While reading was an important and central part of my experiences at, and love for, the library, I do not think I would have been such a frequent visitor were it not for the excellent librarians. I was always greeted with warmth and care and developed a close bond with two of the children’s librarians, Cathy and Ann. They were always there to recommend books, share stories, and talk with me as long as I wanted about any subject. Looking back at the many hours I spent standing at their desk made me realize that they both have a very special ability. While I always thought that my sister and I were the two special kids they loved, I realize now that they made many other children feel the same way. Cathy and Ann somehow make every person—child or adult—they talk to feel special and cared for. Perhaps it is the way they talk to every kid or teen as an equal, or the way they are never dismissive or curt, or perhaps it is a quality that cannot be put to words, but is always felt.
I also participated in the monthly book club that Cathy held, and still holds. My experience in that club further shaped my relationship with books. It helped me read books at a deeper level, and connected me with other kids my age that shared my love for books. Cathy would treat us to a snack, and we would sit in a circle in her office and share our thoughts and feelings about that month’s book. She would have prepared questions, but we often went off on tangents and discussed things we liked and didn’t like. We would sometimes get to meet the author and discuss with he or she why they wrote the book, how they chose their characters, and their writing process. These conversations helped me read more actively, and I would look for things that confused me, or that I found particularly interesting, as I read.
Upon entering high school, I found much less time to read for pleasure. Every year, more and more books were required, and by my junior year I was only reading a few non-assigned books a year. The magic was, when I would come back to the library after a long period of absence, it was like I never left. Cathy and Ann were still there, and somehow still remembered my interests and after school activities. The Somerville Public Library and its librarians have helped make me who I am today, and I cannot even begin to express how thrilled I am to be working here this summer.
I have been coming to the Central Branch library in Somerville for as long as I can remember. I have had the luck to live quite close to the library my whole life, so my family often went on after-dinner trips to pick out bedtime stories and play in the neighboring park. As a small child, picking out picture books to read rivaled the thrill of Christmas. With each cover bolder and more colorful than the next, I would simply have to get every book I saw, and my parents often had to assure me that we would indeed be able to come back, so I could wait to take out more books until I finished the ten already in our bag. To this day I can remember some of my favorites—The Last Dragon by Susan Miho Nunes, A Million Fish…More or Less by Patricia McKissack, Amos & Boris by William Steig, and Weaving of a Dream by Marilee Heyer.
I learned how to read using picture books, and as I became more proficient, I moved on to chapter books. My parents had been reading chapter books to me for a while, but being able to read them myself gave me an even stronger love for reading and sense of empowerment. Suddenly there were many more shelves of books for me to devour, and I filled my canvas book bags to their breaking point on a regular basis. Outside of school, reading was my primary activity, and occupied most of my free time. Authors I particularly enjoyed were Louisa May Alcott, Lemony Snicket, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.
Users of the West Branch know that the children’s room has been closed for a face lift in recent weeks. However, the end is in sight! Pipes and walls have been repaired, walls have been painted, and the lower level of the room has been re-carpeted. Movers are scheduled to put the furniture and books back in place next week.
Although the children’s space will continue to be a work in progress — with some new furniture and a few other updates coming later — it should be open for business soon. Here’s a sneak peek at the spruced-up children’s room. (You’ll never see it so empty again!)
Summer is right around the corner! Whether fireside, beachside, poolside, or cityside, kids will have some idle time to cozy up with a good book. Please join us for a discussion about good books to share with your kids this summer. Tammy McKanan, Somerville resident and homeschooling parent; Ann Downer, Somerville resident, author of Hatching Magic and Elephant Talk: the Surprising Science of Elephant Communication; Cindy Ritter, reviewer from The Horn Book; Ellen Jacobs, SPL librarian and parent; and Cathy Piantigini, SPL librarian and supervisor of service to children, will offer recommendations ranging from hard to track down but worth it, to tried and true classics and new releases. Resources where you can find other recommendations, and approaches to discovering books with your children will be discussed. Feel free to add your own suggestions to the mix! The focus will be on reading material recommended for kids ages of 8 to 12. Light refreshments will be provided, as well as some free goodies from Candlewick Press.
As usual, there’s a lot going on at the Library and all over the City this weekend!
* Saturday at the Central Library from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., we invite you to join us for the Somerville Reads Potluck Celebration featuring great food, prizes, and music by the Michael J. Epstein Library. This is part of the Mayor’s Urban Agriculture Initiative – you can read about related events happening around the City here.
* Sunday at the Walnut Street Community Garden at 1:00 p.m., Cathy Piantigini and Jim Boyd host an all-ages discussion of Paul Fleischman’s Seedfolks. Full information can be found here.
* Also on Sunday, at the Central Library at 2:00 p.m., Paul and Rachel Revere will ride again, in a performance by Lee Riethmiller and Jessa Piaia. More information on this program can be found here.
Will the weather cooperate? We don’t know, but either way, it’s SPRING!!! and that in itself is something to be glad about. Here’s a spring song to get you in the mood:
For the month of March, the Children’s Room at the Central Library is highlighting books on urban nature and family winter activities. The Library also has an “Our Garden Nature Guide-Nuestra guía de la naturaleza del jardín” nature kit, which you can borrow free of charge any time of the year. The kit includes the “Our Garden Nature Guide” (with art by local children), hand lenses, bug boxes and a notebook to record your urban nature discoveries. The kit was donated to the Library with support from the Somerville Arts Council, a local agency supported by the Mass Cultural Council, and the Somerville Community Growing Center’s Children in Nature Initiative.
On February 16, a diverse group of folks from the Somerville community gathered to hear about the library’s dreams and plans for an improved children’s room at the West Branch. It was also an opportunity for those present to express their hopes and visions for the library.
We’d like to hear from you, too! What are your fondest imaginings for the best of all possible children’s libraries? What kind of space would you create? Share your ideas here, or email us at email@example.com.
We have also begun forming fund-raising and communications committees to help forward the children’s room project (and more?). They will meet on April 5, 6:00-7:00 pm at the West Branch. If you’re interested in volunteering — or would just like to join the conversation — please join us then!