About the Gafney

The Gafney Library is a private, nonprofit organization 501(c)(3) and is not owned by the town as are most New Hampshire libraries.  The library serves the Towns of Wakefield and Brookfield and presents operating budget requests to each town annually.  The two towns combined provide approximately 85% of the Gafney's operating budget.. 

The Gafney's Board of Trustees is responsible for raising approximately $22,000 annually through an annual appeal and fundraisers such as the annual wreath sale, Savers collection and  Art at the Gafney.

The Gafney serves a population of approximately 6,000 in Wakefield and 700 in Brookfield.  The population swells to double (and some say triple!) during the summer months as folks move in to enjoy the seven lakes and ponds in Wakefield.

Board of Trustees

Dick DesRoches, President

Aru'vah Ferrill, Vice President

Tom Cassidy, Treasurer    

Cathie Chasse, Secretary

Julie Kessler, Town of Wakefield Trustee

Jan Ledbetter, Town of Brookfield Trustee

Catherine Mills, Trustee

Tom Lavender, Trustee

Jennifer Rich, Trustee

Heather Wilcauskas, Trustee


Library Director Amy Swanson, amy.swanson@gafneylibrary.org

Library Administrative Assistant, Peter Abate, peter.abate@gafneylibrary.org

Interim Youth Library Coordinator, Susan Dansereau - susan.dansereau@gafneylibrary.org

HiSET Testing Center

Judi DesRoches, Chief Examiner

Julie Kessler, Examiner

Ginny Schweitzer, Examiner

Gafney Library Expansion

View photos of the Gafney Library Expansion

History of the Gafney

Photograph of Judge Charles B. GafneyJudge Charles B. Gafney

Date:      March 2002
Author:  Titia Bozuwa, Trustee Emeritus

History forces us to consider our origins. In this case the origin of the library. The word LIBRARY, of course, was derived from the Latin word for book. A place for books. In the year 2002 the word library serves more to describe a concept. It is no longer just a place for books.

The earliest books were found in monasteries where the monks wrote them by hand. Later, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a library was the privilege and property of the wealthy or the learned, usually as a part of their residence. When printing was invented and books were more numerous, libraries became part of universities. The sole purpose of the library was to create access to knowledge for the elite.

It was not until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that Public Libraries were organized. The oldest existing public library in the entire United States was organized in 1833 in Peterborough, N.H., a direct result of democracy. The movement to provide access to all knowledge for all men regardless of race, creed or color was stimulated by generous donations from wealthy philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie who gave $42,665,000 for library buildings in America and Canada. It was in the spirit of the times to make a bequest-to establish a Free Library in one's home town, much like it is the spirit of our times to support i.e. environmental causes. Charles Benjamin Gafney was born into this era and thus it is not surprising that he left a bequest to have a library erected in his memory. This spirit of giving for the good of the town carried through to 1980 when I came on as the town trustee and was informed that trustees were chosen for their ability to donate substantially to the institution. The duty of a privileged citizen...

Who was this generous Charles Benjamin Gafney?

He was born in Ossipee, Carroll County, New Hampshire on September 17, 1843. Both his parents died when he was four years old. He was put under the guardianship of Sanborn B. Carter of Ossipee. Charles was educated in the public schools of Ossipee and at the academies of Sandwich, N.H. and Lebanon, Maine. Charles Gafney read law with his guardian and then with the Hon. Charles W. Woodman of Dover, N.H.

At age eighteen Charles enlisted in the army to fight in the Civil War as a second lieutenant. The recruiting officer was John W. Sanborn of Wakefield, N.H. The two men became friends for life. Charles was severely wounded at the battle of Petersburg, Virginia. He was mustered out of the army as a captain. After the Civil War he stayed in Washington where he served as clerk for the Senate Committee for Naval Affairs for eight years. He attended Columbia College Law School evenings and graduated in 1868. Charles Gafney was appointed Judge of Probate for Stafford County in 1896. He held the post for two years when he died at the age of fifty-five.

In his will which was filed in Strafford County, he wrote:

"I give and bequeath to John W. Sanborn of Wakefield, Charles F. Piper of Wolfeboro, and Edwin Snow of Eaton, all in the county of Carroll, the sum of $5000 to be held in trust for the following purpose: I direct my said trustees to establish, locate and maintain a Public Library for the benefit of the people of Carroll County, to be called the Gafney Library, and to be located at such place within said county as in their judgment would be of the greatest convenience and benefit to the people of said county. Having great confidence in these trustees I leave wholly to their judgment and discretion the character of the books which shall make up said library, the quantity and the times when the same shall be purchased and acquired, the manner in which the books shall be made accessible to the use of the people and all other acts and methods which shall be necessary to make this bequest most useful and beneficial to said people. I direct that in the case of the decease of any of said trustees the survivor or survivors may elect successors to be residents of said county."

In the thirteenth part of the same will Judge Gafney gave to the same trustees the power to designate the remainder of the estate for benevolent and charitable purposes for the people of said county.

On October 11, 1924, the trustees bought for $1 a 'certain tract of land' from Lillian S. Edwards of Wakefield. (I think she was a daughter of John W. Sanborn). It is the land on which a year later they built the present library. The trustees received $19,022 on July 12, 1900, from the provisions of the will. This money was kept invested until 1925, and had grown to $25,000. The total cost of the building was $26,263.51. The Town of Wakefield raised $1000 to make up the difference. The building was designed by Carl V. Badger and built by Goodwin & Dow. The dedication ceremony was held on Old Home Day, August, 1925, with Governor John C. Winant present as the principal speaker. The guest book was signed by 1082 people! It should be noted that John Sanborn was an important state politician at the time. It must have been his influence over the other trustees that Sanbornville, his home town, was chosen as the spot for the library. Not exactly in the middle of the county! The beautiful Wakefield Public Library had already been built (in 1902), the result of a bequest from Seth Dow in honor of his mother.

Building a library was a challenge then as much as now. Libraries had always been for academia. As the printing process continually improved and literacy spread, libraries became larger and put a strain on architects because collections grew and the way books were distributed changed from direct to indirect access through central catalogues and runners who brought them up from the cellar or the back room. The development of the public library required provision not only for the student but for lending books in quantity in libraries near people's homes. At first, public libraries copied academic libraries (readers asked for books at a counter) but by 1926 readers had gained access to the shelves. Public Libraries universally divided in rooms or areas for children, newspaper reading, lending and reference. When the Gafney Library was designed the greatest emphasis was placed on newspaper reading. Men would spend Sunday afternoon reading at the Gafney, cozy near the two fire places, the only source of heat. Thus the large oak tables (we retired one a few years ago. It is stored at KeyDay!) The area was open and lined with book cases which provided ample space for the collection at the time.

After Public Free Libraries became a fact of life and as “motherhood & apple pie” type of issue (no politician dared venture that they were a waste of money) most libraries were supported by the towns who appointed or elected trustees to oversee their operation. The State was also encouraged to get behind the movement. The local libraries started out being autonomous. Gradually roles reversed with the central State Library not only providing resources, but sending out more and more rules as well.

The Gafney Library takes a special place in the organization of libraries. Because Judge Gafney wanted the inhabitants of Carroll County to benefit equally, he designated it automatically as a County Library even though he did not spell it out. He wanted it to be called the Gafney Library, not the Carroll County Library! It is the only county library in the state of New Hampshire. Through the influence of the politically powerful John Sanborn it was decided at the Delegation Meeting in 1925 to raise $200 a year for support of the Gafney Library. This amount increased over the years (in 1988 its portion of income was $6300). The County Commissioners went along with having to set aside monies for the Gafney because State delegates from our area were pushing them to do it. Alden Young, Gafney trustee for many years, was also a State Delegate, as was the husband of Adelaide Hughes, another Gafney trustee. Later, John Hraba became one of our directors and he also was a delegate from Wakefield. The county support was continuous from 1925 till 1991 (I'm not absolutely sure of the year, but I know it was around that time) when one of our board neglected to attend the County budget hearing that year. The whole country was in a recession and the commissioners saw their chance to dump us. This was unfortunate and taught us a great lesson: never fail to show up at a budget hearing. Go there, even if they have to take you on a stretcher!! Though the economy picked up in the nineties, we never had a strong enough delegate who could muscle us back on the county budget. I'm afraid it's a lost cause now, judging from later developments.

