Share Your Howe Stories With Us!

Everyone has their own story of what Howe Library means to them. It's the place you first connected with others when you were new to town, it's the friendly faces of the children's librarians that greet you and your toddler for weekly story hour, it's the safe spot you let your teen head to after school, it's where you go for book suggestions or answers to nagging questions, it's the location where your nonprofit meets, or it's your favorite spot to simply settle down in a comfy corner with a book. Whatever your story, we are grateful that you consider Howe Library an important part of your life.

We'd love to hear your 'Howe story'. Please reach out and share a bit about what makes the Howe special to you at: mystory@thehowe.org

Deb N's Story
You might say that I am competitive. I am – particularly with myself. I also love to read, so when I saw the number of books a friend had read, posted on social media in 2019, I challenged myself to read 100 books in 2020.

I keep lists of books I want to read, and I keep track of those that I have. I love "falling" into a book, and biography, history, politics, and fiction all lure me in. Mysteries? I love them!

Naturally, I counted on the Howe Library to be the source for much of my reading. Then the pandemic struck. As Hanover began to shut down in early 2020, I found myself in the library during its very last open-to-the-public hour. My children had warned me to avoid public places, but I was determined to find companionship for what I thought would be a few weeks. Like crazed shoppers at the Co-op, I was impulsively, even gleefully, grabbing books off the shelves.

I began to worry about meeting my goal as the weeks turned into months, and neighborhood friends began swapping books with each other. Then the librarians at Howe began on-line ordering and curbside pick-up of books as well as virtual gatherings of patrons with similar interests. With relief, I managed to complete my challenge of reading 100 books and even joined a “read Shakespeare out loud” Zoom group.

I cannot say “thank you” enough to the library team. During the pandemic, I solved mysteries, traveled widely, escaped reality, explored social challenges, and fell in love with new authors. My soul was sustained by the books I read, and you shouldn’t be surprised that I have set a new goal for 2021. Because I admire former President Obama who is a voracious reader, I am going to read all of the books on his Best of 2020 list!

Sheila's Story
Sheila Harvey Tanzer didn’t always know she had a story to tell. In fact, she didn’t know it for most of her life. When she finally realized it was a story that only she could tell, she relied on an old friend to help her write it: the Howe Library.

Sheila had always loved stories. She loved living in the moment of stories and appreciated the wisdom of experience that they bore. That experience, based either in fact or fiction, was a tradition as old as history itself. Sheila knew that one could learn from history and do a better job of living for it. Her love of stories led her to love libraries too, and in her family, she discovered, libraries had a history of changing lives.

Can a library really change a life? For Sheila, the answer felt like it was part of her DNA. It began with her grandfather, William Shea, who grew up in the late 19th century near the shores of Lake Superior on the Wisconsin frontier. Education was hard to come by, but William was diligent and loved learning; Sheila imagines he taught himself from McGuffey Readers.

The young “Badger” also had the good fortune to have a mentor with a private library that he allowed William to use, and the protégé devoured all the books he could. The opportunity to glean an education from a collection of books fortuitously located on the Canadian border proved to be a springboard for William Shea. He went on to become a lawyer and, eventually, the president of the state bar association.

Fast-forward several generations, and Sheila found herself in Hanover with four young children and a husband on the faculty at Dartmouth College. Having always found good companionship in books, and as a new resident in the community, she began to take her children with her to the Howe Library, then on West Wheelock Street. There she introduced them to the wonders of storytelling – the adventure, the romance, the wisdom – that she had discovered in her own reading.

Sheila remembers one of her daughters, Elizabeth, as having “read every volume in the fairy tale section” of the Howe. Elizabeth Harvey’s love of literature led her to major in English at Smith College and then to earn her doctorate at Johns Hopkins University. She now sits on the graduate faculty at the University of Toronto where her research interests stretch from William Shakespeare to early modern literature and from the medical humanities to literary theory and gender studies.

If the love of storytelling was part of the genetic makeup of this family, how was the tradition carried forward from William Shea to his great-granddaughter Elizabeth Harvey? That task would fall mainly to Sheila herself. Her father, Edmund, grew up to become a lawyer, just as his father had done, but Edmund’s journey took him to Harvard University for his training. There he became friends with a fellow student named Marion Rushton. When Marion invited Edmund to his home in Alabama to meet his family, he also introduced him to a “southern belle” named Dorothy Thigpen.

Unlikely as it seemed, Edmund and Dorothy, coming from very different backgrounds, discovered that they shared many of the same values. World War I was well underway when they met, and when America entered the war, Edmund enlisted and was sent to France. He and Dorothy began a lengthy correspondence that developed into a courtship. By the time Edmund returned stateside, he and Dorothy believed they were destined to be together.

