July 15, 2010

Summer Squeeze: Big Demand for Tiny Taylor Library

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Rainy days and Wednesdays always make for a full house at the Taylor Library when its thriving summer reading program shifts indoors, due to dampness.
Yesterday was no exception, as the morning story hour was standing room only, and the afternoon crowd was nearly as sizable..
“We had 41 bodies in here this morning,” says library director Linda Merrill. “Our programs are getting bigger all the time.
The afternoon session includes 16 kids, half as many parents and a full staff of volunteers and librarians, making for some fancy footwork around the congested meeting area. A pair of striped green tablecloths spread on the floor become an indoor picnic table, where kids gather first to hear some sand-themed stories before crafting colorful sand art in empty baby food jars.
Librarians do a sort of two-step ballet across the work space, assisting with glue and sand refills, while volunteers later make the rounds with apple juice and bagged chips.
Merrill asks her assistant, Fran Mears, if anyone knows if the Garcia kids are still coming. Knowing her patrons by name is part of the charm of the quaint operation. It is lovingly referred to as “the little library.” It's space constraints have not diminished its appeal.
A few minutes later three Garcias arrive and squeeze into formation around the work space. They are fashionably late due to a serious lack of parking – there's a funeral going on at the town cemetery, notes Merrill, and mourners often come looking for spaces behind the library when the limited cemetery lot is full.
“Each year we were putting money aside toward expansion, but that stopped two years ago, when the budget got tight,” says Merrill. “Lack of space is a problem – a big problem,” she says, as several children scoot around her feet to get to the apple juice.
Over the years there's also been talk about consolidation with the Derry Public Library, an option that library staff and trustees generally don't support.
Neither does Councilor David Milz, who serves as liaison to the Taylor Library.
“Our libraries pose a strange situation. Both were gifts to the town, so they have different boards of trustees. I guess each library prefers its own system of cataloging, but at the same time, you can see some wisdom in getting them both on the same page – sort of like when they decided we didn't need two fire departments. There was a lot of replication of services going on,” Milz says.
He is a staunch supporter of the Taylor Library, and would like to see some creative solutions to the space issue.
“We have the Upper Village Hall directly across the street. I personally would suggest moving some – or all – of the library materials over to the hall's basement, which would leave the library as an administrative office and a much bigger meeting space,” Milz says.
The notion of designating Taylor Library as the town's children's library has also been floated, but Merrill says that's not a solution.
“We have adults who come for books regularly, and of course parents who bring their kids in for programs would like to be able to find books here as well,” says Merrill. “They are interested in one-stop shopping. They don't want to have to go across town just to find a book to read after bringing kids here for story hour.”
Kim Iacuzio is a regular. She's watching as her daughter, Gabriella, fills a jar with tri-colored sand. Normally she has a small tribe of kids with her for library programs, depending on the day.
“I would rather have the chaos of a crowded library. This is where we want to come,” says Iacuzio. “I just prefer it; it feels more like you're going to grandma's house for a story and a snack.”
At the corner of the work space, Nick Lampro and Ryan Merrill discuss some 8-year-old boy stuff over sand, glue and potato chips.
Ryan, Merrill's grandson, is asked by Nick how long he's been coming to the library. He defers to his sister, Kate, who shrugs. “I don't know. Probably 8 years.”
“Eight years,” Ryan tells Nick, who laughs out loud.
“Eight years? That's your whole life,” he says, putting the finishing pebble touches on top of his gluey sand jar.
“I've been coming a long time, too. I love it here,” says Nick, holding his jar aloft to admire the pattern he created with the sand. “It's a lot of fun. But I especially love the stories. Oh, and the barbecued potato chips. They're the best.”

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