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Library celebrates 90 years of service

  • Staff members at the George Holmes Bixby Library in Francestown are holding a series of events in 2013 to celebrate the library's 90th birthday.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Staff members at the George Holmes Bixby Library in Francestown are holding a series of events in 2013 to celebrate the library's 90th birthday.
    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Staff members at the George Holmes Bixby Library in Francestown are holding a series of events in 2013 to celebrate the library's 90th birthday.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Staff members at the George Holmes Bixby Library in Francestown are holding a series of events in 2013 to celebrate the library's 90th birthday.
    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • A portrait hangs in the old section of the library of a man believed by staff to be George Holmes Bixby (1838-1901), who was an assistant surgeon that resided in Francestown.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    A portrait hangs in the old section of the library of a man believed by staff to be George Holmes Bixby (1838-1901), who was an assistant surgeon that resided in Francestown.

    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Staff members at the George Holmes Bixby Library in Francestown are holding a series of events in 2013 to celebrate the library's 90th birthday.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Staff members at the George Holmes Bixby Library in Francestown are holding a series of events in 2013 to celebrate the library's 90th birthday.
    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • A children's table sits next to the catalog stacks in the lower level of the George Holmes Bixby Library. The catalog stacks will eventually become all digital.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    A children's table sits next to the catalog stacks in the lower level of the George Holmes Bixby Library. The catalog stacks will eventually become all digital.
    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Library Director Carol Brock, right, checks books out to Tania Grady, of Francestown, and her two sons, Jack, 8, middle, and Sean, 11.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Library Director Carol Brock, right, checks books out to Tania Grady, of Francestown, and her two sons, Jack, 8, middle, and Sean, 11.
    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • A sign hangs outside the George Holmes Bixby Library reminding residents of the April cupcake fundraiser that will feature local bakers.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    A sign hangs outside the George Holmes Bixby Library reminding residents of the April cupcake fundraiser that will feature local bakers.
    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Children's Librarian Mary Farrell logs book into the automated catalog system on Tuesday afternoon at the George H. Bixby Library.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Children's Librarian Mary Farrell logs book into the automated catalog system on Tuesday afternoon at the George H. Bixby Library.
    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Staff members at the George Holmes Bixby Library in Francestown are holding a series of events in 2013 to celebrate the library's 90th birthday.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Staff members at the George Holmes Bixby Library in Francestown are holding a series of events in 2013 to celebrate the library's 90th birthday.
    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The George Holmes Bixby Library underwent physical changes nearly four years ago that included an addition to the left of the original brick building, which was constructed in the early 1800s.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    The George Holmes Bixby Library underwent physical changes nearly four years ago that included an addition to the left of the original brick building, which was constructed in the early 1800s.
    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Staff members at the George Holmes Bixby Library in Francestown are holding a series of events in 2013 to celebrate the library's 90th birthday.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Staff members at the George Holmes Bixby Library in Francestown are holding a series of events in 2013 to celebrate the library's 90th birthday.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • A portrait hangs in the old section of the library of a man believed by staff to be George Holmes Bixby (1838-1901), who was an assistant surgeon that resided in Francestown.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Staff members at the George Holmes Bixby Library in Francestown are holding a series of events in 2013 to celebrate the library's 90th birthday.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • A children's table sits next to the catalog stacks in the lower level of the George Holmes Bixby Library. The catalog stacks will eventually become all digital.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Library Director Carol Brock, right, checks books out to Tania Grady, of Francestown, and her two sons, Jack, 8, middle, and Sean, 11.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • A sign hangs outside the George Holmes Bixby Library reminding residents of the April cupcake fundraiser that will feature local bakers.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Children's Librarian Mary Farrell logs book into the automated catalog system on Tuesday afternoon at the George H. Bixby Library.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Staff members at the George Holmes Bixby Library in Francestown are holding a series of events in 2013 to celebrate the library's 90th birthday.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • The George Holmes Bixby Library underwent physical changes nearly four years ago that included an addition to the left of the original brick building, which was constructed in the early 1800s.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

The George Holmes Bixby Library is celebrating 90 years of continuous service in 2013 with several events spread throughout the year, culminating in late September with a 90th birthday party.

