Photo courtesy of Winterport Library Sasha and Riley Baron reading their new Summer Reading Program books on the steps of Winterport Memorial Library.

By Anne Gabbianelli

It may be more quiet than usual inside the Winterport Memorial Library but not outside at the curb. Library Director Susan Atwood and her colleague Susan Witt were just a month into their jobs at the library when the coronavirus hit. “It was so sad to have to close our doors and not be able to serve the community just as we were getting to know our patrons and right at a time when they needed the services of the library the most,” shares Atwood. But the pandemic did not stop these librarians, “We were very happy to start the curbside service to get books back into their hands again.”

The idea morphed out of weekly Maine State Library Zoom meetings. “When we began the curbside service, library patrons were excited to be able to get books again. It’s been wonderful to put books in their hands and say hello from a distance. Those little connections mean so much. Those smiles when they get their books (which you can see even from behind a face mask) say it all,” claims Atwood.

Patrons learned of the curbside service through updates with postings on the website, Facebook, and local newsletter.  In addition Atwood says, “We also sent notices through email to all our patrons and have posted signs on the front lawn of the library.”

Despite the limited service the library still offers, Susan Witt came up with an idea to supplement the annual summer book sale with a Mystery Bag book sale. “Anyone can email us at winterportmemoriallibrary@gmail.com or call us at 207-223-5540 and let us know if they prefer a particular author or genre like mysteries, historical fiction, etc. and we will put together a bag of 4 books and/or DVDs that we think they might like for $2. Everyone has loved it,” according to Atwood.

National parenting writer and stay-at-home mom, Sarah Cottrell says, “I love them! Right now my kids are learning to knit and bead with one of the crafting theme bags. I love that my sons are learning a traditionally female craft plus they’re learning how to love sitting quietly while doing something meditative, which is a great way for their brains to relax.” 

For Jen Baron, the Mystery Bags have kept her children engaged. “Both of my girls love to email in requests like “a book on whales” or “some sort of mystery” – they love to see what fun books the librarians come up with!”

The library is a special place for Cottrell and Baron, kids aside. Baron found a new friend in the library when she moved to town. “I’ll be honest — the town library we moved from was much larger and I was nervous this library wouldn’t have a lot to offer. I quickly realized that was wrong!” She goes on, “I’ve been impressed since day one on how current the library is kept given the limited space and how helpful and friendly the library staff are. Plus they’ll hunt down (pretty quickly) anything specific we request that they don’t have. During that first visit while the librarian was entering in the info to get us our library cards we got chatting and she invited me to join the book club.”

For author Cottrell, the little stone library built in 1921 has proven to be a valuable resource for fostering her literary imagination. “My first novel is about an elderly lady who turns out to be a serial killer so I had a lot of fun working with the WML to find other books in that same genre. We traded so many fun stories and that helped to make my writing experience feel supported and important.”

It’s uncertain when the doors can open again to patrons but Atwood says, “One day in the near future we will again be a place to gather, leisurely browse the book shelves and find that perfect book, come to programs and learn new things and have new experiences, gather for a book group, come to a children’s story time, use the computers, as well as engage in discussions about books and authors with friends and the librarians. All for free!” But for now, Atwood reminds us, “Let a book take you away and bring you comfort, security, adventure, and maybe laughter. We all need books more than ever.”For more information about the library and the curbside service, call 207-223-5540 or check out the library’s website www.winterportlibrary.org. A librarian is available Tuesday and Thursday from 2-7 p.m. and Wednesday and Friday 9 a.m.-4 p.m.