When I was in elementary school, I grew up in a tiny town, a little over 800 people. The community library was right next to the elementary school. The library hosted pizza party book clubs, author events, and a public community space. The school had a partnership with the community library, kids would have class there and the school would buy children’s books. It was one of my first experiences with computers, the large bulky Apple iMacs that moved slower than molasses, were such a monumental experience for me. Hiding in the shelves, my eyes taking in every word I could at my tiny little library. When we moved to a slightly larger town (now 3000 people), the Jeudevine Library became a safe haven. During the summers in middle school I would spend hours at the Jeudevine, picking books upon books to take home. The library during Halloween was my favorite, hosting a ‘haunted library’ scavenger hunt with the librarians dressing up as famous literature characters, (this year, they were Alice in Wonderland characters!) While I can’t spend hours at the library like I used to, I see that spark of reading and curiosity in younger kids in my town. Even if they’re not reading, the boys in my town get together once the library is open to all play computer games together. Diane, the children’s librarian, gives them snacks. The regular visitors bring the 8 or more books from the past week, and check out another dozen books. The people who stop in once in a while, and those I can always count on seeing. I wouldn’t have met this community had I not been given the opportunity of being a teen intern at the Jeudevine Library.
I started volunteering my time at the library in January 2019. I taught a drop-in beginners knitting class for children after school. We would get regular kids coming back regularly and knitting. Community members donated piles of yarn and needles for children to use. As the summer started, the number of kids dropped, but one woman kept coming in and talking and knitting with me. She lived in Wolcott, a nearby town. She loved the Jeudevine Library and would keep coming back with her husband. She taught me about the ‘Shawl in a ball’ knitting pattern, knitting a shawl with one ball of yarn. She showed me jewelry she made, her pottery classes and her experiences going to college. (I’m a rising senior, she gave me some very good advice!) Having the hour each week to talk to library patrons and knit, allowing myself space to relax and recharge by doing something I love.
Before school was over, Diane told me about a grant she received. The grant was to hire a local teenager to help with events and marketing. She offered the grant to me if I wanted it, and of course I did. I hadn’t spent this much time in the Jeudevine because of high school, and the knitting class showed me the gem I had forgotten about. I immediately said yes, we worked out the details and my hours. I was so excited to continue the work I had started.
This year’s library theme was ‘A Universe of Stories’, all centered around space. Diane set up events around space, and I helped in any way I could. I helped manage Ed Pop Magic Show, Wall-E Movie Night, Story Walk on the Hardwick Trails, Story Time with Headstart, writing workshops, and puppet shows and a stargazing party hosted with a NASA volunteer. We’d also host Jeudevine Library story times at the Hardwick Farmers’ Market, reading books or hosting arts and crafts at the weekly markets. I would put up posters, post stuff online, and spread the word around to get more people involved and excited about the libraries’ events as I was. One of my favorite events to help was the Story Walk at the Hardwick Trails. I helped cut up ‘The Darkest Dark’ by Chris Hadfield, and tape them to stakes on the Hardwick Trails behind my high school. The mosquitoes on the Wednesday morning were fierce, and Diane and I had to tape 35 pages to the stakes quickly but thoroughly while getting massacred by bugs. We were giggling the entire time, running from post to post trying to not get bitten. We had bug spray on, but those bugs were relentless. Right before the story walk was supposed to start, only one family was there. These two little boys playing on the large rocks. They were so excited to be outside in the sun, climbing like little monkeys, impatient to start the walk.
Diane and I spent so much time making this a fun event. I had read the book to prepare, and knew to read quickly to move the group along, but not slow enough that it dragged. More than 30 adults and children showed up to the story walk, some students from the Hazen Summer School program came just to have some fun outside. We started the book, children running to the next post to look at the pictures. They were so excited to listen to this story, that no one noticed the bugs. After half an hour and one book later, we were at the end of the trail. A family visiting their grandparents from out of state had come on the storywalk. The grandfather complimented Diane and I, saying how much he enjoyed the event and that he was glad he could have a nice morning with his grandchildren. It absolutely made my day, even as Diane and I had to go back through the trail to pick up all the stakes.
I live right next to the field where the farmers’ markets are hosted. