have built throughout the African nation of Botswana supplied with books.

The success of that partnership, she said, has also paved the way for one of her counterparts in Botswana to pay a visit to Holderness next July, and for her to travel to Botswana.

Lang said she learned that the library had been chosen as Library of the Year two weeks ago, and felt it was "very exciting" news.

"I think it's lovely for the community," she added.

Her enthusiasm was shared by the officials invited to speak at last week's ceremony, among them state Sen. Deb Reynolds, who praised the library's staff for its efforts to promote education and literacy (which she called the "hallmark of a civiliztion"); Grafton County Commissioner Martha Richards, who encouraged local residents frustrated by the seeming lack of return on their property taxes to look at the library as "an example of your tax money done good"; and Executive Councilor Ray Burton and Congressman Paul Hodes, who were unable to attend but sent along proclamations congratulating the library's staff and trustees.

State Library Director Michael York reminded those present that with 234 libraries vying for the distinction of being named the state's best every year, earning that designation is "no mean achievement."

Libraries, York said, occupy a special place in the social fabric of New Hampshire, due in large part to the fact that there is one in each of the state's towns and cities.

"Nobody else can make that claim," he said. "Not McDonalds; not Dunkin' Donuts; not even Wal-Mart."

Peter Webster, Chair of Holderness' Board of Selectmen, whose grandfather acquired the land on which the library was built and helped construct it, said the day was a particularly special one for him.

Relating the story of how the Wow Committee first came before the selectmen three years ago asking for a substantial increase in the library's budget for the purpose of hiring a new librarian, and met with skepticism on the board's part at first, Webster said he was now at a loss for words, except to say "Wow, Victoria … wow."

Looking ahead, Lang said the next project on her agenda will be taking down the dropped ceiling in the library's main room and restoring the original plaster ceiling — a project for which she recently secured grant funding.

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