New library for Highgate? Relocation talks are in the works, says librarian community

HIGHGATE — The city’s library is bursting at the seams, and librarian Adah DeRosier said she dreams of a brand-new, state-of-the-art library next door to the elementary school.

“We need more space overall,” DeRosier said. “We have so much to offer and we can’t physically do everything that we would like to do for the community here.”

The 800 square meter building was constructed in 1897 and the library officially moved into the premises in 1941. No major changes were made to the building apart from a wheelchair ramp and a larger sink.

DeRosier said the little library is a concentrated form of what it would really like to be.

Highgate Library is a year-round space for computer use, reading, crafts and musical performances. It may be small, but it is big on what it offers.

“We try to run as many programs as possible to engage people in the community and beyond,” DeRosier said. “We are an active library.”

Rather than attempting to build an addition to the century-old building, DeRosier said the hope is to move the library next door to Highgate Elementary School, which is city-owned and currently vacant. The project is currently estimated to cost just over $1 million.

GBA Architecture and Planning created a blueprint for the likely future look of the library in October 2017, and DeRosier said while touring libraries in Vermont for ideas and inspiration, she liked the look of the Worthen Library of South Hero.

“This is really exciting,” DeRosier said of the project, “Books transport you, and the library is the foundation of that hub. You open a book and start a new adventure. It’s your own imagination. You can paint the story from your own head.”

relocation of the library

The current location of the Highgate Library requires students to cross a busy street to access it. DeRosier said that ideally, the library would be within walking distance of the school, similar to that near Highgate Arena.

It would be beneficial for cross-collaboration between the school and the library for extracurricular activities, performances, and school-based crafts.

The new location, like the current location, would serve as a community space. There is not enough space in the library for performances and community activities, which DeRosier says is very important for a relationship with residents.

“We need at least double the space that we currently have,” DeRosier said.

Another great addition to the library would be a working kitchen, she said. The library hosts monthly cooking and spice series that residents can participate in (handy for now), but there’s no kitchen in the library for staff to use. They use an instant pot, but the options are severely limited in terms of the types of dishes that can be offered.

One of the slowdowns for the project is the prospect of securing funding and the impact the new build would have on the tax base. Property taxes would rise for residents if larger grants couldn’t be secured, but plans and projections are speculative, she said.

“I think there’s a lot of progress forward right now,” DeRosier said.

New librarian in town

In the heat of the pandemic, DeRosier was a librarian in Argyle, New York, and one of many who decided it was time for a big change. She and her husband packed their bags and headed to Highgate, where DeRosier found a job in the library.

Highgate shared similarities with her former home with its strong agricultural bias and small town feel. But the DeRosiers noticed a difference between the two places that was hard to overlook and hard to love.

“People here are a lot nicer,” DeRosier said. “The people of Argyle were friendly, but the people of Highgate are even friendlier. They are very hospitable…You never know how you might come into a church as a non-local church leader.”

DeRosier assumed her new position in the midst of the pandemic, when visiting hours and in-person programming were being turned on their head. The library has been without a director since June 2020, and DeRosier started in September.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, DeRosier said residents have never given up on their neighborhood library. Care and activity packs were picked up from the library porch each week and craft kits for different age groups were sent home.

“The pandemic has really impacted our elderly population,” DeRosier said. “We’re getting a lot of our older Vermont guests back… Our two most vetted genres are romance and mystery. Danielle Steele is a favorite.”

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