Locals celebrate as Holderness Library turns 100



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Selectman Peter Webster and his sisters, Susan Webster and Fifi Kampf, descendants of Laurence Webster, one of the founders of the Holderness Library, were on hand for the building’s centennial Saturday. The trio were invited to help unveil a plaque commemorating the building’s recent addition to the National Register of Historic Places. (Brendan Berube) (click for larger version)
May 11, 2011
HOLDERNESS — With its original ceiling now fully restored, a new stained glass painting displayed in the front window, and a banner draped above the entrance proudly proclaiming its status as New Hampshire's Library of the Year, the Holderness Library was looking pretty good for its age as locals gathered to celebrate its 100th anniversary Saturday.

As much as it was a historic milestone, however, the anniversary party also provided the library's staff and board of trustees with an opportunity to celebrate their efforts over the past three years to make the building the community focal point it has become.

"We should all be proud of not only this building, but the community — the community that has built it, supported it, donated to it, baked for it, sold plants for it, raked for it, shelved books for it, written letters for it, cleaned it, painted it, installed and removed air conditioners for it, taken out the trash for it, wrapped presents for it, borrowed books from it, given books to it, brought their families to it, and most importantly, loved it," longtime library volunteer Kathy Wieliczko said as she welcomed guests to Saturday's celebration.

When she first moved to Holderness 15 years ago, Wieliczko said the library was where she spent many a rainy day or sunny afternoon on her way home from the beach getting to know her new community.

"Like so many people, the library was the first place to go when you came to Holderness," she explained. "This is how people get to know our town."

The building has seen many changes in the 100 years since a group of prominent local residents led by Laurence Webster built and opened the library in 1911, Wieliczko said — none more dramatic than the restoration efforts that began three years ago, including the hardwood floors on the main level, the slate roof, and the original ceiling, all projects funded by a Moose Plate grant secured through the lobbying efforts of a group of former students at the Holderness Central School.

Jane Kellogg, the teacher who spearheaded their efforts, was on hand for Saturday's event, and recalled how what began as a fourth grade project to see whether it would be possible to create a program similar to Florida's Manatee license plates became, by the time her students reached sixth and seventh grade, an all-out quest to secure funding for the library.

After emerging from a hearing at the State House one particularly sweltering afternoon worried that the students might be ready to lynch her for making them suffer through the proceedings in the heat, Kellogg said she was amazed to see that they were still hobnobbing with state officials in the hallway outside Representatives' Hall.

"They had turned into little lobbyists," she added.

Also in attendance Saturday was Selectman Peter Webster, a descendant of Laurence Webster and longtime supporter of the library who said that he and his sisters were "honored and proud" to help commemorate the 100th anniversary of the library, which he called an "integral part of the community."

With an ancestor who helped found the library and a father who served as a trustee, Webster said the building has always been a part of his family's life.

"It's taken on a life where it's now part of the community," he said, adding that he was thrilled when, after years of searching for someone capable of helping the library reach its full potential, the trustees "finally got the right combination" in current library director Victoria Lang, who spearheaded the restoration efforts, as well as the construction of a new children's room downstairs.

Lang said Saturday that the opportunity to step back and enjoy the newly renovated facility after three years of hard work came as "a little bit of a relief."

Voicing her gratitude for the support the local community has given to the library, Lang said she is looking forward to kicking off a new slate of monthly family programs at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 8 with a presentation by Andi Axman, editor of New Hampshire Home magazine.

While the work on the floors and ceilings is now complete, Lang doesn't plan to rest on her laurels for too long. The next project on her list, she said, will be the construction of ramps designed to make the building handicapped accessible.

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