Thank you for your interest in and support of the Valley News. So far, we have raised 80% of the funds required to host journalists Claire Potter and Alex Driehaus for their one-year placements in the Upper Valley through Report for America, a national service program that boosts local news by harnessing community support.

Please consider donating to this effort.

Out & About: Retiring Etna librarian ready for the next chapter

  • After 21 years, Barbara Prince is retiring as the Etna Librarian. (Valley News — Liz Sauchelli) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Liz Sauchelli

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/18/2021 9:17:49 PM
Modified: 9/21/2021 11:48:38 AM

When Barbara Prince started working at the Etna Library, people had to park alongside Etna Road and navigate the steep stairs to its entrance.

That was in 2000, years before the town of Hanover bought what is now Hayes Farm Park next to the library — officially called the Hanover Town Library but more commonly referred to as the Etna Library — and ushered in a new era for the 1905 building, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. A parking lot was also added, making the library more accessible. A post-and-beam entrance and lilac garden followed in 2013.

Prince, who has been the librarian for 21 years, will retire Oct. 1 and move to Chapel Hill, N.C., with her husband, Pete Murdza. Her tenure is the longest of any Etna librarian to date. There will be an open house celebration for her from 10 a.m. to noon next Saturday at the Etna Fire Station. Jeff Metzler, a librarian at the Hartness Library at Vermont Technical College, will succeed her.

“People think that working at a library like this, you’re isolated, but you’re not,” Prince said. “You have so many people that you’re working with, that you’re seeing.”

The library has a dedicated group of volunteers and patrons. Prince also counts herself lucky to have worked with so many excellent library assistants.

In the last decade, Prince has worked to expand the library’s outdoor programming at the neighboring Hayes Park.

“Every time you come out here, there are butterflies,” Prince, 65, said during a walk on the property Thursday afternoon. “It’s just amazing, all the pollinators that are out here.”

The library currently has a StoryWalk — where the pages of an illustrated book are posted along an outdoor path — set up in the space. The book Seeds of Change: Planting a Path of Peace, written by Jen Cullerton Johnson and illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler, is about Wangari Maathai, the first African woman, an environmentalist, to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Its brightly colored pages seemed to have found the perfect setting at Hayes Park.

“We had to use this beautiful land somehow,” Prince said. “I just love looking at the apples against the blue sky here.”

There have been photo and bird walks led by Jim Block, as well as joint programs with the Hanover Conservancy, including last summer’s nature poetry walk.

“We have so little space indoors, so our strength is in the outdoors,” Prince said.

During a walk, Prince pointed out the Huntington Rock, a giant boulder that bears the name of the family that farmed the land more than a century ago. The library also hosts programs focused on area history, including ones about how to research genealogy and old houses.

Prince was working at Abbott Memorial Library in South Pomfret when the job in Etna opened. She had four children under the age of 10 at the time, and the part-time job — less than 30 hours a week — was the perfect fit. Prince was originally working in child psychology when on a whim she decided to take a class in children’s literature.

“I felt like I needed to do something more for myself,” she said. “I fell in love with children’s literature.”

She went on to earn a degree in library science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. When the family moved to the Upper Valley, Prince began looking for library jobs and was drawn to more rural communities.

The Etna Library’s rural tradition is something Prince holds true to. In the library there is a photo of Kathrina Spencer — who served as librarian from 1935 to 1953 — posing with her cow. The Etna Library and Hanover’s Howe Library, which was started around the same time, developed different personalities.

“They were different communities,” Prince said. “The people down there were college professors and the people up here were farmers.”

The library’s smaller size is something Prince has always appreciated. Children’s story times tend to draw no more than eight children, leading to a cozier gathering.

“You can’t have big groups, and there’s something nice about that,” Prince said.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at or 603-727-3221.

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy