The Southwest Harbor Public Library Digital Archive

is dedicated to

Meredith Adelle (Rich) Hutchins (1939-2016)


In all the long history of the Southwest Harbor Public Library (one hundred and thirty-one years at her death) few people worked so long or so lovingly for its public good as did Meredith Hutchins.

She started to work for librarian Miss Alma Hallenborg in 1951, at the age of twelve; shelving books at the library for four hours a week at forty cents an hour, during the summer. In the fall she was allowed to work five and a half hours a week – an hour and a half on Wednesdays and four hours on Saturday afternoons. Meredith continued to work at the Library until the fall of 1957 when she left for college.

Miss Hallenborg was a mentor, helping nurture a lifelong love of literature, but Meredith’s interest in books first began when she taught herself to read at the age of four, resolving to read every book in the library beginning with the A’s. Wit and reality soon forced her to modify her original goal and she quickly moved on to the rest of the alphabet. She never had enough books as a child. Later she said, “They told me I had a book. Didn’t they realize I needed more?” When she grew up she accumulated a large personal library at home including “too many cookbooks” and spoke critically and enthusiastically about whatever books or articles she was reading at the time. She began working as assistant to librarian Frances Hitchcock in the spring of 1959 and succeeded her as librarian in November 1979.

As a librarian, Meredith was most proud when she successfully matched the right book with a patron’s tastes and interests. Her goal as a professional was always to serve the patrons with the appropriate book, answer or resource. She had begun by recommending new titles to Mrs. Hitchcock, who gave her the authority to choose all the library’s new books each year.

In 1983-84, she oversaw the library’s fourth expansion, which included the restoration of the coffered ceiling in the original building. The children’s room, a special interest of hers, was done in memory of Miss Grace Simmons and financed by a bequest from her estate. It was painted green and had a mural on the wall done by Blue Hill artist Francis Hamabe.  The room also featured the Southwest Harbor Public Library’s unique book shelving system for little children, which allowed the picture books to face outward, their covers showing, They were shelved according to category, i.e. Dogs, Horses, Fairy Tales, Christmas, etc.  Meredith and Alma Hallenborg had thought of this idea. Meredith wrote, “I must confess that we were rather proud of it.  In most libraries the picture books, which are often oversized, are shelved by author with only their spines visible. This makes it hard for little children to remove the books from the shelves.  Besides, they don’t care who the authors are anyway.  They’re interested in the stories and pictures.”

Meredith loved books in every way, inside and outside. Wherever she found or kept books, she insisted that they be lined right up to the edge of the shelves and that no large books were placed on shelves too small for them. She directed the Southwest Harbor Public Library until she retired in 1985 after thirty-four years of nearly constant service.

After her retirement, Meredith gave uncounted volunteer hours to the library. She served on the library’s Board of Directors and for many years continued pricing books for the library’s annual used book sale. She was always ready to help later librarians who found her instinct for what should and should not be retained in the collection invaluable.

In 2006 Meredith co-founded the library’s digital archive of historic and contemporary photographs with Charlotte Morrill, helping to meticulously document and correct the history of every detail that could be seen in each image. She collected years of clippings and wrote down everything she heard about the history of the town. She was the first to understand the historic and artistic value of the photographs the library had been collecting since 1900. She cared for the collection and defended it with the ferocity of a mother tiger.

Meredith was a dedicated researcher of family genealogies. She was born to a long line of fishermen and boat builders and traced her Mount Desert Island roots back to John Rich who settled in Bass Harbor in the late 1700s, and to Hannah Dustin of Haverhill, Massachusetts. She was a Mayflower descendent, but declined to join the Daughters of the American Revolution as they refused to permit Marian Anderson to sing at Constitution Hall.

She was an author who wrote in her own distinctive voice, writing articles, essays, stories and poems, which were printed in local and regional publications. She was a member of the Jane Austen Society, the Jane Austen Society of North America and the Bronte Society.

And, while she was busy writing, developing the library and preserving the history of her town she and her husband Kenneth raised three daughters and operated summer housekeeping cottages. Kenneth built and maintained the buildings while Meredith handled advertising, inquiries, cleaning and furnishings. She was a sailor and spent many happy hours sailing with Kenneth and her family in the waters off of Mount Desert Island.

Meredith Hutchins loved her family, her friends, the towns of Southwest Harbor and Tremont, Jane Austen, Henry Lathrop Rand (1862-1945), Rebecca (Whitmore) Lurvey Carroll (1844-1916), music, and Portland’s Kotzschmar Memorial Organ. She adored good writing, good food, good movies, elegance, artisanal jewelry and the Southwest Harbor Public Library.

Generations of Southwest Harborians and historians will be forever in her debt. Without her, this database would probably not have existed and certainly not with the depth and attention to detail that Meredith applied to everything she did. And most important, she brought imagination and constant enthusiasm to the project. Her legacy is immense.

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