By Manfried Rieder
Converse G. Goodrich in September of 1897 made and signed his Last Will and Testament in which he set aside ample funds to create a splendid library in his memory. He also had the foresight to create an endowment fund to secure the existence of his dream for the future and the dream lives on to the great joy of thousands of residents of the Northeast Kingdom. Converse might actually enjoy strolling through "his" building today because it has remained pretty much the same over the decades. Gone are the old iron shelves but he would probably enjoy the newer wooden shelves. I asked, but nobody could tell me if there had been radios or a "Talking Machine" in the library in earlier times but Mr. Goodrich would certainly be amazed at the new computers available to control the whereabouts of books and the access to libraries through the electronic means by which books and information can be obtained from other institutions. WiFi might confuse the old gentleman but of course so would be the electric lighting and the motor cars parked outside. But looking out from the upstairs window he could enjoy the familiar sight of the courthouse with its magnificent clock or the unchanged view to the distant peaks beyond lake Memphremagog.
Goodrich had been a school teacher and a farmer but he became a successful merchant and civic leader during his residence of 45 years. He was a collector of taxes, justice of the piece and superintendent of schools. His wife also was active in civic affairs.
Alas, Mr. Goodrich never did get to see the project finished. He died a year after construction had begun, in 1998 and the library was officially dedicated on September 1, 1899, almost exactly two years after the Last Will of Converse had been written.
Today the library acts in a vastly larger function than as a lender of books and collector of fines. It must be stated here however that the collection, especially of modern fiction, equals that of any library I have seen and as an avid reader I have been a "frequent flyer" for more than 50 years. I still have my Montreal library pass just in case....There is a fine array of children's literature and an up-to-date collection of CDS both for movie lovers and music enthusiasts.
The Goodrich hosts concerts and readings and events such as the upcoming lecture by Scott Wheeler "Rumrunners and Revenuers" which will be on April 2 at 7 PM.
Upstairs in the library is the Library Museum with numerous photos and paintings and memorabilia of the area's past. Converse would feel right at home here. He was said to be an avid hunter and might delight in the fine exhibition of stuffed animals. It is not known what kind of books Mr. Goodrich favored, possibly as a schoolmaster he was more inclined towered the classic and scholarly texts of the time, some of which he could still find here. Perhaps he was not adverse to a bit of Victorian romance, or his wife might have enjoyed that. Some of that can still be found. Maybe a light ghost/romance story by Heather Graham? I do not think he would understand Clancy or Vince Flynn but there is still the odd Mark Twain on the shelf to entertain him. He probably does not haunt his edifice but if he were, he would be a generous host who could rest in peace seeing how well his project had endured over the decades.