In 2002 the Mark Skinner Library was not the first Vermont library to sign up to host the First Wednesdays lecture series. In fact, it was one of the last to join the nine Vermont libraries hosting First Wednesdays. Former MSL Library Director, Ellen Boyer remembers that it took some encouragement from the Vermont Humanities Council; they wanted to bring First Wednesdays to Southern Vermont. She also recalls that public interest grew but showed steady progress.
Those early days are a far cry from the library’s current records. In 2012-13, the library was recognized for having the largest total attendance, the greatest attendance at a single event, and the highest average monthly attendance of the nine FW sites.
Both Ellen Boyer, and current Library Director, Betsy Bleakie, credit Adult Services Librarian Cindy Waters with the success of the FW program. Each year, after brainstorming with the library director, Cindy searches out individuals, groups and institutions most likely to relate to each lecture’s theme. Then, she uses the phone, her email and face-to-face visits to market the programs. One of the big changes in current audiences is the increased number of students attending and participating in FW programs.
In addition to growing the FW audience, diversity is built into the audience by choosing a wide variety of themes. Ali White, FW Director makes an annual trek to Manchester every spring to meet with Cindy and community members. Together they trash out ideas for a stimulating and diverse season. “Something for Everyone” is their motto.
The two directors also recognize the importance of the Congregation Church, which has served as the home of FW programs since the beginning. Ellen Boyer recalled that the church was a strong supporter of the programs right from the start.
This season’s lectures begin on Wednesday, October 2. Programs will be held at the Congregational Church and are free to the public. Look online at markskinnerlibrary.org or vermonthumanities.org to find the dates and subjects of this year’s lectures and join your neighbors who have already discovered this wonderful gift from the Manchester and surrounding community.