People

Bennisons Honored for Volunteer Service to the Library
Bennisons at Book Sale_edited.jpg

By NANCY HEAD

      AMHERST – For thirty-seven years, Nancy and Vick Bennison have devoted many hours each week doing volunteer work for the Amherst Town Library.  Vick’s unexpected death recently is a huge loss not only to his friends and family but also to the library, the town, and the community in general.

      Nancy and Vick’s involvement with the library began in 1982 when Nancy joined the Friends of the Library.  Vick became involved in 1984.

      At the time, the books for the library Book and Bake Sale, later to be known as the Book Sale, were housed in a rundown barn on Old Milford Road.  It was not an ideal situation. There were holes in the floor and the Friends’ volunteers couldn’t enter the building until May. When Vick and Nancy offered to move the books to their house, the Friends of the Library gratefully accepted.  Vick built a sorting bin and used the basement for storage.  Vick would

pick the books up from the back hallway of the library on a weekly basis, drive them to the Bennison house in Nancy’s “mom” van, and, with Nancy, sort them and store them.   Their two daughters also occasionally became involved in the sorting with daughter Emily learning to recognize romance novels by their covers by the time she was four years old!

      In 1988 Nancy started working mother’s hours at the library as an assistant and volunteered her time to keep the library open on Sundays.   She applied to Simmons College for a graduate degree in library science and upon graduation became a school librarian. Vick was working at Fidelity.  Despite their full lives, Nancy and Vick continued to sort and store the library’s donated books at their house.       The sorting and culling of close to 15,000 books each year resulted in the Friends of the Library having a high-quality Book Sale which was well attended. When the boxes of sorted 

books outgrew the Bennison basement, Vick drove them to a storage unit the Friends rented to hold the overflow. The day before the sale the books were driven from the storage unit to the Congregational Church of Amherst by volunteers and placed on tables by categories.

Lines formed by the door an hour before opening time.  Leftover books were offered free to charities, the state prisons, Head Start, and Amherst teachers; the Masonic Temple in Nashua collected children’s books to give out in place of candy at Halloween.  The hard work and generosity of the Bennisons reached far into the community.

      Vick and Nancy noted that some books were more unusual than others and should be sold for more than the typical $1.00 per book.  They sought out Richard Mori of Mori Books who gave them advice on how to get a fair price for some of the better books.  A few turned out to be surprisingly lucrative.  A book 

on Chagall’s Windows brought in $500; an early edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin sold for $100.  “Vick’s Special Books,” were kept apart from the other books and sold at separate tables manned by the Bennisons at the sale.  Book sellers flocked to Vick’s tables where Vick drank caffeine-free diet coke and bargained with the dealers.  

      From 2008 on, the annual net income from the sale was $6,500 or more.  With the money earned the Friends were able to provide the library with museum tickets, Sunday afternoon programs, special collections, and projects such as the parents’ library outside the children’s area, a contribution to the new circulation desk, the library café area, audio visual equipment, patio furniture, and funds to support capital improvement.  Through the years the list of projects made possible by the Bennisons’ dedication became extensive.

      The pandemic, the sale of the storage unit, and years of hard work brought the Friends of the Library Book Sale in its original form to an end.  Vick spearheaded the search to locate a local carpenter who would build a bookcase that has become fundamental in the next phase of the Library Book Sale.  The bookcase (and its twin) stands at the entrance to the library, and with the Bennison’s continued management of the book donation process has provided the Friends with close to 80% of the revenue that was earned by the annual Book Sale.  Fittingly, the bookcase will be dedicated to Vick and Nancy Bennison at the Library’s Anna Boardman concert Sunday, Nov. 7.  

      The dedication, time, physical energy, and love that the Bennisons showed the library for almost forty years is seldom seen.  It takes special people to be as giving as they have been.  The Amherst Library and the Town of Amherst are better places because of them.  

      Thank you, Vick and Nancy.

NOVEMBER 2021