CLINTON — Clutching an armful of books Ann Pfisterer left the Henry Carter Hull Library excited to start reading what she picked out.
“I’m thrilled,” the Madison resident said. “I’m very happy. If you’re a reader you get very lonely for the books.”
Pfisterer was one of many book lovers that flocked to the library on opening day, Tuesday, Feb. 16.
After being closed on March 13, last year due to COVID-19, the library welcomed patrons into the building in July, only to be closed again in November.
Now the library is open, again, but with specific guidelines.
These include wearing masks and social distancing, sanitizing hands upon entry and limiting visits to one hour in the common areas and 30 minutes in the children’s room. All returns must be made at the outdoor book drops.
Wendy Stone, library assistant, encourages people to come and see what the library has to offer.
“It’s a crazy winter and we’ve had some bad weather,” she says, standing behind a plexiglass shield at the checkout desk.
“It’s good to have some books or a movie to curl up with and say ‘hi’ to us and let us help you,” she adds.
John Schtatz, visiting from Killingworth, was searching for a specific book on making birdhouses, but he found himself drawn to the DVDs.
“You might be looking for something and you see something that’s not at all related, but it gets your interest and you take it,” he says, holding the “Ava” DVD.
The early morning crowd included the littlest patrons — tots, just waiting for the doors to be opened at 10 a.m.
“You should have seen these small children this morning,” says Maribeth Breen, library director.
“They came, stopped, put their hand sanitizer on and ran right into the children’s room,” she adds.
Coralie Williams, head of children’s services, was enthusiastic while talking about the morning visitors.
“It was like Halloween,” she says. “I was so excited, I was like, ‘Yeah, they’re here.”
With some shoreline schools closed for the President’s Weekend holiday, it was a day for many children to enjoy the library.
“We had a nice rush of families coming in that I haven’t seen in a long time, so it was really nice” says Williams.
“I had a group of families that used to come to my Baby and Me class and I haven’t had it in person for so long and they came in now and they’re toddlers,” she says, laughing. “They’re all walking now, so it was very fun to see them. I missed them.”
Williams says the children left with lots of new titles to enjoy.
“People had piles of books that I couldn’t fit through my slot here,” she says, pointing to the small opening at the bottom on the plexiglass shield between her and the patrons.
She was busy during the closure stocking the shelves with new titles that patrons eagerly signed out.
“Everybody likes to pick out their own books,” Williams adds. “I got so many new books it was nice for people to get excited to see them all and grab them.”
In addition to books, DVDs, magazines and newspapers, the library also has computers available for use.
“There are, believe it or not, a lot of folks that don’t have access to computers,” says Breen. “Especially nowadays, if you’re looking for vaccine options, you pretty much need a computer and maybe you need some help with it, too. So, we’re happy to offer that.”
Both Williams and Breen talked about the library as a community meeting place. A practice they are hoping returns when restrictions can be lifted.
“In the past, and hopefully the future, this is where people meet their friends,” says Williams. “We have all different in-person programs. “It’s usually packed in here.”
Breen talks about some of the programs that made the library so popular, prior to the pandemic.
“We had a really loyal group of seniors who would come for our afternoon movies,” she says. “We had a Scrabble club here, we had three different book clubs that were going on. So, we continue to have the regular model of book lending and research, but also this other piece which was kind of fun.
“It was lively,” she adds. “We were a lively library, with a lot going on, a lot of things happening.”
But for now, the meeting rooms are closed and in the children’s department there are some areas off limits, like the newly updated play area. The tween space, complete with art supplies and crafts, has been dismantled and the board games and toys are all boxed up.
The library is continuing to offer many virtual programs. These include TED Talks, story time, book chats, discussion groups, yoga, practice SAT exam and curbside pickup.
Henry Suggests is a program that matches readers up with the books that fit their reading preferences.
This program continues and can be accessed by visiting hchlibrary.org. The books are chosen by the library staff and available for curbside pickup.
Pfisterer said she did take advantage of the pickup service, but she really prefers being able to browse the shelves.
“You can order books, just like all the other libraries, but it’s more fun to come and look at them,” she said.
Stone is very excited to be seeing people, in person, once again.
“I feel like a lot of people aren’t getting the same social contact that they normally would,” she says.
“So, it’s nice to have people come in, talk to me, I can talk to them,” she adds, “just to bring a little normalcy back to everybody’s lives.”
Henry Carter Hull Library, 10 Killingworth Turnpike, Clinton, 860-669-2342; hchlibrary.org; Facebook Henry Carter Hull Library; Twitter @hchlibrary and Instagram hch_library.
Contact Sarah Page Kyrcz at firstname.lastname@example.org