WOODSTOCK PUBLIC LIBRARY
I recently came across a charming memory of the picturesque Woodstock Library, written by the author and critic Robert Phelps (found here). Phelps tells the story of how he discovered the work of poet Randall Jarrell in the Library's freezing, disheveled attic in the 1940's. It was nice to find that the library still stands, a postcard image of the quintessential small-town American library, right down to its address (5 Library Lane, if you can believe it). But it not only stands; it appears to flourish, complete with it's own website and Facebook page. It's kept its looks and charm nicely over the years, and I hope it's been able to retain the quality of its collection, as described below by Phelps...
"At that time, I was living in Woodstock, New York, a populous art colony in the summer, a quiet Catskill village in the winter, and year-around possessor of the dearest library I have ever known. It's contents were shelved in two or three rooms of a tiny, early-nineteenth-century farmhouse on the west periphery of the town, across a meadow from an undertaker and set well back from the Bearsville road, under elderly maples. Most of its several thousand books had been gifts, either from the generation of patrician and rather precious idealists who had settled in Woodstock about the turn of the century, or from a later generation who had spent the twenties abroad. There was very little trash. The books were high-brow, high-minded, polylingual, and often bore nameplates on their flyleaves.The result was more like an exceptional private library than the sort set up for public use, and the librarian was a wry and wiry little lady named Mrs. Thompson, who loved books and book-loving more than the Dewey decimal system.
Upstairs there was a low-ceiling, unheated attic where the overflow- duplicates, music, books Mrs. T. simply hadn't gotten around to cataloguing- were stored. It was here that I saw for the first time the score of Charles Ives's Fourth Symphony (or at least the single movement printed in green covers by the New Music Press). There were shelves of Bostonians, Henry and Brooks Adams, James Russell and Amy Lowell, William James and Henry; I remember the silky beige bindings of the original Scribner's editions of The Golden Bowl and The Sacred Fount and The Better Sort. There were cardboard boxes of the old Dial, Transatlantic Review, Hound and Horn, transition, and there was the "Plain Edition," which Gertrude Stein published herself, of Lucy Church Amiably. There were odd volumes in Assorted languages: Rémy de Gourmont's Promenades Littéraires; Unamuno in Spanish; d'Annunzio in Italian. There was the only copy I've ever seen anywhere of William Carlos Williams's The Great American Novel; and ranked in knee-high stacks along the walls, there were back issues of The New Republic, The Partisan Review, Life, and The Nation.
Especially during the winter of 1948-49, I spent many afternoons up in the attic, and it was here that, so to speak, I came to know Randall Jarrell. I would sit on the floor, or on a carton containing the complete works of Wilkie Collins. The library was open from two to six, though at that time of year the only visitors usually came about four, on their way to the post office and the day's shopping. I would hear their snow tires crunching on the drive outside, and now and then a murmur of voices below. Some days I could see my own breath. Below the dormer window on my right lay an acre of frozen white, tinted rose on sunny days, with a blue shadow moving inas the sun settled behind a row of hemlocks to the west. It was when that advancing shadow reached an old pump that I knew I'd better start for home, or else I'd have to walk the last of my two miles in the dark. It was a quiet attic, far from the center of anything, hardly the place for a young man to make connections, or launch a career, or practice courage. But it was a perfect place to know Randall Jarrell..."
A history of the library was printed in the 1970's, and can be found here.