Meet retired librarian Peter Blodgett

Meet retired librarian Peter Blodgett

Peter Blodgett, the recently retired, long-employed Thetford librarian, became the librarian by happenstance. His tenure of thirty-four years was marked by innovations in technology, the change in the way books are read or listened to, and with a few bumps along the way.

Peter is a local boy, having grown up on a Bradford farm his father took over from Peter’s grandparents. When Peter’s parents divorced, he finished school in Hanover and came to Thetford Academy in 1979.

Peter’s grandparents instilled in him the love of books and reading. He said they had a thirty-foot-long bookcase filled with books from floor to ceiling. When Peter celebrated his sixth birthday, his grandfather gave him a bookcase which was six feet long. It became his goal to fill the case with books. While his parents were busy milking, his grandmother would read to him from books like Babar and some of his father’s old books, including The Black Stallion and the Hardy Boys adventures. The bookcase, repainted at least once, has a special place in his study next to his grandfather’s rolltop desk.

He loved books and reading so much, he would often read as he went to buy a popsicle while waiting for the school bus to take him home. One day, upon Peter’s return, the principal said to him, “Blodgett, get your head out of the book. School is over for the day.”

Peter became employed by the library when Jane Minotti, who held a Library Science degree, resigned as librarian. Her husband was taking a better-paying job in New York State, and she was moving out of Thetford. She encouraged Peter, a Monday night volunteer, to apply for the job. He was hired in October 1986 and started on the sixteenth with the proviso he obtain his Library of Science degree. He remembers opening the door of the library on his first day of work and wondering how to begin.

One very cold winter night he was working at the Peabody Library, and his car wouldn’t start. So he decided to stay overnight. He spread out some carpet squares on the balcony and made a bed to sleep. After laying down, something jumped on his chest and arms and pinned him down. Peter said, “You know who I am. I work here and care about the library. I am stuck here for the night and will not hurt anything in the library.”  The weight lifted off, and he retreated to the first floor, leaving the realm of the original collection on the balcony.

Since Peter could not afford to pay to get a Master's degree on the salary offered, the trustees agreed to pay for his education if he maintained good grades. It took Peter four-and-a-half years to get his degree from Simmons University School of Library and Information in Boston, Massachusetts. Peter says Simmons nurtured working future librarians by having classes on Saturday. He would drive down on Friday afternoon, complete some homework, and be ready for a class at nine-thirty in the morning. He would then do more homework in the library and make it back to Thetford by six in the evening. At Simmons he watched the librarians deal with the challenges of installing an automated system. When he completed the degree, his trustees added the sum for his tuition to his salary.

Peter worked with many volunteers. Anne Scotford was the longest-staying volunteer, starting when the library opened in 1976 until 2008. Ann instilled a loyalty to the library in her daughters which continues to this day. Nina Strauss was a very helpful volunteer, as she came back to Thetford every summer and insisted on weeding the library of worn-out books. Many, many books were covered by all the volunteers, allowing the books longer lives.

Updating the library for computers and their use is a great deal of work. All of the records have to be inputted. Machine-readable records can be supplied by vendors to facilitate the inputting of records, but not all records can be formatted in this manner, and some have to be hand entered. Computers and the internet have brought a big change to the library and allowed for easier access for all patrons, which was especially important during the pandemic. The Peabody Library, Latham Library, and both schools use the same online patron catalog, while the Historical Society is, at present, adding their records. The internet supplied by ECFiber has allowed patrons to download movies, ebooks, and audiobooks from the library.

Peter said several people during his tenure have asked to ban certain books. The trustees would remind these people, "Everyone can find something in the library that is offensive to them but is helpful to other people.” He quoted Eisenhower speaking from the Dartmouth Library in 1953:  “Don’t join the book burners…We have got to fight with something better, not to try to conceal the thinking of our own people. They are part of America. And even if they think ideas that are contrary to ours, their right to say them, their right to record them, their right to have them at places where they are accessible to others is unquestioned, or it is not America.”

Peter is hoping to teach a course once a year for Osher, do some wood carving, home improvements in the summer, skiing in the winter, and to keep reading.