Vera’s Story Garden Established
as a Literary Landmark by United for Libraries May 4, 2019
by Mary Paige Lang-Clouse, Director
Ethelbert B. Crawford Public Library
I met Vera B. Williams in the early 2000s while working at the public library in Narrowsburg, N.Y. It should come as no surprise to anyone that knew her that Vera didn’t waste any time identifying and using her local public library. She offered several programs at that library for children as well as sharing her wisdom about writing and illustrating books for children with the youth services librarians of the Ramapo Catskill Library System (RCLS), the public library system serving all the Sullivan, Orange, and Rockland County public libraries as well as a few in Ulster County. I think Vera was very generous to the libraries in her community largely because she recognized their value and she chose to live hers.
The creation of the Story Garden as a Literary Landmark alongside the Ethelbert B. Crawford Public Library in Monticello, N.Y., will serve as a lasting legacy to Vera B. Williams, her stories and illustrations, and to the inspiration she gave to the children she wrote them for. United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association with a mission to support those who govern, promote, advocate, and fund raise for all types of libraries, accepted the application of the library for its story garden to be designated as a Literary Landmark in honor of the contributions to children’s literature made by Vera B. Williams during her lifetime and in Sullivan County. Williams’ last book, Home at Last, was one she worked on collaboratively with Chris Raschka from her home in Narrowsburg until her death in October, 2015. It was our good fortune that Vera B. Williams chose to live the last 15 years of her life in Sullivan County and that she was no stranger to the public libraries in her community.
Vera gave back. She did a school visit at the Robert J. Kaiser Middle School in Monticello, much like the many she’d done during her years living down in Brooklyn. That visit made a lasting impression on both the students and teachers. She also generously donated an antique library chair she designed for a fundraising auction the Friends of the Ethelbert B. Crawford Public Library held back in 2011 during a celebration of the library’s 75th Anniversary. I’m happy to report that that chair sits in the library of a public school in Orange County, N.Y.
When plans for the new library were getting underway there was a desire to have a “big, fat, comfortable, wonderful chair”—like the one in Ms. Williams’ Caldecott Honor book, A Chair for My Mother—in the new children’s room—for people to cozy up together in and read but there wasn’t room for a chair of such grandeur there. Instead one was built—outside—in what became Vera’s Story Garden. Our landscaper got creative and, with the help of a local mosaic artist, our chair became a reality. The idea to establish a Literary Landmark was put in my head by the youth services consultant at RCLS at that time, Randall Enos. I am so glad he did—and how fitting that we were able to receive this wonderful designation during the 100th Anniversary of Children’s Book Week. I think Vera would have been pleased.