For Toilet-less Vermont Library, A New Chapter

12/22/2008 04:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

ROXBURY, Vt. — When you gotta go, you gotta go. But for decades, when you had to go in the Roxbury Free Library, you really had to go _ somewhere else, that is.

The one-room clapboard building, a beloved small-town gathering place since 1923, had no restrooms. When nature called, patrons young and old either had to hold it, do their business next door at the Roxbury Union Congregational Church or go home.

Never mind that the library has such modern conveniences as wireless Internet access.

"I used to say `We're the Wi-Fi library without a pot to p--- in,'" said library director Susan D'Amico.

No more: Construction is under way on a small addition that includes a 6-by-8-foot restroom with a sink and toilet. The toilet was installed Nov. 14.

Originally built as a tea room, the building was converted to a library in 1934, its shelves chockablock with best-sellers, children's books and knickknacks. It has hosted pruning workshops and travel programs, author visits and local history nights.

But it always did so without a toilet, which wasn't required when the building was constructed.

Sometimes, library patrons rushing out to use the john next door made it. Sometimes, they didn't.

"We always had to make sure we used the bathroom before we came to story hour," said Chris Dorer, 32, whose 3-year-old daughter, Izzy Jackson, played in the library Wednesday afternoon. "When she was potty training, if we had to go to the church, we'd miss all of story hour doing it, especially in winter, when we had to gear up."

The church was more than happy to oblige its neighbors. Library patrons always obeyed the "Please jiggle my handle after you flush" sign in the church's bathroom, for one thing.

Thanks to a private fundraising campaign that raised $22,000, a $14,900 Vermont Arts Council grant and the work of volunteers and local tradesmen, the church will no longer have to put up with the one drawback to its potty-sharing arrangement: well-read squatters.

"Every so often, we have to knock after an hour or so, and when the (bathroom) doors open, it's someone who's been reading a book," church deacon Claire Chomentowksi said.

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