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May 4, 2013

A ghost from Port's past

Local portrays library founder as part of Preservation Week

NEWBURYPORT — Emma L. Andrews will walk out of history on Saturday, May 11, to talk about some of the early days of books and libraries in this community.

The appearance will be part of Newburyport Preservation Week, and local resident Suzanne DeWitt will portray Emma from 10 a.m. to noon that day at the Purchase Street library.

The presentation is titled, “A Woman, a Dream and a Librarian,” and DeWitt will be in period costume as she tells part of Emma’s tale.

“This won’t be like a museum where I stay in character,” said DeWitt, a writer and a volunteer at the library. “I will be telling the story of how Emma worked to get the library started.

“It was at a time (about 1905) when people didn’t travel very much, even to the downtown. To have books in their neighborhood was important.”

The story goes that the South End Reading Room Association was founded in 1900, with Emma Landers Andrews serving as secretary.

Citizens raised close to $52,000 over several years to establish a reading room at 17 Union St. and later, to create a library.

That sum enabled volunteers to buy a house at 77 Purchase St., and the library was dedicated on July 20, 1905 as the current Emma Andrews Library.

She died in 1928, and the library was named in her honor.

In 2009, it was closed due to high lead levels. It has since re-opened, and repair work is continuing. It runs through donations, not city funds.

The library has since re-opened and is staffed by volunteers.

The event that DeWitt is involved in will be a testament to the dedication of Emma Landers Andrews and many other volunteers over the years.

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