Barbara W. Shaw, 98

Barbara Shaw

Barbara Shaw

Barbara Ward Shaw, 98, of New Hampton, N.H., died peacefully at home on Saturday, July 30, 2016.

Barbara Ward was born in North Sebago, on Dec. 10, 1917 to Bertha and Clarence Ward. As a child, Barbara was known for her intelligence, strength and spirited sense of humor. She recalled the small rural community with nostalgia and gratitude; the warm memories of good times she shared with family were tempered by the hard-won wisdom gleaned from inevitable difficulties of farm life. Barbara was a beauty and a catch, and after graduating at the top of her high school class, local boy Erwin Shaw caught her. They were married in 1936, and in 1945, Barbara gave birth to their son, Ward.

The Shaws settled in New Hampton in 1953. Erwin joined the kitchen staff at the New Hampton School and Barbara found employment at the Gordon Nash Library where she was eventually named library director. She served as president of the New Hampshire Library Council, overseeing the nascent group’s first annual conference in 1970.

Recently, Barbara described two great challenges she faced during her decades at the library: To maintain a broad and varied collection of material, and to encourage readers to explore unexpected titles. The first challenge required diligence, the second, persistence. She wasn’t always successful. “The books are good,” she said. “Well-chosen. But still someone will come along and say, ‘I’m not reading that. That’s not for me.’ And you just have to shrug your shoulders and say, ‘Well, I guess it’s for somebody else then.’”

Barbara likened library work to matchmaking, believing that success comes from getting the right book in front of the right reader. Her favorite patrons were children. Generations of New Hampton kids, and students at the New Hampton School, were touched by her patience, generosity and reliable counsel.

The Shaws were ardent travelers. They journeyed extensively, from California to Hawaii to the United Kingdom, but they were particularly passionate about exploring the hidden corners of New England and eastern Canada. The next fork or hillcrest promised adventure and they were eager to see what — or who — they’d find beyond it. People they met along the way became close friends. Barbara was also an accomplished visual artist who created hundreds of paintings; nature was her greatest inspiration.

Erwin died in 1996.

Barbara is survived by her son, Ward; three grandsons and three great-grandchildren

Memorial donations may be made in Barbara Shaw’s name to the Children’s Literacy Foundation ( or the World Wildlife Fund.

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