by Alex Hanson, Valley News Staff Writer
Originally appeared October 29, 2010 in Valley News.
The Great Recession has taken its toll on almost every aspect of American life. Libraries appear to have been particularly hard hit, with cities around the country closing library branches, laying off staff and cutting budgets to meet revenue shortfalls.
But Hanover's Howe Library (http://www.thehowe.org) is bucking that trend. Library officials announced this week that the Howe would increase its hours by staying open on summer Sundays, starting next year. Thanks to a gift from the late Leonard Morrissey and his family, the library will be open seven days a week, year 'round.
“The Morrisseys have given a remarkable gift to Howe Library,” Mary White, the library's director, said in a statement.
Len Morrissey, a longtime Hanover resident and professor at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business, was treasurer of the Howe Library Corp., for many years, and oversaw the library's finances when it moved to its current location on East South Street. He died last November at age 84.
“I know that Len would be so proud of this decision,” White said in a telephone interview about the planned increase in the library's hours.
In a 2007 survey, 57 percent of respondents said that summer Sunday hours were their highest priority for expanded service. Sundays tend to be busy days at the library, with staff loaning out as many materials in four hours -- 400 to 600 items -- as they usually do in a 10-hour weekday, White said.
White estimated the cost of staying open on Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. in June, July and August at about $4,200 a year. That doesn't include any extra costs for utilities, which Hanover's municipal budget generally covers. “That hasn’t been resolved yet,” White said, adding that she doesn’t expect it to be an obstacle.
The gift, the size of which the family didn't want to disclose, is sufficient to cover the cost using just the interest, although the library can dip into the principal of the donation if necessary, White said.
The Howe is one of the most heavily used libraries in the Upper Valley, and it's also well supported, both by the town of Hanover and by its patrons. Each year, people from 93 Vermont and New Hampshire towns pay a non-resident fee to borrow materials from the Howe.
“This is a well loved library,” White said. Now patrons will have four more hours a week each summer to show their fondness.
* Howe Library is also one of the most active libraries in terms of organizing programs for the public. Its slate of readings, films, book discussions and art shows is always full.