There’s no doubt you have to keep your eyes peeled if you’re looking for Baiting Hollow Library.
Located on Sound Avenue, nestled between a residence and a side road, it appears to anyone passing by to be an extremely small house. But in reality, it’s an extremely small public library.
Though it does not boast the large number of books, services, programs or staff members you’ll find at most local libraries, it’s rich with character and history.
The Baiting Hollow Library, painted light gray with burgundy shutters, consists of just one room. A narrow walkway leads from the door to the road and a sign on the front lawn gives the library’s name, along with its days and hours: Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The library hasn’t always been in this location, however. In fact, it’s moved around quite a lot throughout its long history.
Current librarian Charlotte Jacques is an expert on the subject.
Full bookshelves line all four walls of the room, and Ms. Jacques usually sits in the middle, at a large table entirely covered with towering stacks of books.
As she told the library’s story, she leaned back in her chair and smiled over an old scrapbook of aging photos and yellowing newspaper articles.
According to Ms. Jacques, it all began in the year 1903.
At the time, there was a club for parishioners of Baiting Hollow Congregational Church called the Philomathean Club, named for a Greek word meaning “lover of learning.”
The club hosted a series of winter lectures that year and used the admission money to launch the Baiting Hollow Free Library, since there wasn’t a library in the community.
The first location of the library was in the parsonage, where the minister of the church lives, and the first librarian was the wife of the Rev. Frank Voorhes.
Eventually, the library outgrew that location and moved to a portion of the Baiting Hollow post office, now the Calverton post office, where it was run by two sisters who served as postmistresses. After the post office, the library moved to the home of Goldsmith Wells, Ms. Jacques’ great-grandfather, where it was operated by his daughter Sarah. After that, it returned to its original location at the rear of the Congregational church. Today, that space is occupied by two bathrooms.
In 1941, the local Warner family donated a plot of land, so long as the spot remained a library. In a community effort, the Talmage family provided a house that was on their farm to serve as the library building. A foundation was poured and the house was moved from the farm to the designated site, where the library has been ever since.
Ms. Jacques, who has been librarian there for the past 11 years, grew up with the family-run library.
“It was a hobby at first,” she said of spending time there, “since I was about 6.”
She started working there by filling in for her cousin on and off over the years, and eventually she took over.
“I like picking out the books — that’s my favorite part,” Ms. Jacques said. “And I get to see all of the regulars from the neighborhood.”
One such regular is Nathaniel Talmage Jr. Although he says the main reason he goes to Baiting Hollow Library is because of its convenience, he has an undeniable family connection.
“It’s convenient for me and I can be in and out in two minutes,” Mr. Talmage said. “Also, I grew up with it.
“In the past 15 years I’ve become much more interested in reading books and going to the library. And it does have that family history.”
The library holds 6,000 books, which Ms. Jacques knows readily since she has to count them every January. Five visitors mark a busy day for the library and patrons sign a check-out card the “old-fashioned way,” since there aren’t any Baiting Hollow Library cards — or any computers.
Most books on the library shelves are written by modern authors. Ms. Jacques picks out what she thinks people will be interested in reading from a catalogue or buys them at BJ’s. As for herself, the librarian loves mystery novels and has read all of Sue Grafton’s books.
The library’s modest annual budget of about $11,000 covers Ms. Jacques’ salary, building maintenance and book purchases. She says she buys about 200 new titles each year.
If you find yourself riding along Sound Avenue, don’t let the size of Baiting Hollow Library deter you from stopping in for a lesson in local history. Talk to Ms. Jacques to hear more of the interesting story of the 110-year-old library — or just let the book-lined walls speak for themselves.