"Deaccession Can Be Big Issue Even in Small Towns" (aka "Small Town, Big Word, Major Issue")

This small city up the hill from the Erie Canal is known for manufacturing paper and tea, for rooting on its Mounties at high school football games, for deposits of quartz that glint like diamonds and for the Victorian mansion that houses its 100-year-old library.

And now it’s also known locally as the place where the library director took a stand — or started a fuss, depending on your point of view — when the library board started selling historical items from its collection.

A 13-star flag and an invitation to Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural ball should never have been put up for auction, argued the director, Marietta Phillips. And she was also bothered, she said, that trustees sometimes took artifacts home, for good reason, perhaps, but without anyone’s bothering to note it on her sign-out sheet at the circulation desk.

“You can’t get your history back,” she said. “People don’t realize: once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

So Ms. Phillips, 42, this fall did what lots of people contemplate but few actually do — she quit. Then she wrote a letter in the local paper telling this town about 20 miles southeast of Utica just why she was leaving and how fast and loose she thought the board had been with its artifacts.

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