Letter: Critic’s expectations appear misdirected
A response to last week’s letter criticizing the Mathews Memorial Library and its librarian may dignify the critical letter undeservedly. But on balance it should be answered.
To begin with, the critic seems oblivious to the inconsistency of her argument. She repeatedly emphasizes the "public" character of the library, but then in the very next breath she asserts the entitlement of a private commercial activity to free office space within the library. If a paid professional tutor accepts a client, surely it is up to the tutor to provide an appropriate space for the lessons. Is the library an appropriate venue for what would clearly be an ongoing conversational activity? Should the library accommodate the Avon lady? How about the struggling insurance salesman who needs a place in which to consult with potential clients? Tupperware parties? In the end, tutor and client are meeting either in the tutor’s house or the critic’s shop. Is this not exactly where they should have begun in the first place?
The critic has "been told" that once completed, the new library expansion "will have the arrangements for these types of problems." Hmm—really? If true, well and good.
Critic’s final suggestion—that Mrs. Dillehay doesn’t like children—flies in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The most attractive and best appointed space in the whole library is the children’s room at the rear, beyond the conference room. Anyone who has not looked in on this delightful space should do so. For 10 years or more, the library has provided entertaining and educational summer programs for vacation-bored students. These programs, designed to inform and engage students in the wider world beyond Mathews, have been designed, constructed and implemented by Librarian Dillehay. Last year, the students enjoyed an imaginary African safari. Students have been bused, by the library, to museums and exhibits in Richmond and the Peninsula. This year’s program ended last week with the triumphant conquest of Mount Trashmore by 30-plus excited students.
Things to remember about the Mathews Library: The number of card-carrying library members (over 10,000) exceeds the entire number of Mathews residents (holding steady at about 9,000). Several years ago, the Mathews Library was identified and acknowledged as the best small rural public library in America. At a White House luncheon, the First Lady handed Bette Dillehay a plump check (which went to the building fund). Speaking of the building fund, the plan for the new addition called for a budget of $1.3 million. Led by Mrs. Dillehay, Maree Morgan of the Friends of the Library and a fundraising consultant, the fundraising committee has raised $1.2 million in the past year or so. We are closing in on the last $100,000 with help from the county (which owns the library). Approximately 300 individual donors, in addition to foundations and corporations, have participated.
That last week’s critic had an unhappy experience is regrettable and sad. Perhaps her expectations were misdirected. But we wish nothing but the best possible results for her daughter and the tutor.
John W. Dayton