If you were ill or lacked transportation during the early part of the 20th century and needed a book from the J.V. Fletcher Library, the librarian would often put the book in her satchel and deliver it to your home in her own car. That librarian was May Emma Day. She had started working at the library in 1911 while a college student. In 1918, while home from her teaching position, she was asked by the town to fill in for the ailing librarian Mary P. Bunce for two weeks. That two-week assignment led to 41 years of service as Westford’s librarian. May became Westford’s full-time librarian after Miss Bunce retired in 1920.
May E. Day was born in Westford on May 22, 1890, and graduated from Westford Academy in 1908. After graduating from Westford Academy, May went on to attend Mt. Holyoke College and graduated from Mt. Holyoke in 1912. Following her graduation from college, May took a teaching position in West Springfield, New York, for several years followed by a teaching post in Vergennes, Vermont. She was home from her teaching position in Vermont when she was asked to fill in for Miss Bunce.
Some family members considered May to be a bit eccentric. She would have popcorn for supper on Sunday nights and have popcorn and milk for breakfast the next morning. She was also a bit frugal when she would send used birthday cards to her friends and relatives by covering the names with stickers. But Miss Day was also a very patriotic person who knitted thirty-two pairs of socks for World War I soldiers.
As a librarian, May was a resourceful administrator. During “The Great Ice Storm of 1921,” there was no electricity in the J.V. Fletcher Library for the first three weeks of December. To keep the library open during this period, May borrowed kerosene lamps and during evening hours the library was able to secure flashlights so that patrons could use the facility after dark.
Miss Day made every effort to expand the services of the library and to take the library to the people. Students at the one-room Parkerville School recalled how Miss Day always left a library or book basket on the school platform so that pupils could read for pleasure after they completed their daily assignments. She also started book deposit stations all over town so that residents could borrow books without visiting the library.
She also added music records to the J.V. Fletcher collection and brought a federally funded monthly Bookmobile visit to Westford. This Bookmobile consisted of books from area libraries. Miss Day also brought the inter-library system to town, this allowed library patrons to order books from area towns and cities. May also allowed adult visitors to the library to browse the book stacks on their own. Day may have even helped the feminist movement in town by adding such books as “W.A.C.s at Work” and “The Story of the W.A.C.s during WWII”.
The Westford librarian was constantly keeping up with the latest library trends by attending library conferences all over the country. In 1925, May attended a meeting of the American Library Association in Seattle, Washington. During the summer of 1920, Miss Day took a course at Simmons College that had an emphasis on children’s reading. She also kept the public informed on the latest library news by providing weekly notices to the Westford Wardsmen. Always interested in how other libraries operated, Day would often visit other libraries even when she was on vacation.
But May E. Day will always be remembered for her service to the young people in Westford. She was a very patient person who always had time for any student who came to her for help. May was most helpful in providing students with books appropriate to their grade level for home reading. She would also set aside noon time hours for students who were bused by the town to Westford Center and would often conduct tours of the library for the schools in other parts of town.
Her service to the young people of Westford was best exemplified at her retirement tribute that was held in the upper hall of the J.V. Fletcher Library on May 31, 1960, before two hundred guests. At that event, Joseph E. Joyce, principal of Westford Academy presented Miss Day with a scroll signed by 625 people that read: “We, the undersigned students and faculty of Westford Academy wish to offer our sincere thanks to Miss May E. Day who has for many years served the Town of Westford in the capacity of librarian. Her selfless devotion to her profession has aided the present and the past students of Westford Academy in many ways.”
May E. Day died on April 24, 1973, at her home in Westford. At the time of her death, she belonged to several organizations that included: the Tadmuck Club, Westford Golden Age Club, the Westford Historical Society, Doll Collectors of America, The Book and Thimble Club, and the Westford Academy Alumni Association. She was also a member of the Col. John Robinson Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution through her ancestor Oliver Prescott. (JVB 3/2023)
Lowell Sun, “Residents in Tribute to Miss May E. Day Retiring Librarian, “June 2, 1960, p. 23.
Ibid. May E. Day, April 25, 1973, p. 135.
Ibid. “Activities at Wm. E. Frost School in Westford”, January 27, 1952, p. 15.
Ibid. “County News”, November 19, 1953, p. 25.
Westford Eagle, “Westford Recollections,” by Mrs. Charles S. Kennedy, February 11, 1971, p. 1.
Ibid. “Day Shines bright on library head”, by Carolyn B. Caci and June W. Kennedy, May 2, 1996, p. 20.
Westford Town Report, “Report of Librarian,” 1921.
Ibid. “Report of Librarian,” 1926.
Ibid, “Report of Librarian,” 1930.