Since 2002, Heather Morgan has struggled to make the beloved a fixture within the Mark Twain world. After eight years of hard work as the library’s director, it’s safe to say that Morgan has put the library on the map.
She will retire from her position in June, leaving behind a legacy of ambitious work.
“The first thing I did [as director] was to push Redding and the library into the world of Mark Twain. Few people knew that he lived and died here. I got in touch with all the other Mark Twain institutions that I could think of, went to a lot of conferences filled with ‘Twainiacs,'” Morgan said.
Morgan also helped usher the library into the technological world. She persuaded the library board to join a library consortium; this consortium was, and is, located at Middlebury’s library.
“They look after the library and aid [us] in technology needs,” Morgan said. “We are now on the cutting edge of technology."
Perhaps one testament to her success is attention from The New York Times. Last year, the Times sent out researchers to the library and searched through all 200 of Twain’s original books, looking for marginal notes scrawled by the author (Twain was known to do this). When they found a page with his notation, the Times photographed the page and put it on its website. Now, anyone around the world can see Twain’s original, sometimes acerbic, notes.
Of course, Morgan couldn’t have done it alone. Much funding for the library is contingent on the efforts of private donations, volunteers and fundraisers. The people of Redding are very charitable, Morgan said, and the library has never fallen short of its annual budget.
Morgan’s accomplishments are even more impressive when contrasted against her past. A recalcitrant youth, she dropped out of high school in London, and began working for a tiny local library. Eight years later, she relocated near the Scotland/England border to Newcastle College. Once there, she met her husband-to-be, Jeff Morgan, whose career would take the couple overseas to Canada and finally to Redding.
Before becoming director, Morgan worked at libraries in Weston, Easton and Westchester, N.Y.
The Morgans settled into Redding 20 years ago in order to be closer to Jeff’s job in Stamford. Morgan fell in love with the peaceful open spaces of the town, and has remained her ever since. The couple has been together for 37 years.
When asked for one of her favorite memories about the library, Morgan said that the annual December Art Show Gala stood out.
“It’s considered to be the social event that starts the holiday season,” Morgan said. “People are eager to get tickets, everyone knows everyone and the atmosphere is wonderful."
When the library , the library was known for being the hosting place of smashing get-togethers.
Twain meant for the library “to be more of a social center than anything,” Morgan said.
When she retires, Morgan plans on visiting London, and also teaching her two English setters, Sam and Chance, to be therapy dogs. As therapy dogs, the setters would visit nursing homes and read to by children learning to read aloud.
“I’ve been working in libraries ever since I’ve left school, but the Mark Twain Library is the best. I’m not just saying that; it really is,” Morgan said.
And to wrap things up, here are three of Morgan’s favorite Twain quotes, as supplied by her:
- “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.”
- “The noblest work of God? Man. Who found it out? Man.”
- “Concerning the difference between man and the jackass: Some observers hold that there isn’t any. But this wrongs the jackass.”