The Gafney Library performed some services to deserve the designation County Library: in 1959 it began the bi-weekly delivery of books to the County Farm (now called Mtn. View Nursing Home.) In 1975 it began delivering books to the jail at the County Farm in Ossipee.

In 1926 the Town closed the Wakefield Free Library. It was voted at the town meeting to turn all the money, property and effects over to the Gafney. (I think that the Free Library was located in the town hall).

In 1955, Mrs. Ada Remick Brackett left the library $6,033.81. Inheritance tax had to be paid on this large bequest. Judge Lenord Hardwick, the Judge of Probate for Strafford County, suggested that the library incorporate as a non-profit organization. He offered to do all the legal work and wrote the by-laws so they would be in harmony with Judge Gafney's will. The three trustees under his will would always have to be directors of Gafney Library, Inc. The Town of Wakefield instituted the elected position of Trustee of the Wakefield Libraries.

When Sam Paul, who had been Town Trustee for many years, died in 1980, the selectmen appointed me to fill out his term. At my first meeting I found the three Gafney trustees seated around the big oak table: Alden Young, Adelaide Hughes and Ruth Fogelin. Of those three only Ruth held an office (treasurer). The library budget was $12,563. The president was Mrs. A.J. Soucy, a director at large. The librarian functioned as secretary and kept the minutes. At my next meeting the president was absent. I was informed that she had resigned and it was strongly suggested I take her place. I was aghast. I soon learned that Mrs. Soucy had resigned in frustration over non-cooperation from the rest of the board re. her suggestion that something be done about the basement. So my first act was to investigate the basement. As I descended the steep staircase I could see things floating down there. It was springtime. The melted snow had crept in and turned the area into a shallow swimming pool. At the time, I was on the Master Plan Committee and had been impressed with fellow member John Hraba, an engineer who had just retired from UNH. I asked him for advice. He recommended we dig a trench around the building to divert the water. The board, at first reluctantly, went along and John designed a detailed plan as a favor to the library. We organized a fund raising campaign and came up with the money. (it helped that President Reagan had just encouraged citizens to donate to civic causes in an effort to keep the federal budget lean)

Work on the basement started in 1982, was executed by Key-Day and supervised by John Hraba. Adelaide Hughes named it the Serendipity Room. In the late spring of 1983 we opened with a display of art & craft work by local artists. The cost of preparing for the room and the furnishings was $2182. We had money left over from our fund raising activities and we funneled it into a newly established capital fund. One half of the room was used as a meeting facility, the other as children’s library. In 1984  we appointed Barbara Winton as program director.

The upstairs; the original library space, was very poorly organized, but it was extremely difficult to get the librarian and the trustees to make any changes. No matter what logic I applied, there was a status quo about the location of the furniture, if I made a change it was undone the next time I came in. Obviously, I needed help. John Hraba agreed to come on board as a director, replacing Bruce Wiggin, and the Gafney, as an institution, has benefited enormously from his many gifts. In my view he had only one vice ... he smoked thin cigars at the meetings in spite of the non-smoking policy! I allowed it because his contributions outweighed by far the smoke he generated once a month ... John was a very clear thinker. Another blessing was the arrival on the board of Lois Hall, another clear thinker and a modern woman. Things began to turn around slowly, in 1987, Lois Hall and I met with Susan Palmetier, the State Library representative, about starting a Friends of the Library organization. John Hraba began to exert influence over the way our finances were handled, greatly enhancing our balance sheet. The treasurer, Ruth Fogelin, had done an admirable job for many years, and was still doing so, but John saw how much we would benefit from the use of a computer and by engaging the services of an investment broker. He consolidated the various memorial gifts into one account. John didn't take over the position of treasurer, but it was under his guidance that the capital of the corporation began to significantly outstrip the core holding of the Gafney Trust. With the input from Lois Hall and myself he worked hard to revise the by-laws which had been amended in 1964 but were rather simplistic for our times. Most importantly, we expanded the possible number of directors from six to a possible total of eleven. These latest by-laws are now part of the Gafney Library Policy Statement.

In 1987 the library hours were extended (seven were added) and spread over two more days per week. Elizabeth Pearson resigned after 5 years as librarian and Marilyn Covey succeeded her. The total budget was now $19,496. The book budget portion was $3563.