The story of their courtship was oral history in the Shea household until late in Edmund's life when he shared with his daughter, Sheila, the letters he had written to Dorothy decades earlier, which she had saved. Some years later, Sheila’s sister found a box in her own basement that contained the corresponding letters that Edmund had written to Dorothy. Now Sheila knew she had a whole story that she could tell.

In writing this remarkable story of her parents’ budding romance, Mingled Souls, which she published in 2016, Sheila relied upon the support of the librarians at the Howe Library whom she had come to know over the years. In particular, Sheila received great assistance from Mary Hardy to whom she would turn for historical background. Whenever Sheila asked Mary for help, the librarian would always find a text or paper that had the answer. They were two lovers of stories who worked together to write the story of two improbable lovers.

Today Sheila resides in her home in Hanover surrounded by the books she and her family have accumulated over the years. They provide great companionship while she waits out the restrictions of the pandemic, but she longs for the day when she may return to the friendly stacks of the Howe Library and regale in all of the stories that they hold.

Bibliography –

RuRuth Sylvesterth's Story - Her Bequest
Ruth loved being alive. She was active and “very in the moment,” remembers her longtime partner, Elfie. She enjoyed good company and had many varied interests, but when it came time to focus, she did that too. Because she did, the Howe Library will forever remember Ruth Sylvester as a one of its most steadfast patrons.

Ruth’s different vocations throughout her life included farming, computer technology, hospitality, and substitute teaching. From early on, she was adventurous and loved traveling across the United States and throughout Europe and Africa. She thrived in the out-of-doors and enjoyed breaking trails with friends through the snowbound wilderness of British Columbia. She volunteered as a board member of the Hanover Food Co-op and as a driver for Meals on Wheels in the Upper Valley.

She also loved music and, in adulthood, folk dancing. Local residents fondly remember Ruth as an accomplished dance caller and cellist. For years, she served on the board of the Upper Valley Music Center.

Perhaps most of all, Ruth loved words and language. She had majored in classics at Bryn Mawr College, but it wasn't until later in her life that she focused on freelance writing and editing. She edited several books by local authors and wrote extensively for local newspapers.

Not surprisingly, Ruth also loved books and reading and considered the Howe Library one of her favorite places. She knew most of the librarians by name and thought of the library as one of Hanover's greatest assets. She would often check out books for pleasure and research only to return them many days late, which gave her the opportunity to happily pay numerous late fees that she considered to be gifts to the Howe Library.

Toward the end of her life, after she learned that she had contracted a terminal disease, Ruth wanted to do something good for the community that was her home. In her will, she left a generous bequest to that institution that had meant so much to her over the years, the Howe Library. As her partner, Elfie, recalled, knowing what her gift would support after she was gone pleased Ruth very much.

Thank you, Ruth, for remembering the Howe with your generous and meaningful gift.

Deb L's Story
What would it be like to leave all you knew behind and move to an entirely new community? Deb was going to find out. The single mom of two had recently become an empty-nester and at fifty-five was ready to write the next chapter in her story.

When Nat, her partner, asked her to move to the Upper Valley where he lived, she thought she was ready to go. She found a new job, and they bought a home together. What was not to like?

Deb had lived in Concord for two decades, and even though it was only one hour away, she had left a lot behind: her friends, her neighborhood, her community – and her library. Nat had his own friends, but they were not the same as hers. As Deb was coming to learn, “creating a whole new community at my age is hard.” Her new story was coming into focus more slowly than she had imagined.

Then Rosie, a family friend, asked Deb to join the "Reading Upwards" book group at the Howe Library. Deb loved books, and the theme – living, meaning, and belonging in perilous times – was relevant. Indeed, for Deb, the future had looked, if not perilous, at least cloudy.

After the first few once-a-month meetings, she began to feel as if she had found a community that she could claim as her own. Their discussions were insightful and inspiring. Among the regular attendees, Deb even began to feel warm intimacy as participants shared how that month’s book affected themselves personally.

When the pandemic hit the Upper Valley, and life was turned upside-down, Deb discovered just how much the book group had come to mean to her. Human interaction had become restricted, and the Howe Library had to close its building, but the staff quickly adapted to the "new normal." Curb-side pick-up services were initiated, and the book group became virtual as “Zooming” enabled it to continue meeting monthly.

Thanks in part to her experience in "Reading Upwards" at the Howe Library, Deb considers herself increasingly at home with her new life in the Upper Valley. Instead of feeling alone and tentative about her decision to relocate, she feels connected to this community. She would even say she belongs.

Helpful Links