At CLSC Veranda, two Snyders share workload

Katie McLean | Staff Photographer
Peg Snyder, manager of the CLSC Veranda, has been selling books and managing CLSC membership for 14 years.

Two women sneak out before the Q-and-A session of each Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle author presentation. Lugging boxes of books, plenty of pencils and a cash box to the porch of Alumni Hall, they get ready for the book signing that follows each presentation. No matter how long the line, they are always the last to leave.

Peg Snyder has been the manager of the CLSC Veranda for 14 years; Emily Snyder has worked at the veranda for four years. Were it not for the last name printed on their nametags, it would be difficult to tell that the Snyders were grandmother and granddaughter.

“I don’t think that there’s anything different about it being a grandmother or granddaughter relationship,” Emily said. “It’s natural. It was never awkward.”

“I don’t think it’s a grandmother-granddaughter thing,” Peg added. “It’s like two adults working in a store who get along great.”

Peg first visited Chautauqua Institution in 1985 with her husband. The Snyders live together in a house on the grounds — Peg lives in the ground-floor apartment, and Emily lives with her family on the second floor. Emily currently studies history at Pennsylvania State University.

The staff at the veranda has been a constant and close-knit group for the past four years: the Snyder women, Phil Safford and Mary Pat McFarland.

The veranda is one of the CLSC hubs on the grounds. The staff oversees all CLSC memberships, tracking what each member has been reading and when he or she will graduate. In the veranda, they sell the season’s CLSC selections, the Chautauqua literary journal and the Chautauqua Prize-winning book.

The staff is also charged with introducing and explaining the CLSC to people who have never stepped foot on the grounds before.

“They come in here out of curiosity,” Peg said, “and they ask, ‘What is this place?’ And they think it’s a fun idea, and they’ll join.”

CLSC graduation may be the most demanding time of the season for the veranda’s staff, as they are the ones handling most of the event’s logistics. The Class of 2013 had 178 graduating members, which meant 178 diplomas needed to be arranged for the graduation ceremony.

Chautauqua Institution President Thomas M. Becker, vice president Sherra Babcock and Dick Karslake, president of the CLSC Alumni Association, have to sign each diploma. Karslake seals each one with a corporate seal, and every diploma has to be rolled, rubber-banded and tied with a ribbon.

Although it is perhaps the most exciting time of the CLSC year, Peg said she is usually glad when graduation is over.

“It’s a lot of work leading up to it,” she said.

When Peg first began working at the veranda 14 years ago, its physical home needed a lot of work. The old store would be unrecognizable for anyone familiar with its current arrangement; perhaps the only things that remains since its remodeling in 2007 are the carpet and the main counter.

“The shelves were all these metal rods with board planks running everywhere,” Peg said. “We had pieces of paper hanging; the book displays were in the corner and behind the door, which didn’t help much for people to look at the books.”

A new budget gave the veranda new, handcrafted shelves. There was also new porch furniture to replace the old wicker chairs that were starting to “look like hair,” Peg said. She rearranged the store’s interior and hung a plant in the window. The veranda’s latest addition — a Zimbabwean flag — was one of two given to Chautauqua from women graduating from the CLSC in Zimbabwe. The other hangs in Alumni Hall.

“It was so much fun setting this up to be pretty,” Peg said. “I was extremely happy. I really love this little place.”

A more functional change has been the switch from paper to computer. Although everything is now computerized, from CLSC memberships to book purchases, there was a time when all of this was done by hand on paper.

“I do not regret not being here at that time,” Emily said.

Emily is a sixth-generation Chautauquan who started volunteering at the CLSC Veranda at the end of her summers attending Boys’ and Girls’ Club. She got her first summer job at Chautauqua in 2010 — she set up and took down the chairs at Alumni Hall for the various events held there.

“I called myself the ‘official chairwoman’ of Alumni Hall,” she said. “I kept thinking, ‘I am not one for manual labor — what’s happening?’ ”

The next summer, she began working at the veranda. The significant decrease in manual labor aside, Emily believes the job is an ideal fit. She recalls being a member of a Battle of the Books team in elementary school, competitively reading books and answering questions about them with a team.

“I’ve been a reader forever,” she said.

“If you love books, and love to read,” Peg said, “this has got to be the perfect job.”