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The Old Forge Library. Photo: courtesy Old Forge Library
The Old Forge Library. Photo: courtesy Old Forge Library

Old Forge Library celebrates its centennial

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The Old Forge Library is celebrating its centennial this summer with a series of literary events. In February of 1914, five people gathered in Old Forge and voted to establish a free library for the use of residents of the Town of Webb.

There have been lots of changes over the decades, and lots more books.

Todd Moe talks with the library's director, Izzie Worthen, about its history as a cultural landmark in the community. She's been Library Director since 1976.

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Todd Moe
Morning Host and Producer

Izzy Worthen: We were still in a pie shaped building at that time, on Main Street. I decided to start a “Friends of the Library,” which was started in 1977. And then, Mr. Cullen A. Richard donated his father’s home to the library in 1977, as well. He gave the building to the library with the stipulation that the town of Webb Historical Association would be able to use the second floor for a dollar every year until they decided to leave.

They were there for many years and, as you know, now have their own building on Main Street across from the post office. Through the sale of the building on Main Street we were able to refurbish the library there. Actually, we had several large changes and renovations since then. In 1987, we put on a wing for programming. We also were able to have the library become a library facility, instead of a home made into a library.

Todd Moe: It sounds like you’re been saying that you’ve really been doing a lot of growing and expanding in the last couple of decades

IW: That’s correct. And you wanted me to talk about the gazebo which we put in last year. And it is great fun; we have storytellers out there and live music.

TM: The library is really more than just a building with books. You are such a big part of the community there in Old Forge.

IW: Yes, well we do have lots of books. But we also have access to the internet which so many seasonal people have thanked the library for having--the ability to access the internet. They are able to come here with their families and do their work at the same time. Even last summer I had a mother tell me her son had to do work over the summer (school work) and they were delighted that we had the access so he could be with him family, enjoy the summer, but also do his work.

TM: You have a big event coming up on Sunday, July 13 in the afternoon. I want to give you a chance to… this is the centennial celebration right?

IW: Yes, it is. Well, we’ve had a lot of things going on this year, which I would like to talk about July 13, but I also want to tell you about how we kicked off with Jennifer Donnelley’s book “A Northern Light;” it’s our community read this year. It is about this area and if anybody is familiar with Dreiser’s book, “American Tragedy," t’s kind of like that, but of course different. Jennifer has done a wonderful job weaving the real life story of Grace Brown with her protagonist Mattie Gokey. Anyway, we have outside of the library a thermometer and we’re at 21 people reading this book. We have two months to go before we have Jennifer comes to talk about her book on August 19 and I would very much like to have anybody listening to have them come over, get the book, read it, and fill out a form so we can hit our 200 goal.

On Sunday, July 13 it is a very special day in the life of the library--celebrating our centennial--along with celebrating the birthday of artist Gerda Wikander and the opening of her “Blessed Journey” art exhibit.

It will be a wonderful event, there will be a cake made by Trish, and lots and lots of champagne. I hope you can come, Todd. Highlights to the celebration--I asked Joseph Bruchac to write a poem which he will read at 5:15 on that day. The celebration is from 4-6. The title of the poem is “Wide Branches and Deep Roots” and I am very impressed by the poem. He has captured the essence of what a library’s role is. You know, a place where all are welcomed from the richest to the poor; where they can all have access to the same information. So, I am very excited about his coming and reading the poem.

TM: Can you take just a moment and mention who Gerda is and why she is so special and important. She is celebrating her 100th birthday, right?

IW: She is. Actually, it is on the very same day. She is a wonderful artist. I don’t know, she is just a person everyone knows in this area. Her work is kind of like mixed media, textiles and painting. Her paintings and artwork will be up on display through July 31. So, if you cannot come to the actual happening on the 13th, you would be welcome to come anytime during library hours, which are Tuesday- Friday 11-9 during the summer and Saturdays 11-3. It will be located in the Judith Memorial Wing, of the library. But we are delighted that we can share this with Gerda.

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