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The Yankee Express

Good ‘Friends’ vital to success of Simon Fairfield Public Library

Charlie Bourath of Uxbridge looks over some of the books and other media available for purchase at the Friends of the Library book sale in Douglas.

By Rod Lee

The cordiality with which Ellie Chesebrough greeted those persons who turned out for a Memorial Day weekend book and plant sale at the Simon Fairfield Public Library in Douglas on the morning of May 28th stood in stark contrast to the overcast that prevailed; and the intermittent sprinkles of rain that threatened to dampen the event.

From the left, Pam Bishop, Ellie Chesebrough and Carolyn Dorval served as hosts for the Friends of the Library book and plant sale at the Simon Fairfield Public Library in Douglas on May 28th.

“The proceeds are to help make the library handicapped-accessible.” Ms. Chesebrough said, as she watched patrons pour over titles (arranged on tables and on the grounds behind the building) by such well-known authors as Patricia Cornwell, Mary Higgins Clark, John Grisham, Ken Follett, Danielle Steel, Sandra Brown, Robert B. Parker, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Sidney Sheldon, Tom Wolfe and Mary Karr.
The struggle to maintain and improve a structure that dates to 1903 demands much of the attention of the Friends of the Library, a group that takes on this task several times a year. Ms. Chesebrough is a trustee of the Friends and a woman who warms to the opportunity to discuss their endeavors on the institution’s behalf.
Library Director Justin Snook, who had issued a public appeal for monies to augment the more than $130,000 that has already been raised for the library’s building fund, was not able to be present on this occasion. In the days before the sale, Mr. Snook had noted that there would be “boxes and boxes” of books to choose from; donated, or weeded from the library’s collection. In doing so, he had said “the more books you take away, the less they have to haul back into the basement, so be kind and load up.”
Ms. Chesebrough was a more than adequate representative of the interests of Mr. Snook and the Friends in keeping an eye on foot traffic, and thanking those who paid for their purchases. No specific amounts were asked for. Dollar bills were slipped into a small metal container in return for what was bought. She explained this approach to the sale by saying “I used to be a library director in Sturbridge and dealers came but I found here why not just ask for donations? In the past, we have raised around $1000. We have been working on handicapped access for probably twenty years.”
Recently, Ms. Chesebrough said, the building’s plaster ceiling had begun cracking. “Town Meeting voted to fix that, a life and death situation,” she said. “Inspectors have to come back and say it’s hunky dory” before regular activity can fully resume.
A reader herself, Ms. Chesebrough described having just finished a biography, Eleanor, about the former first lady, which she found “very interesting. You have to give Eleanor Roosevelt a lot of credit for everything she did.”
She admitted to being an admirer of Edna Ferber, whose novel So Big won the Pulitzer Prize in 1925. Ms. Ferber’s tale was inspired by the life of Antje Paarlberg in the Dutch community of South Holland, a suburb of Chicago. The book’s title stems from the nickname the lead character gives her son “Dirk” when she is asked “how big is your baby?” Although Ms. Ferber said at the time the story had “no plot,” it resonated for telling how Dirk finally came around to accepting his mother’s advice that “aesthetics and beauty are more important than money.”
The Friends’ ongoing mission to keep the Simon Fairfield Public Library a vibrant gathering place in Douglas involves a book sale “twice a year, Memorial Day weekend and during Octobefest,” Ms. Chesebrough said. “Our other big fundraiser is an auction that runs for two weeks.”
Learn more about the Simon Fairfield Public Library at its website,

Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.