In the early days everything was done by hand — cataloguing, processing, checking books in and out with cards that needed to be counted and recorded every night. Volunteers from the garden club would show up with scissors to cut the front lawn; and neighbors would drop off a batch of homemade chocolates or ice-cold lemonade for the library staff on a hot summer day.
“People don’t do that anymore,” Gove says.
A generous philanthropist in many areas of the community, Gove has been known to quietly spend her own money buying books for the library she loves so well. In fact, the first magazine placed in circulation was Gove’s own personal subscription to National Geographic.
Early on there was no children’s programming or Friends of the Library. The first book sale consisted of a few volumes lined up on the front stoop by a local Girl Scout troop. Now each May the library’s three-day book sale fills Old Town Hall across the street, a harbinger of spring in West Newbury.
Today’s library budget is closer to $292,000, the last circulation tally was 111,368 items and that lone National Geographic has grown to 191 magazine subscriptions. With a flick of a computer key, an interlibrary loan system allows one town’s library to instantly request materials from another one.
“She is always looking forward, working constantly to bring to the library all the innovations that have helped maintain its vitality,” said Guralnick.
Gove and what she describes as her “giving, efficient and knowledgeable” staff have been known to find books for patrons before they even request them, and hand deliver reading materials to the housebound in town. But Gove appears uncomfortable taking credit. “If you see a need, you try to fill it,” she says softly.
Berkenbush recalls countless Sundays he’s seen Gove’s car parked in the lot out front, with Gove and daughter Kate Gove — the popular children’s librarian — working inside.