On April 13, the library staff is holding a cupcake fundraiser from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to kick off the birthday celebrations. The library will play host to local volunteer bakers like Helene Harbage of Francestown, who was named Yankee Magazine’s Cook of the Month in July 2009. Other volunteers include Jamie Noonan — who runs a cupcake business out of her Francestown home — and Great Brook School student Connor Farrell. Each cupcake will run you $1, and the money raised will help pay for the September party.

There will also be a 90th anniversary float in this fall’s Labor Day Parade — the town’s most storied event that was started back in 1917 by Alison Bixby-Hill, daughter of George Holmes Bixby for whom the library is named.

The library itself is in the midst of transformation, as the staff transitions the antiquated card catalogue system to a completely digital one. Library Director Carol Brock said in an interview at the library on Tuesday that about three quarters of the books have been entered into the digital system, and the staff is continually working to get the remaining books into LibraryWorld, a web-based library automation service. The system allows a patron to log in, select a library and search for books through the online catalogue.

“Looking back 90 years ago, I don’t think people would’ve recognized the place,” Brock said of the library today.

And that’s true from both a physical and operational point of view.

The automated library service will eliminate the need for catalogue cards , but will still maintain the integrity of the Dewey Decimal System.

“We are so amazed at the ease to find a book,” Brock said about the new LibraryWorld system. “Patrons will be able to access our catalogue and find a book from home. It’s moving at top speed, and we’re thrilled.”

Once all of the books are added to the automated system, Carol and Children’s Librarian Mary Farrell will register their patrons into LibraryWorld once the patrons request permission to be added to the library. Then they are free to browse catalogues anytime, anywhere, including at the library itself.

Brock said that about four years ago, the Francestown News donated $5,000 to the library to begin the online conversion . The library also used the donation to add three laptop computers — one downstairs in the children’s section and two upstairs. The G. H. Bixby Library has also added Wi-Fi, or wireless Internet service, to the building.

Just about four years ago the library also underwent massive physical reconstruction. The building, which was built in 1827 and donated to the town in 1923 by Alison Bixby-Hill, had serious structural issues. Bixby-Hill donated the building (previously a law office and a residence) to the town under the condition that it be used as a library and historical society, and named for her father, who was a graduate of Dartmouth Medical School and a floating hospital surgeon, as well as a Francestown property owner.

During the first year and a half of renovation work, everything in the library was moved out and stored in the Town Hall’s post office area while the floors were strengthened and sanded. Volunteers helped repaint the inside.

An addition was also added to the left of the old building, which now contains the reception desk on the middle floor, and a large number of books upstairs and children’s books downstairs. The old section of the building is still used, but doesn’t bear nearly as much weight as it used to.

“There are no plans for more expansion in the foreseeable future,” Brock said. “We have so much catching up to do with the automated system as it is. We just look forward to finishing everything.”

Francestown resident Tania Grady said that she and her family have been going to the library since before the addition opened and renovations took place.

“It’s really a good place for the kids,” Grady said at the library Tuesday.

Grady’s 11-year-old son, Sean, said it’s nice to be able to get new things to read during his family’s roughly twice-a-week visits.

“If you ask for a book they don’t have, they’ll get it for you,” Sean said.

Keeping up with today’s reading technology can be a struggle for libraries and bookstores, but Brock said that there’s such a small-town and close-knit feel in Francestown, and that keeps people coming back.

“We have patrons that have Kindles and they still come all the time,” she said. “It’s still expensive to download a book, where you can get one here for [free].”

And this year, the library plans to honor its frequent patrons with an opportunity to win prizes. As part of the library’s 90th birthday celebrations, each patron will receive a punch card, and every visit to the library equals one punch. If 90 punches are obtained by the end of 2013, the patron will be automatically entered into a drawing for multiple prizes.

But in the end, what’s most important to Brock and the library staff is keeping the tradition of the George Holmes Bixby Library’s service to the town.

“I’ve seen this place change radically, and it’s kept it’s following,” Brock said. “It’s a small town, and the library is at the center. This has always been a welcoming, comforting place. People are always welcome.”

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