On April 12, 1988, a thirteen year old girl fell from the top of the stairway all the way down to the Serendipity Room. A boisterous group of students had teased her. It was very lucky that a volunteer was downstairs, watching the whole happening. It was not until August 1, 1994, that the girl filed an action against the Gafney Library and sought recovery of damages. The matter was expertly defended by attorney Robert L. Hermann, Jr, representing our insurance company. On the first of February of 1996, Marilyn Covey (librarian), Mrs. Wentworth (the volunteer) and myself served as witnesses. The jury returned a verdict in our favor. It was an experience none of us would forget.

Although we were happy with the verdict, of course, the affaire pointed up how much the world had changed since Judge Gafney had showed his generosity towards the people of Carroll County. The building which resulted from his gesture was now a threat and failed to comply with regulations not in existence in 1926.  We were very aware of the dangers. So far we had been “grandfathered” re. ADA compliance, but the staircase was a menace and we did not have a workable alternative entry for the handicapped. These serious flaws were not easy to fix. John Hraba, our engineer, knew we lacked the land in front as well as in the back to build a ramp at the prescribed rate of rise, quite apart from the esthetic dilemma a ramp presented to the integrity of its architecture.

When I look back on the last twenty-two years, I see at which point (the early nineties) the pace of change and modernization began to catch up with an aging group of trustees and with a beautiful building which had been designed for less demanding times. The need to add a computerized system of communication, and to cater to heightened expectations for services, exposed a sharp difference between old and young. The board needed to see new blood.

Of the three Gafney trustees I'd found around the oak table in 1980, two had remained in their function until the day they died although physical deterioration had prevented them from being active or attending meetings. Ruth Fogelin, the treasurer, was anxious to resign but bravely stayed on until, we could find an adequate replacement. We found a more than adequate treasurer in Dennis Miller, in 1998.  John Hraba died rather unexpectedly in April of 1997. On his death bed in Huggins Hospital he instructed his friend Robin Sturis to do the accounting work with Ruth Fogelin and told his son to give $10,000 to the Gafney Library.

Just before the Gafney received its next big challenge, we had a rejuvenated board in place with Lorraine Sager, Rebecca Keating, and Ruth Grant Smith as the newcomers. Lois Hall, Ruth Fogelin and myself were the hold-overs. Then, on June 19, 1997, I received a call from attorney Peter S. Smith who represented citizen Ron Witham from Wakefield.  Mr. Smith worked for Disabilities Rights Center, Inc. in Concord. He threatened the library with a suit if it didn't become handicapped accessible in the immediate future. I mentioned the two factors which had hampered our efforts to rectify the problem: lack of land and an unusually high water table. Although I had assured Lorraine Sager, a lawyer, that we had not asked her to come on the board because of her legal expertise, I immediately advised Mr. Smith to talk with her. Loraine's expertise was invaluable during the agony of that period, as was Becky Keating's expertise in handling town matters.

To make a long, complicated story shorter, we contacted the State Library who sent us an expert on access, Susan Palmetier. She met with us in a very reassuring and productive meeting. I also contacted Maureen Stimpson at the Governor's Office for accessibility issues. She was the one who put the bug in my mind that since the Town Hall (which she had visited) was also in non-compliance, a sensible solution would be to solve the problem by putting in one elevator for both buildings in between. The ball started to roll from there.  We contacted a local architect, Paul Gosselin, to evaluate the problem. We also formed a Transition Committee at the suggestion of Susan Palmetier. Outside of the librarian and three of our own members we found two important people in town willing to serve. Both Bill Twombley's and Carl Siemon's standing in the community was above reproach. Any contemporary politician who would like to play games with our feminine library board might think twice with these respected gentlemen on the committee. We had lived in this town long enough to suspect that a male chauvinistic element would creep into the negotiations.

