WEST PARIS — “The library is a lifeline for people,” Brenda Gould said as she sat behind the circulation desk in the Arthur L. Mann Library in West Paris.

Gould was recently hired as the new librarian at the unique castle-like institution, which was built of local fieldstone in the 1920s. She has long been a familiar face there, however, having started as a library volunteer in 2010.

She said the library plays a vital role in the community, providing needed services as well as a social and recreational outlet.

It offers six public computers, wireless internet, photocopying, faxing and printing services, children’s programs, a conference room for meetings, and, of course, books, magazines and movies to borrow.

“My mother always made sure I had books,” said Gould, recalling the excitement she felt as a child when the bookmobile came to her hometown of Dixmont.

It was her love of books — as well as her love of community — that first led her to volunteer at the library and later to serve as the substitute librarian and the regular Saturday librarian.

A certified clinical herbalist who specializes in medicinal mushrooms, Gould runs a small business, Bear and Bumblebee Herbals. She forages for wild plants and mushrooms, raises perennial herbs, and teaches classes through adult education programs or at botanical schools in Maine.

Her education in herbal medicine began when she was growing up, part of a large extended family in Dixmont. Her grandfather was very knowledgeable about herbs and medicinal plants and he passed much of his knowledge on to her.

“At that time, it was something folks just knew,” she said, adding that she had always had a strong interest in herbs, but “didn’t know you could make a career out of it.”

Gould moved to western Maine from Dixmont about 30 years ago, after meeting her husband, West Paris native John Haney.

They live in a farmhouse on 125 acres of woods and fields that once belonged to Haney’s grandparents, Irwin and Lila Ellingwood.

She continued to study herbal medicine, first in Vermont with herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, and then at the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine in Arizona, where she studied for six months under its late founder, Michael Moore.

A firm believer in the value of lifelong learning, Gould applied the same passion for continuing education when she decided to become involved with the library.

She recently attended a meeting for new library directors in Augusta that provided a valuable orientation experience as well as opportunities to network with other Maine librarians.

Although she does not have a degree in library science, she has participated in the Maine State Library’s voluntary public librarian certification program, through which she has completed all three available levels of certification — basic, intermediate and advanced.

Certification is offered through a series of webinars with topics that range from building, cataloging and maintaining collections to fundraising and special events programming.

“It’s really a good program,” Gould said. “It’s very accessible, and there is no charge to libraries or to participants.” She began the voluntary certification program in 2014, and completed one level of certification each year for the next three years.

When longtime West Paris librarian Patty Makley retired earlier this year, Gould was one of 11 applicants vying for the position. She was thrilled to be chosen as Gould’s replacement.

For small-town librarians, she said, “the job is a labor of love. We do it because we love the work, and we love the community. This is something I’ve dreamed of being able to do for a good part of my life.”


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