Daisie married John Putnam Helyar in August, 1912. Together they had two daughters (Margery and Ruth) and three sons (John, Richard, and Marshall). Her son Marshall died in 1944 while serving in WWII. Two years later, in 1946, Daisie became the first librarian of the Branch Library in West Brattleboro, Vermont, which functioned as part of the Academy School in that town.
The West Brattleboro Branch Library straddled two roles – school library and public library – as it attempted to serve local patrons while still educating the children of the school. It was an unusual setup, intended in part to give taxpayers more money for their dollar: why have two libraries in a community when you could have just one? In any case, Daisie’s patrons were both children and adults. She remained librarian until 1965, when she was nearly eighty years old.
As librarian in West Brattleboro, Daisie must have summoned some of the skills she originally used thirty years earlier at the library of the North Bennet Street Industrial School. She instructed students on library use and research, welcoming different grade levels into the library at different times of day to work on projects for their classes. At first, facilities were not luxurious: the library was located in the basement of the school, and Daisie’s son Richard recalled that it often smelled of kerosene and tomato soup, because hot lunch was prepared nearby. Daisie remained librarian when the school and library moved to better facilities several years later.
Eunice Harrison, a colleague, remembered Daisie as follows:
“She was a person that not only knew her business, but loved books and authors and was a great, in depth, reader of all kinds of things. On her fingertips she could have exactly what you wanted. She was really wonderful and I had gotten to be a very good friend of hers through the years. When I went to the West Brattleboro library, it was like no other library. It was a combination of school and library, school and public library. And it worked very much that way.”
Daisie would often take whole bags of books home at the end of the day, in part because she was a voracious reader and in part because she wanted to be able to recommend books to library patrons. Her love of books led Daisie to befriend New England authors May Sarton and Tasha Tudor, who once tried to give the Helyar family a cat. Calista Kristensen, the West Brattleboro Branch’s head librarian after Daisie retired, remembered bringing Bock beer (a type of very strong lager) to Daisie’s house in the spring, and drinking together on Daisie’s porch.
The West Brattleboro Branch Library often faced funding shortages, and was eventually incorporated into the regional library system. Daisie’s husband John died in 1956. She lived until 1976, when she died at 88. In her obituary, it is suggested that in lieu of flowers, “contributions in Mrs. Helyar’s memory may be made to West Brattleboro Library.”
Obituaries: Mrs. John P. Helyar (1976, October 29). Brattleboro Reformer. Courtesy of Brooks Memorial Library, Brattleboro, Vermont.
West Brattleboro Branch Library: oral history. Interviews with Margaret and Richard Helyar, Katherine Geehr, Calista Kristensen, and Eunice Harrison. Interviewed by Christina Gibbos and Helene Henry. Transcript courtesy of Brooks Memorial Library, Brattleboro, Vermont.