Library archivists keep Wareham history alive

Sep 9, 2018

In the last three months, library archivist Lynda Ames has completed more than 40 different research projects on Wareham, ranging in scope from digging up obituaries to finding a return address in Onset that was once used by horror fiction author H.P. Lovecraft. Ames even tracked down the Wareham town hearse which had been sold to the Henry Ford Museum back in the 1920s.

“I get all kinds of requests from all kinds of people,” Ames said. 

She details her findings in an ever growing portfolio which is kept in the Wareham Free Library’s Research Room. The space is packed with boxes full newspaper clippings, yearbooks, maps, photographs and anything else one can think of. Much of the material is donated by Wareham residents, creating a one-of-a-kind local history archive. 

“This room is a huge part of what makes our library so important and unique,” Ames said.

The Research Room is open to the public just one day a week on Thursdays with Ames working alongside Reference Outreach Librarian Steven Miller from 4 to 7 p.m. Her salary is supported entirely by donations from the Wareham Library Foundation, a nonprofit which helps to keep the department afloat. 

“I wouldn’t be here without them,” Ames said. “Three hours a week is hardly enough time for all the requests we get, and I bring a lot of my work home with me. Ideally I’d be working with two or three other people, but we just don’t have the resources.”

The Wareham Free Library lost its state certification back in 2014 when voters defeated a Proposition 2 1/2 override, which, if approved, would have provided money for several town agencies by raising property taxes. As a result of its budget being slashed from $295,637 to $125,000, the library was forced to reduce staff hours and spending on new materials. The cuts also meant that the library was forced to close it’s research room.

The public could still enter upon request, but without a dedicated staff member, Ames said items quickly went missing.

“People would tear pages out books rather than waste time trying to make a photocopy,” she said. “Photographs would disappear and things rarely went back where they were found.”

According to Ames, someone even walked off with Geena Davis’ yearbook. The famous Wareham actress best known for her roles in movies such as “Beetlejuice” and “Thelma & Louise.”

Ames has made significant progress in cleaning up the research room since last fall, but she admits there’s still a lot more work to be done. Her contract with the library expires in October, and Ames said she isn’t entirely sure if she’ll be asked back. 

“We’re close to recertification, but things are still tight,” she said. “I just pray people see the value in this room.”