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A year after opening, Newton's Waban Library Center flies high

Posted by Sarah Thomas  February 9, 2011 09:13 AM

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From left to right: Alice Jacobs of the Waban Library Center, Coby Reinhardt and Ava Fantasia of Whole Foods.

The Waban Library Center, a private library and community space completely staffed by volunteers, is celebrating a successful first year of operation by honoring the achievements of its volunteer coordinator, community liaison, and biggest cheerleader, Alice Jacobs.

The Center is christening her their "Face of Volunteering 2011," according to a release which cites the her effort to get the branch library reopened in late 2009, and the many successful programs she has initiated since.

"“This process has been a wonderful source of positive energy for me and lots of others," Jacobs said in the release. "For me and for many others in Waban, the Waban Library Center has provided a positive focus to which we can devote ourselves and thus do well by ourselves and by the community at the same time.”

The City of Newton had closed its branch libraries in 2008 in a bid to save money. Together with the Waban Improvement Society and its board, Jacobs worked in the summer of 2009 to reopen the building – now christened the Waban Library Center – as a community space for books, meetings, classes, lectures, art exhibits and concerts.

Today, just over one year after its rebirth, the Waban Library Center is run and funded completely volunteers. The center leases the historic Beacon Street building from the city, relying on private and corporate contributions as well as revenue from classes to defray costs.

Jacobs has instituted some popular and lucrative programs, such as the Center's “Hot Books,” section, which features a privately funded collection of the newest and most highly sought after selections – books that have hundreds on the waiting lists at the public libraries. A current goal is to increase circulation and foot traffic to the
WLC by boosting awareness of this popular section.

Another popular event was the Center's first chamber music concert, which showcased Boston Conservatory musicians and the acoustics of the library. Jacobs also brought in the first author to speak at the library, Dr. Ruth Nemzoff, who attracted a large audience.

In one of the biggest wins all year, Jacobs advocated – and won – the right for the Center to be the beneficiary of a "5% Day" at the Whole Foods Market on Walnut Street.

This year, Jacobs plans to expand her role as an ambassador for private libraries by speaking and mentoring library groups in other communities, as well as continue to coordinate volunteers at the Center. For more information or to become a volunteer, visit wabanlibrarycenter.org.

Sarah Thomas can be reached at sarah.m.thomas@gmail.com.

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