DERBY LINE, VT -- The world-famous Haskell Free Library and Opera House on Caswell Avenue here is probably the only cultural institution on this planet with a split personality. That's because the U.S./Canadian border slices right through the Kenneth Baldwin International Reading Room.
You enter the lovely turn-of-the-century building in Vermont, but you check out the books -- your choice of English or French -- in Quebec. And, the librarian who assists you may be either a citizen of the United States or Canada, or both and, probably bilingual.
In this part of Vermont, many residents of Quebec's border communities were born in Newport, thus also qualifying for U.S. citizenship. When the 400-seat Opera House reopens later this year following extensive safety and handicapped-accessibility renovations, patrons of the performing arts will again sit in the United States and applaud performances upon a Canadian stage.
The building and its facilities are governed by a seven-member board of trustees -- four Americans and three Canadians -- who serve without pay. The library lives up to the "free" part in its name: there are no membership fees, and no loan charges are made for book, tapes, or videos. All art exhibits, discussion groups, and other library programs are also free. However, you must usually pay to attend Opera House performances.