WEST NEWBURY — For nearly half a century she’s been the heart and soul of the GAR Memorial Library. But next month Kay Gove closes the book on a storied career as library director that she embarked on back in 1967.
At 89 years, Gove says her retirement is overdue. A younger director will be more computer savvy, better able to keep up with the demands librarians face in today’s multi-media world.
“It’s time for fresh ideas, a fresh approach,” Gove says.
For so many residents, however, who view the brick building across from the Training Field as a touchstone for the community, the local library without Kay Gove is hard to fathom.
“Kay Gove is the GAR Memorial Library,” says Alexandra Guralnick, chairman of the Board of Library Trustees. “The library you see and use today was created by Kay during the past 47 years.”
Like everyone else, trustee Scott Berkenbush knew Gove’s retirement was looming, but now he finds himself dreading it more than he imagined. For the Berkenbushes — and for so many other families — it’s personal. “I went there as a kid — and Kay was there. My kids went there as kids — and Kay was there,” he said.
Sitting in her cozy office tucked into a corner of the library’s side entrance, Gove takes a moment to reflect on the early years and all the changes she has witnessed.
A native of Haverhill, Gove attended Simmons College. In 1961, she, her husband and their three children moved to West Newbury, renovating the home on Main Street she still lives in today.
Gove’s first foray into the world of library science came when she set up a library at the old Central School. Shortly afterward she was hired as the town librarian for a whopping annual salary of $1,500. Library operations were funded with $6,000; the building was open three days week, and book circulation was just 16,287. If it were’t for Bookmobile — a portable library that traveled from town to town — “we wouldn’t have had any books!” Gove quips.