Apart from the area's natural beauty and the outdoor activities it invites, there isn't much to see or do in Craftsbury Common. And there'd be even less if it weren't for librarian extraordinaire Linda Wells.
She has turned the local library into a vibrant center of education, cultural activity and community involvement in a Northeast Kingdom town that lacks even a general store. For 20 years, Wells has worked to make the Craftsbury Public Library ever more accessible -- to the point where it now serves 1800 patrons, even though the town itself has only 1100 residents.
Wells also slowly, diplomatically and relentlessly advocated for construction of a larger facility. Her efforts paid off two years ago when Craftsbury opened a new $625,000 library with three times more space than its 1100-square-foot clapboard predecessor.
"Linda made my job of raising money very easy," says David Stoner, who headed the capital campaign for the new library. "Her foresight, her enthusiasm for reading, and her work with children were inspiring and persuasive to many in this community."
Wells' achievements were recently recognized nationally as well. In December, she received a New York Times Librarian Award in a ceremony at the newspaper's offices. Chosen from 1500 nominees in 47 states, Wells was among a dozen winners from outside the New York metropolitan area. Each honoree received $2500 and a commemorative plaque.
Three Craftsbury high school students nominated Wells for the award. "Our public library is the center of community activity, and Linda Wells has been our librarian for all of our lives," wrote Katie Rowell, Hannah Madigan and Sarah Miller. "As kids we knew Linda as the lady with the welcoming smile and optimistic word who opened up a world of exploration and learning through her puppets, crafts and enormous numbers of high-quality and interesting books. Now we enjoy teen nights with movies and participate in the adult educational, social and civic programs that she arranges at the library."
The three girls are among more than 30 volunteers whom Wells has helped recruit. In addition, about half of the town's students regularly use the library, which is open 26 hours per week. And even when it's officially closed, Wells arranges access for students in need of research materials for a paper due the next day.
"She is totally generous with her time and space," the three high school juniors wrote in their nominating letter.
A Staten Island native and mother of two grown children, Wells attributes her success to "planning carefully and not giving up." She says she learned "to ask for a little bit more here and a little bit more there. I had a vision for what service could be in this small community, and I kept trying to make it come true."