Summertime. Hours of relaxation. Sunning, sailing, swimming. And the ultimate summer indulgence: reading. The only book better than the one by the hearth in a blizzard, is the one in a hammock, on the branch of a tree, a blanket on the beach, or a swing on the veranda. And there’s no greater invitation than Fletcher Memorial’s, where one can select a novel from the shelves and settle on a rocking chair on the porch to sink into the pages with the best view of our village, a warm breeze, an occasional neighborly visit with a patron. Country living at its finest. The plentiful collection and the welcoming porch offer just a few reasons to appreciate Fletcher Memorial this summer, where special programs have multiplied these past few years.
Librarian Deb Andstrom’s experience as a former kindergarten teacher is put to delightful use on this summer morning, as school children join their younger siblings for an hour of early literacy activities. These include interactive stories and songs, finger-play, reciting nursery rhymes, and an obvious favorite — if the enthusiasm of the young musicians is an indication — playing drums, maracas, tambourines and symbols to produce rollicking renditions of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” and “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”.
“It’s a great program,” one parent remarked. “It’s wonderful so close to home, and to see the social interaction of the different age levels of children.”
Reading programs are not limited to pre-schoolers. Fletcher Memorial teamed with Hampton Elementary School to institute a summer reading program, starting with a performance by Sparky’s Puppets of the “Three Little Pigs” and other stories centered on this year’s theme, “Build a Better World”. On the morning of my visit, the titles focused on building relationships, and the activity? Legos, of course! Children followed directions and their own imaginations to build towers and animals, and one child brought in a very impressive helicopter he constructed to share with the children, who were eager to relay their praise of the program.
“The library is a good place to get books and learn new things,” one child enthused; and another little girl added, “Deb reads us good books and lets us do fun stuff!”
Throughout the year there are special events for children of all ages, who celebrate Mother’s Day making cards, Easter with an egg hunt, and Dr. Seuss’ birthday with some of his books and a visit from the Cat in the Hat himself.
Activities to increase children’s literacy are just some of the regular programs the Fletcher Memorial Library has introduced. The Book Club meets monthly, most recently to discuss “A Piece of the World”, a chronicle of the life of Christina Olson, the subject of Andrew Wyeth’s most famous painting, “Christina’s World”, which correlated with author Christina Baker Kline’s visit with Quiet Corner Reads. “I really enjoy the book club, meeting new people, and reading books I never would have taken out of the library,” says Tisha Chaine, “and enjoying them!”
Earlier this year the library became home to the “Hampton Hoot”, where people come to rejoice in the magic of music. Some bring their instruments while others just come with a favorite song in mind. There are also song books available for reference. The idea of a community sing-along has its roots in Appalachia, where folks would get together in living rooms and general stores to pass the evening enjoying community friendship and songs that were passed on generation to generation. The idea of the Hampton Hoot is just that –community fellowship the old fashioned way. The event is open to all, young or old, experienced or novice. “Stop by and just listen. The joy everyone experiences is contagious,” says organizer Jamie Boss, who makes sure everyone gets a chance to participate. “Maybe you too will want to join in the sing-alongs at the Hoot.”
On Wednesday afternoons, the knitting group comes for coffee, tea and company, as well as the needlework projects that occupy approximately a dozen participants. “I love connecting with these women weekly and the fact that it’s at the library is a bonus. People have taken such care to fix up the interior and the grounds and stock it with a wonderful collection. Activities are varied enough to include something for everyone in town,” says former resident Daryl Perch. “I was a frequent library user in the good old days when Eunice Fuller was librarian and she was part of its charm. Yet the library is now a true community center. A proud day was when I took my grandsons to the Easter egg hunt there — it felt like coming full circle to be at the place where my kids learned to love books.”
This spring, Fletcher Memorial hosted “Random Recollections”, recording the memories of some of the town’s oldest residents in a room lined with book shelves and a fireplace and furnished with an old oak table and worn Windsor chairs, a perfect setting to share the stories of the last century. The narrators, Alison Davis, Peggy Fox, Leila Ostby, Pat Donahue, June Pawlikowski, Morris Burr and Louis Chatey, have proved invaluable resources of oral history, their stories now preserved for posterity. The program, an initiative of the Antiquarian and Historical Society, plans to resume this fall. Says Sue Hochstetter, “Random Recollections has been very successful, and the people who participate always remark about the quaint, comfortable and friendly atmosphere at the library.”
Top Shelf Gallery, a display of the work of local artists, was also instituted this spring. Thus far, the paintings of Brian Tracy, Jan Leitch, and Marny Lawton have been exhibited to critical acclaim above Fletcher’s book shelves. Ms. Lawton also demonstrated egg tempera painting – a painstaking process with remarkable results — that she sometimes employs in her still life paintings, which one audience member described as “well worth the effort”. Fletcher Memorial also frequently hosts local authors who share their stories and the process of writing them, most recently children’s author Sandra Horning.
While the paintings of local artists enhance the interior walls, the library’s exterior is beautified with Butterfly Gardens. On this summer morning, butterflies and bumblebees and dragonflies are invited to a circle of catmint, trumpets of lilies, spires of purple liatrus, the fluorescent plates of “Moonshine” yarrow, a cheerful haystack of daisies, and a ring of orange butterfly weed. Designed by landscape architect and library board chairman, Anne Christie, the gardens that opened in June, 2013 and earned distinction from the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2014, have matured into a haven for butterflies and for those who love flowers and reading among them. The garden has also served as a charming amphitheater to host, appropriately, experts on attracting butterflies and other speakers, ranging from firemen who shared safety tips and equipment, to a Native American neighbor who shared stories, traditions, and songs.
Fletcher Memorial Library has also expanded its annual Book and Bake Sale to a Fall Festival which includes several activities and organizations. Last year’s event planned a tag sale, folk and bluegrass music, local vendors, agricultural contests in the tradition of country fairs, and exhibits from Goodwin Forest and the Historical Society, and for children, hay rides, pumpkin painting, and a scarecrow competition. The event was deemed a success, in spite of the dismal weather, and this year hopes to involve many organizations and fairer weather. “We are looking to have a very dynamic Fall Festival this year, with a lot of activities of interest for people of all ages,” says Anne Christie. “It’s a great venue to showcase the positive energy in this town generated by the Library, the Recreation and Agriculture Commissions, the Historical Society, the Fire Department, the Scouts, and some very talented and dedicated individuals who are participating. There will truly be something for everyone, and if you enjoy taking photographs, be sure to enter the photo contest, which is one of the new events this year and a fundraiser for the library. We hope for a great turnout!”
All of these activities, which have increased visits and circulation, are available through the efforts of the library’s Board of Directors, many of whom also serve as volunteers – Anne Christie, Margaret Haraghey, Sue Hochstetter, Luciann Norton, Matt LaFontaine, Lee Astin, Beth Regan, Roger Burten, Erik Sandberg-Diment and Sonja Larsen, librarian Deb Andstrom, and volunteers Janice Trecker, Regina DeCesare, Lesley White, Kate May, Alice Kuzel and Angelika Hansen.
We thank you all.