Tuesday, October 6, 2015

In Memoriam: Norma Hart

Courtesy Hudson Area Library
Gossips learned yesterday that Norma Hart has died. For most of us in Hudson, our memories of Norma are linked with the Hudson Area Library. For many years, she was the librarian in the Children's Room. After retiring from that role, she continued to work tirelessly for the library as a member of the board of the Friends of the Library. A Trash and Treasure Sale to benefit the library never happened without Norma being there--pricing the items, artfully arranging the tables, and gently encouraging people to buy their neighbors' castoffs. Last year, she was honored for her years of dedication at the Friends' annual meeting. 

One of Norma's great contributions to the library is not as well known. It was her vision to make the library a repository for historic Hudson documents and ephemera, which has developed into what is today the library's invaluable History Room collection.

The Hudson Area Library has a tribute to Norma on its website. Gossips' tribute takes the form of the following account of the founding of the Hudson Area Library, written by Norma herself in 2009, on the occasion of the library's 50th anniversary. Norma remembered it all, because she was a moving force during it all.
When the Children's Foundation closed the Hudson Orphanage in 1957, the Board of Directors donated all the land and the building on it to the Hudson City School District for the purpose of building their new school, John L. Edwards. The stipulation was that the building was to be maintained by the district and to further serve children by establishing a public library. An active and determined group of Hudson citizens made plans to open a library. Consisting of volunteers from many groups, headed by Mrs. Granvil (Margaret) Hills of Hudson, work was begun. 
A campaign was conducted to raise money from local industries, banks, businesses, professional people, etc. There was great support with volunteers even collecting money from door to door. There was opposition also and picketing in front of the library. The task began with local residents donating personal collections of the classics and local history books. Fred J. Cook, an editor at the Hudson Register (before it was the Register-Star) donated his personal collection of old city directories and local history.
With funds raised, library furniture (still in use today), reference books, card catalogues were purchased to furnish four rooms of the library: a Main Room, Fiction Room, Children's Room, and a small office. However, before the library doors could open, volunteers worked diligently typing cards, sorting books, and processing books. Sally Hopkins, a Hudson native and a librarian at Bennington College, set the guidelines and gave freely of her time when she was home on vacations. Finally the doors opened in 1959 with a staff of one librarian, Sally Beard, and a part-time secretary. Loyal volunteers and unselfish Hudsonians continued to help on a regular basis with the library tasks.
A Board of Trustees was appointed with Edward H. Best, a former active attorney still living in Hudson, as the first president. Monthly meetings set up rules and policies to be followed. The Children's Room grew so popular that more space was needed, and so when the cafeteria that was in the building closed with the opening of the new school, John L. Edwards, the space was available for a new Children's Room. The Hudson Lions Club, realizing a need for genealogy research and local history donated several thousand dollars to prepare and furnish a large room known as the History Room. The room was dedicated to Dr. Roger Bliss and his wife, Dr. Elah Bliss, by the Lions Club. Barbara Calderwood and her husband, William (a retired teacher), established a periodical room where back issues of magazines and newspapers were easily available for research.  
The library has survived mainly on the generosity of many people who believed that libraries do make a difference.
Courtesy Wendy Kenneally
Norma Hart was one of the people who believe that libraries make a difference. All of us in Hudson are indebted to her, and all who knew her will sorely miss her.


  1. Thanks, Carole. Norma was one of Hudson's glorious lights. --peter

  2. I'm sorry to learn the sad news. She was a sweet lady and a good neighbor.