Monday, 24 January 2011

New Director for Brewster Ladies' Library

American visitors from Brewster came bearing gifts

Margaret Hallett still remembers the day some years ago when she met visitors from Brewster, Massachusetts, and heard about the splendid facilities at the oddly-named Ladies' Library in our sister-town on Cape Cod.

Budleigh Salterton Library staff Angie Allen (left) and Margaret Hallett show off their little Brewster bear who still has a special shelf of his own

"Of course it's a different set-up over there, being privately-run," she told me, with just a hint of envy. She's happy enough as Librarian in Charge of the somewhat smaller equivalent in Budleigh Salterton. But every so often she looks at the little Brewster bear, pictured above, that her American visitors presented to our library on Station Road, and dreams of what they enjoy on the other side of the Pond.

Brewster Ladies' Library

Not only is the Ladies' Library much bigger than Budleigh Salterton's, but it's also considerably older, with an interesting history. In 1852, when Brewster was flourishing with the wealth of homecoming sea captains and the vigour of many small businesses, the Brewster Ladies' Library came into being.

Two young women, Sarah Augusto Mayo and Mary Louise Cobb, engaged in the ambitious project of interesting their friends in the town's need for a library. They were so successful that twelve founding ladies established a subscription library in the home of Captain Mayo, at the site of the home now at 1772 Main Street, Brewster. It opened to the public on January 29, 1853. Men were allowed to borrow books, but they had to pay more than the ladies. That rule was dropped in time.

Many people wonder why, in these gender neutral days, the name of Brewster Ladies' Library is still used. As can be seen, the name evolved from the founding group - 12 Brewster ladies. In the 1970s an objection was raised to the name because of the possibility of misinterpretation - that men were not allowed. However, in an overwhelming vote at the annual library meeting, the decision was made to go with history and keep the name. In 1999, "Your Community Library" was added to the name to avoid confusion.
To find out more about Brewster Ladies' Library click on
And now, as Cape Codder journalist Rich Eldred explains, the Ladies' Library has a new Director.
New library director happy to return to Bay state

Kathy Cockcroft is a native of Massachusetts but her last library job was in Texas
Photo credit: Brewster Ladies' Library

As the age of e-books and tablet computers dawns is there still a place for the old fashioned library?

Kathy Cockcroft hopes so. She is the brand new director of Brewster Ladies’ Library. Her first official day was last Tuesday when she met and greeted citizens of her new town over cookies and coffee.

Her last job was in Rowlett, Texas, just outside of Dallas, where she spent the last two years, but Cockcroft is a native of Brockton and is glad to be back in her home state. She attended UMass Amherst and got her library degree at Simmons College in Boston.

Rowlett was a bigger town, with a population of 55,000.

“I enjoyed it very much,” Cockcroft said. “My previous job was in Connecticut but my husband got a job offer in Texas so we decided to move, but I missed my home and family and I’m very glad to be back to New England.”

She spent nine years as director of Canton Public Library just west of Hartford. Canton is a town about the size of Brewster.

“I truly loved that position,” she said. “I’ve always had a love of the Cape too. I just love this side of the Cape. The library is beautiful. The community involvement is great. The number of volunteers (200) is amazing when you have that kind of support. That means the residents are enjoying and like the library.”

Brewster Ladies’ Library is privately run and Cockcroft reports to an 11-member board.

She’s just arrived so she won’t have any big plans for the library right away.
“I want to get to know the community,” she said. “I can certainly tell it’s well used. The current five year plan goes to 2012.”

So she has a few years to look ahead.

Cockcroft isn’t concerned computer tablets and such will render libraries archaic. She has seen the rise of audio books, videos and computers.

“A library is a community center. It’s a gathering place to exchange ideas and have social relationships,” she noted. “It’s your community and it’s a resource for people. This isn’t original with me but a library is a cornerstone of Democracy because we are providing everybody access to everything. I think that is a critical role libraries play.”

Cockcroft is prepared for the era of the digital book.

“Keeping up with technology is one of the most critical things,” she conceded. “Some people will hold onto the book and if they want videos or books for the IPad they’ll find that libraries have them or we can order it or provide it.”

She’s still shopping for a house.

“I’d like to buy a home in Brewster. I’ve never had the luxury of living in the town I’m working in,” she noted.

“I’m just really happy to be here. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone and working with the community,” Cockcroft said. “You will see me out here on the floor not sitting in my office.”

By Rich Eldred
Reprinted with permission from The Cape Codder newspaper

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