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When construction of the Blackstone Library began in 1893, the public library movement was just beginning. Since then, libraries and the services offered have changed dramatically. People of all ages and walks of life use the library to read and use computers and printers, and also to meet, learn about, and make use of 21st-century technologies including coding, 3-D printing, and video production. They conduct job searches and attend professional meetings, educational programs, concerts, lectures, and art exhibits.
There are those who say libraries are archaic. Why then, according to the 2017 Branford Community Report published by the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, were “263,919 books and other materials were checked out of the James Blackstone Memorial and the Willoughby Wallace Memorial libraries” in 2014? In 2016, the Blackstone alone loaned 258,057 items. Why is it that many, of all ages, state they prefer to hold a book, rather than a device, in their hands while reading? Why is it that the annual book sale of the Friends of the Blackstone attracts hundreds of people and sells thousands of books? Why is it that the library trustees regularly find there’s no room to meet at the library?
Construction of the library was entirely funded by Timothy Blackstone for a reported $300,000. What would this magnificent building cost to build today?
Blackstone also provided an endowment that funded the entire operating budget until the late 1950s. Generations of Branford citizens have been the fortunate beneficiaries of Mr. Blackstone’s extraordinary generosity that provided our community with one of the most significant gifts in our town’s history.
I believe we have not only the responsibility, but also the duty and the obligation to take care of this wonderful gift. I encourage your readers to support the renovation as generously as they’re able.
Susan Cosgrove Barnes
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