Nancy Vincent’s final day as the city’s chief librarian was Tuesday. It marked the end of a 25-year run in that position.
Don’t blame her if she backed out of the Keene Public Library’s main West Street entrance slowly on her way out; after all, it’s a glance worth stealing.
The building’s profile has changed. The main library is now connected to the next-door former Masonic temple by a beautiful, natural-light-filled atrium.
The project was a long time in the making — another textbook example of how this community has uncommon capacity to join forces and turn vision into reality — and Vincent wanted to see it through.
The work transformed the library not only into a fuller city centerpiece, but a resource more in step with the times, Vincent says. It’s as much a campus now, a mix of traditional and contemporary amenities, ambiance and appropriate space.
“The library’s mission remains very relevant,” Vincent told The Sentinel recently, “but the application of the mission has changed on the spectrum. The things we’ve always done — the story times and the book discussions — those active parts of our mission remain just as important, but now, more than ever, we’re also a community gathering place, where people can meet, and discuss and create. Our focus is broader.”
The annex features several rooms for meeting and classroom space, and Cheshire TV’s studios have been relocated to the second floor. The annex also features a new elevator with five stops, new ramps and stairways.
Vincent’s not riding off into the sunset, but she is dashing off to New York City with her husband, Paul, by bus, destination West 43rd Street, Midtown Manhattan.
The couple has rented an apartment there for four months. They’ve not seen it in person. “It seemed like the right thing to do; something I’ve always wanted to do,” Nancy says.
“Input, input, input,” she says, raising her hands and snapping her fingers. “That’s the city … that’s me.”
After their Manhattan respite, Nancy and Paul will return to the city they first came to more than three decades ago, when Paul took a job at Keene State College.
She calls it one of her true fortunes that she and Paul settled in Keene, and that she quickly found her dream job. She worked previously at the State Library of Ohio in Columbus, grew up using the public library in Seattle, and has a master’s in library science from the University of Washington.
Vincent began working at the library in 1986 and became director in 1994. She received a “Director of the Year” award from the N.H. Library Trustees Association in 2016, honoring her contributions to the library and other work in the community. She’s held leadership roles for a number of important area non-profits.
These days, there are more than 9,000 library systems in the U.S. We don’t know that it’s so, but we feel good about supposing that the quality of a town or public library relates directly to the quality of that library’s community.
Libraries open minds to opportunity, Vincent and any good librarian would say, and they can and should be a valuable resource for those who lack simple necessities, such as access to email or setting up an email account; the Internet; or even high-speed Internet to, say, buy an airline ticket.
“We offer that; we can help people with those kinds of things,” Vincent said. “The fundamental importance of the public library is to make sure that everyone, regardless of resources, has access to the material.”
Nancy Vincent doesn’t relish attention. But we salute her years of community service, her full and separate resume of volunteerism, and her measured leadership.
We’re hard-pressed to think of any one person, at this moment anyhow, walking into a better spot than Marti Fiske, Vincent’s successor.
That didn’t happen by accident.