Brandon resident retires after 17 years with Sarah Partridge Library
By JOHN FLOWERS
EAST MIDDLEBURY — Mona Rogers had an impressive resume to show off when she interviewed to lead the Sarah Partridge Library in East Middlebury back in 2003.
Educator. Business owner. World traveler. And, back in her teen years, experience as an assistant at the library in Massapequa, N.Y., where she grew up.
But she believes it was a humorous-but-frank revelation she offered during her interview with then-Ilsley Library Executive Director David Clark that clinched the East Middlebury job.
“I explained very logically to Dave that my whole house was arranged by the Dewey Decimal System,” Rogers, an ever-gregarious and inquisitive person, chuckled during an interview this past Saturday, Aug. 15.
Saturdays are always precious, and Rogers is now down to her last two as the first-ever branch librarian at Sarah Partridge. Now age 78 and dealing with a few nagging infirmities, Rogers will retire at the end of this month — much to the chagrin of the many East Middlebury residents who have come to know and appreciate her.
“They are my friends,” Rogers said matter-of-factly.
She plans to maintain those friendships, but not as a community librarian.
“Right now I need to retire for my health,” she said, then grinned. “The bottom book shelf is soooo low.”
And she’s earned her retirement.
In addition to having taught for 13 years in addition to her 17 as a branch librarian, Rogers owned and operated The Diet Center of Addison County franchise in Middlebury from 1986 to 1993. She also ran a satellite office in Vergennes during that time. She closed the Diet Center to take a job as office manager for Barry Lane at Discover Writing in Shoreham, before joining Sarah Partridge Library in 2003.
It’s clear that Rogers, now a Brandon resident, hasn’t forgotten her days with the Diet Center.
She can read people like a book.
The diminutive lady sized up this reporter’s height and body mass, after which she (thankfully) assessed him to be within a “high-normal” weight range, at 140 pounds. Most folks shy away from discussing such things as age and weight with anyone other than family or a physician. But there’s something about Rogers’s personality and earnestness that makes one comfortable about sharing.
There’s been a lot of sharing at the library during Rogers’s tenure — and it’s been more than books and friendly conversation.
She helped establish an East Middlebury knitting group that met Tuesday mornings at the library, but now meets in individual members’ homes. The fabric, yarn and other craft supplies blended in naturally with the book shelves and genial, homey atmosphere of the community house, given to the community by the Partridge family back in 1924.
Twelve years ago Rogers and longtime East Middlebury resident Margot Brown created a book club called “BLTs,” which stands for Books and Lunch on Tuesdays. A core group of around six have enjoyed bringing lunch to Sarah Partridge to discuss a book they’ve all read.
Sadly, it’s been hold the mayo on BLT since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in mid-March. The library itself is currently open only on Saturday mornings, with a limit of two patrons in the building at the same time (with social distancing).
Libraries, like businesses and individuals, have persevered through the pandemic. Even though libraries have been closed or held to reduced hours, they’ve been able to provide patrons with curbside service and online book orders.
“I feel books have carried us right through this time,” Rogers said. “Those of us who are readers have survived COVID-19 better because of our books.”
Serving as librarian has been an enriching and satisfying experience for Rogers, who has been the face of literacy in the community. She harkened back to a specific course en route to earning her certificate of public librarianship: “The One-Person Library.” That’s the reality for small libraries that operate on a shoestring. Sarah Partridge has had the same annual $2,200 book allowance for the past 15 years, according to Rogers.
What lesson has she learned?
“You can’t do it all,” Rogers said, voicing appreciation for the help she’s received through the years from the Ilsley.
“It’s the best job I ever had,” she added.
NEXT IN LINE
Rogers will soon pass the Sarah Partridge baton to Laura Fetterolf, who knows she’ll have some big shoes to fill. In addition to two years experience as a substitute at the Ilsley, Fetterolf has worked as an Interim Youth Services Librarian at the Bixby Library in Vergennes and currently serves as a trustee on the Cornwall Public Library Board. She’s pursuing a certificate of librarianship through the Vermont Department of Libraries.
Fetterolf praised Rogers for the outstanding work she’s done at Sarah Partridge.
“You drive by this building and see what it looks like on the outside,” Fetterolf said of the library’s welcoming façade. “This is what I was hoping for on the inside — a home for people. That’s what I want it to be. I’m so grateful that Mona has this started and has kept it going and has such a strong connection.”
Ilsley Library Director Dana Hart voiced great appreciation for Rogers.
“Over almost two decades she has greeted every East Middlebury resident that walked through the library doors and forged a connection with countless community members,” she said. “Being a solo librarian — a librarian that works in a building without any other colleagues present — is a uniquely challenging job. Mona has had to wear many hats and has made it look effortless. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Mona, and the library staff, and I wish her well in her retirement.”
Rogers won’t have an idle retirement. She’s an avid gardener and will continue to be part of the East Middlebury knitting group. But she’ll miss the regular contact with library patrons.
“It’s been my home away from home for 17 years,” Rogers said of Sarah Partridge. “It’s the best job I ever had.”
Rogers’s many fans will be able to give her a proper sendoff at a reception on Saturday, Aug. 29, from 10 a.m. to noon, at the Sarah Partridge Library. In order to keep folks safe, this event will function like a receiving line, not a traditional reception. Rogers will be at a table on the lawn behind the library, with cookies and punch. Only one individual and or family should approach Mona at a time.
Reporter John Flowers is at email@example.com.