It took from June, 1997 until March 2000 to get from threat to solution: The architect made a marvelous plan. The library paid $6000 for it. With the drawn concept in hand we could go to the selectmen, the newspaper reporters and the skeptics in town. The plan drew mostly praise. To emphasize the reality of the threat of a law suit we closed the children's library. We decided to put up $55,000 from our capital funds towards the building of the Connector. The rest would have to come from elsewhere.  Here came the rub. The selectmen had already decided to put in a grant for the renovation of an old hotel in Union which would serve as a resource center (and keep the voters in that part of town happy). It was Joe Kenney's baby. We posed a threat to him by going after the same federal dollars in the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant). He was in a good position to push it as representative from Wakefield. The Library could not apply directly for these funds. A government body (Town or County) needed to do so. Since we had started out as a County Library we could ask the County Commissioners to apply for the grant. This was when we found out that there was no support for the notion that the Gafney would be a County Library! Nevertheless, we persuaded them to do it anyway, since it wouldn't cost them anything.

As could be foreseen, the Union Hotel got the grant and the Gafney did not. However, the town's people began to warm up to our plan, even though the selectmen tried to derail it at every turn, mainly because it wasn't their own idea. The ugly aluminum ramp in front of the town hall was a constant and useful reminder that something needed to be done.

It took two grant applications (we tried again the next year and upped our input by $10,000. Both were rejected), and two town votes to get the money to go ahead. In the end, the renewed board of selectmen (thank God for elections!) decided to put their full force behind it. So did the Budget Committee. The town surplus was used for building the Connector. Over the three years of negotiations we could convince attorney Smith that we did all we could to make the connector happen. We parted as friends.

We raised over $9000 in a pledge drive and received a commitment from Carl Siemon for $35,000. We contributed $78,000 to the project, and Dennis Miller donated his job as Clerk of the Works for the entire Connector building project which had taken untold hours.

Part of the way we finally convinced the selectmen the Connector would be the right solution was by establishing their ownership of it. They agreed, in turn to heat and maintain ft.

Now we had to address the water problems in the downstairs area. Marilyn Covey, the librarian, complained of ear aches and thought they might be related to allergies. Could mold be the cause? We ripped out the carpet, called in a consultant and followed his advice. An ad hoc committee (called BBC, the Better Building Committee) with Loraine Sager, Penny Voyles and Dennis Miller was put together to evaluate the library's most pressing needs. Dennis executed all the recommendations of the consultant and the committee. A new drainage system was installed around the perimeter of the basement, a linoleum floor put in, paneling removed, walls scrubbed and painted, electrical lines replaced. etc. The Friends organization gave invaluable help in reinstalling the children's library so that in early February, 2001, we could reopen that part of the Gafney Library again.

From the moment John Hraba passed away in 1997, big changes had taken place. It included a switch in librarians. Beryl Donovan was hired in January, 1999.  With a fresh approach of a younger leader the changes were not only physical. The twenty-first century was entered with a different concept in the minds of the younger generations as to what a library constituted. Electronic and digital improvements of the way THE WORD is communicated could not be ignored. Our energies and capital funds had been spent on improving and repairing the physical building of the library while at the same time the demands on new equipment were knocking on the door. Over the twenty years I was involved with the Gafney Library the annual budget had made a leap from $12,563 to $62,100 in 2002. Of course, in 1980 we didn't have line items like Copier Repair & Maintenance, or Computer Expense, or Accounting. Our telephone bill was a fraction of the $2300 we have to budget now.  Where one librarian sufficed in the past, we now had to consider hiring assistants and a special position for the children's library. With the children's library now being quite apart from the adult library it was imperative we hire someone. When Barbara Loiselle was hired for the job, the economy in our country began to nose-dive. Our investments followed suit. Faced with financial constraints we, unfortunately, had to let Barbara go in October, 2001.

As we go forth into the future, there is much that is positive to build on:

  • an excellent, dedicated staff
  • hard working volunteers
  •  dedicated, talented board of directors
  • an energetic and generous 'Friends' organization backing us up
  • the goodwill of the public and a growing membership
  • success in raising money
  • a healthy endowment

The challenge facing us is a balancing act between demands on the physical building, maintaining a dedicated staff, improving our computer capabilities, and building up our capital funds after the heavy expenses of the last three years.

We want, of course, to move ahead on all fronts at once, but I foresee that we will have to make some choices in the immediate future.

May we be granted the wisdom to judiciously move ahead? One of the things I have most valued in being a part of this board is the fine cooperation, the meeting of minds, the openness in discussions. We all bring very different talents to the table and that is a. blessing. But we have the most important quality in common: we know how to listen to the other guy!