The Rockport Public Library family and the Town of Rockport lost a loyal Friend and supporter when former trustee Eleanor Hoy passed away last week. Eleanor is fondly remembered as a librarian at Carnegie Library, a manager of Toad Hall Bookstore, a library trustee and a member of the Friends of the Library. Her love of this town was reflected in her civic-minded outlook and active participation in the Rockport Rotary Club and other organizations.
Eleanor played a vital role 30 years ago in the library’s move into its current location in the former George Tarr School. It was her idea to have volunteers pass books in the mystery collection from the old library to the new. Many current residents stood in that line with their parents as they passed the books along.
The Carnegie building had been so overcrowded with books on window sills and tables that patrons had no place to sit and read or work. The day before the current site opened, Eleanor was in the new building, enjoying the peace and quiet one last time before it would open to the public. At one point she looked up and said, “I hope people will really use this space and actually sit down and read. Do you think they will?” They came in then, and 30 years later they are still fulfilling her wish.
Eleanor, Ted Reed and I were the Library Trustees in the years leading up to that relocation. Town benefactor Franz Denghausen had left a bequest of one million dollars to the library for a new building. His gift was challenged by the Smithsonian Institution, the primary recipient of his estate. The New York Times dubbed the three-year struggle of our small library against such a major institution as a “David and Goliath” confrontation.
Although legal delays were frustrating, townspeople rallied to the library’s support. The Smithsonian was deluged with letters from Rockporters and their friends across the country decrying its efforts to block the bequest. The national publicity generated by those letters led to the resolution of the case. When the Library won, the Trustees, Library Director Stephen Rask, and two selectmen happily went to the courthouse in Salem to receive the court’s final decision.
Eleanor and I often laughed about one item you can see in the Brenner Friends Room. On the plans it looked like a pass-through from the kitchen area would save steps and facilitate food service for public events. One day we noticed that no cutout had been made in the wall for a pass-through. We told the clerk of the works that the pass-through had to be included. When the room was finished, we realized how wrong we had been! We laughed about the small wooden door in the back of the room for many years afterwards.
It was a joy to share those years with Eleanor, Steve, and Ted. The building has been adapted since then, but its purpose has not changed. Through a generous donor and the Rockport Rotary Club, the reference room was redesigned and named in Eleanor’s honor. A painting of her Pier Avenue home hangs on the wall. Where once there were maps and shelves filled with encyclopedias, there are now public computers and printers.
The library continues to serve the town as Eleanor hoped it would: teaching children the love of reading, offering students access to resources, providing programs and a community gathering space for all ages. For years to come, the town will continue to benefit from her dedication to its wellbeing.