Making the past present in Swampscott

January 9, 2017

ITEM FILE PHOTO
First lady of Massachusetts Lauren Baker reads “Froggy Goes to the Library” to kids in this July 2016 file photo.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT The Swampscott Public Library is looking into its “Past, Present and Future of the Library” to kick off centennial celebrations with a panel discussion headlined by Massachusetts First Lady Lauren Baker.

Baker is expected to be joined by Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioner Mary Ann Cluggish and another undecided panel member in the program Saturday, Jan. 21 at 3 p.m. at the library. Louis Gallo, unofficial town historian, was initially slated to speak, but had to withdraw for health reasons.

“Our library itself is the focus, past, present and what the future holds for our library,” said Alyce Deveau, library director, of the event.

Deveau said Baker is going to talk about the library as it is now, and how it helps with literacy. Gallo planned to discuss the library’s history, which will instead be presented by his replacement. Cluggish will be talking about where libraries are headed in the future.

Deveau said people sometimes think that libraries are dead. They’re not dead, she said, but are morphing and changing along with society.

“We want people to be aware of that, where we’ve come (from) and where we’re going,” Deveau said.

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The library building on Burrill Street turns 100 on Jan. 20. Yearlong centennial celebrations are planned in addition to the panel discussion.

Marianne McDermott, an organizer of the discussion and member of the Centennial Committee, said the discussion is going to be exploring the library as a vital resource for the Swampscott community.

“We want to use the year to celebrate what the library is for our community,” McDermott said. “It’s such an important and valuable part of our community. It’s such an accepted part of our community. We want to call attention to it, shine a light on it … how it enhances our community in so many ways.”

In 1852, the year Swampscott was incorporated as a separate town from Lynn, the Board of Selectmen voted to accept a proposal from Dr. William Lawrence of Boston to establish a town library. His gift of 166 volumes and a $100 donation formed the institution’s book collection.

Three months later, the library opened in the former Town Hall, but was not a free and public institution. It was a subscription association, with its members paying dues to withdraw books. In 1879, the library became a free public institution at Town Hall. On Jan. 20, 1917, the library moved from Town Hall to its present location.

The land for the building site was donated by Elihu Thomson, which used to comprise of his tennis courts, and the project was funded by the town and its residents. His former home, a National Historic Landmark, serves as the Swampscott Town Hall.

Sixty people are expected to attend the free discussion, which will be followed by a reception. Seating is limited, and reservations are recommended. Reservations can be made online at the Swampscott library website http://www.swampscottlibrary.org or by calling (781) 596-8867.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.