North Adams Library Acquires 'Mill Girl'

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The public library has acquired 'Mill Girl' for permanent display.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Public Library will be the permanent home for the "Mill Girl."

William Oberst's 40-by-50 inch oil painting depicts a young girl working in a cotton mill, and inspired by the photographs of working children Lewis W. Hine took in 1911 at the Eclipse Mill.

New Library Director Mindy Hackner told the trustees last week that fundraising over the past year combined with a donation match from the Hunter family with the city has allowed the painting to remain in the library. The machine the girl is working at was produced by the James Hunter Machine Co.

"I think it's very exciting to have it," said Trustee Hulda Jowett on Wednesday.

Ralph Brill of the Brill Gallery, where it was originally exhibited, has asked that it be included the "Mill Children" exhibit that is moving to the former Waverly mill in Adams this summer. Brill has offered to frame the piece in exchange for its participation.

The trustees were interested but concerned over how long it might be in Adams.

"It would be good publicity for us," Jowett said. "If we did it for the opening and for a few weeks, it would be good for us."

Trustee Donald Pecor agreed that the painting should be seen by more people: "We don't want to have it for the sake of having it."

In other business, Hackner advocated for changing job descriptions to more realistically reflect the responsibilities and experience of the staff, including Robin Martin, who had filled as interim director for nearly nine months.

"I really would like Robin to be the associate director," said Hackner. Martin, who has worked at the library for 27 years, and Children's Librarian Kim Dilego have reached the end of their classification step, she said.

Hackner said the mayor was aware the other salaries are low.

"We all understand how pressed things are," she said. "But when we talked, I said that my salary is fine but it is not in keeping with a library in a similar town."

The trustees approved her moving forward with revised job descriptions and presenting them to the mayor but noted the budget was very tight.

"You should make the case you're making here," said Pecor. "If you're talking June and the present budget situation, I don't see it happening."

"We will have low morale if we don't keep advocating," Hackner replied. "People you have working here deserve whatever you can do for them."

In other business:
Hackner said an individual had come forward to possibly donate a laptop that would allow people to come to the library to watch TED talks.

The Historical Society is looking to use some of the space in the library to store items as it will have to move out of Western Gateway Heritage State Park. Hackner said room could be cleared in the basement and the city is going to finish a third-floor room.

The state Historical Commission wants to see the original sandstone shutters cleaned and restored on the building, and a juliet porch restored. Jowett said estimates on the porch was "incredibly expensive" and it was decided to contact McCann Technical School to see if the students could do it. The shutters have been in the basement for decades; no one remembers when they were on the building.

Tags: exhibit,   Mill Children,   public library,   

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