Athenaeum layoffs

To the Editor:

The St. Johnsbury Athenaeum is the Town of St. Johnsbury's finest public institution. It has existed for over 100 years, thanks to the generosity of its founder, Mr. Fairbanks. It continues to exist with public and private funds for support. The Athenaeum serves our entire community. Anyone can go there to read, to use a computer, to rent a movie or music DVD, or to do research or homework. Students and older people use it all the time. Now it offers e-books for free rental, as well.

For those of us who have always loved books, it is a treasure. One can take out books, some new, some old, for reading at home. The reading areas, the children's room, the history room, are used by all, in peace and quiet and comfort. Our community is blessed with this precious resource.

The Library is served by a gracious, dedicated staff, who are always willing to answer a question, to loan a book or tape, or to research an issue for you. This past week, the entire staff was terminated from their positions by the Library's Board of Trustees. The pain, sadness and anguish that this move wrought on these faithful, loyal employees is indescribable. The Board's action was taken at the height of our Christmas holiday season. What emptiness this action leaves in the lives of these devoted employees.

The board is justified in seeking means to reverse the Library's fiscal losses. But there must have been other ways to go about saving the Library financially. And certainly at another season in the year, where pain is not coupled with joy. Employment in our area is quite limited, and these terminations will not easily be rectified by some of these employees.

In the interest of easing the pain of this action, I want to offer thanks to all of these people, for their service to the public, the community and to readers everywhere. Their efforts will not go unnoticed by others.

I also want to urge our community members to remember the Athenaeum in their holiday giving plans, and to give what support each of us can, to this wonderful institution. To volunteer to serve at the Library is another way to provide it with support. If you visit the Library this holiday, you may wish to share your appreciation for all their fine work with this staff.

Mary Jane Egerton

Passumpsic, Vt.

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