Message from the Director

February 2020 Director’s Message

image shows woman sitting at desk.

ELA Director Deb Smith

From The Director — Deborah Smith

One of my favorite courses in library school was a semester-long survey of the history of libraries. It was an elective that spanned the globe and continues to be a vital foundation of my training as a librarian.

During that class I was privileged to learn how librarianship has evolved over time. From storing scrolls in walls or adapting a deck of cards for use as a card catalog, libraries have been vital in maintaining access to information in many different forms. Practices that might seem strange now were often developed out of a generous motivation to make knowledge accessible to all. One example is the ‘chained book’ found in the medieval libraries of European monasteries. By moving hand-copied and illustrated books out of locked cabinets and securing them to desks instead, monks could begin to actually use books more regularly. This was essential – it meant more people could read the works and were no longer dependent on oral transmission of knowledge. Newer copies could also be made of rare older works; handwritten volumes would thus be copied and recopied over the centuries, until the printing press again revolutionized access to the written word.

Here at the library we are interested in documenting your stories about the libraries of yesteryear. On Saturday, February 1st we will celebrate our annual statewide “Take Your Child to the Library Day”. The library will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and we’ll have a special giveaway of free children’s books. At 11:00 a.m., young children accompanied by a caregiver are invited to enjoy The Mr. Gym Show in our Program Room. We’ll also have an ‘old tech’ interactive exhibit table where kids and grown-ups can explore together some of the tools and techniques librarians relied on not so very long ago (my personal favorites are the typewriter and wooden card catalog drawers). Visitors of all ages are also invited to “Bring Your Memories to the Library.” We invite you to record or write down memories of visiting the library as a child (whether in Essex or elsewhere!). We will have two study rooms set aside with recording and writing equipment, plus a set of questions to get you started. You are also welcome to send your stories to us at any time. Our goal is to add your stories to our developing digital library archive, where they can be accessed by the community for all to enjoy.

Later this month I hope you’ll also visit a new display in the Program Room that highlights Essex Library through photos and documents from decades past. I want to extend a big thank you to the Essex Historical Society for sharing photos of the library from their collections. And if history is not your thing, never fear. We have many other programs and activities throughout the month of February to keep you coming back. As always, you’ll find the list of what’s coming up on our Adults Featured Events and Children’s Featured Events pages.

Libraries are welcoming to all! It’s a simple concept, but an essential one that has stood for centuries. Come and enjoy the library this month – and every month.

See you soon,

Deb