November 20, 2015

By Michele Farrell
IMLS Program Officer


As one of our nation’s most rural states, Vermont is lucky to have  many small libraries with staff who respond to our rapidly-changing world. Orwell Free Library is one such treasure. Its director, Kate Hunter, is a graduate of the Vermont Public Librarianship certification program. While a number of state libraries offer Public Librarianship certification programs using IMLS funding, the Vermont Department of Libraries is proud to have offered its program for 25 years. Such programs typically require participants to complete 150 credits through classes offered or approved by the state library.  

Kate began working at the Orwell Library in 2012 with no previous library training. She found the certification program courses invaluable, especially in expanding her knowledge of library administration, collection development, and cataloguing. Meeting colleagues with similar challenges and state library consultants through the program was an added bonus.  Thanks to her training, Kate now has a network of library professionals to contact when problems arise.

When Kate first began, she saw immediate challenges: “The library was years behind; it didn’t have a website, offered minimal programming, and lacked many basic services,” she said.  With few funding opportunities for a library housed in a 19th century building in a tiny village of 1,200, Kate needed to maximize her resources to make necessary upgrades.

As the library’s only employee, working 25 hours a week, Kate sought help from Grace Greene, a state library consultant, to assist her in deciding what materials to weed from the collection. After sorting through hundreds of outdated junior nonfiction titles, Kate was also able to add to the library’s technology offerings, providing four computers with Internet access, e-books and audiobooks through Listen Up! Vermont, and adding access to Vermont Online Library’s electronic database. With the help of local donors, Kate also introduced an iPad, an Mp3 player, and touch screen computers to better meet needs of the community.  


The library also houses cutting edge technology, offering a 3D print program where locals are able to record their voices and have their sound waves printed in 3D. Suggested by an Orwell resident, who also provided software and the printer for the event, this unique offering in a small town allowed residents to record their voices and experience the  technology for themselves. In week two of the workshop, participants view their 3D printed sound waves in earring and pendant forms, and use art supplies to learn the basics of finishing a 3D print. In addition to the many upgrades the library has seen in recent years, this workshop brought community members together to access new technology. 

Visitors can find the Orwell Free Library on the main floor of the historic Clark property in the heart of Orwell.  The building’s upstairs houses the Orwell Historical Society Museum, which features award-winning exhibits of local artifacts and memorabilia. The exhibits were created by Museum Curator Sandy Korda, and are still on display. The museum is open on Saturdays with help from Historical Society volunteers. In addition to this historic museum, Orwell Free Library  offers passes to state historic sites, state parks, the Shelburne Museum, and the Vermont History Museum in Montpelier. It also offers a discounted pass for the ECHO Lake Aquarium in Burlington, Vermont.

Michele Farrell is senior library grant program officer in the Office of Library Services within IMLS. She can be reached at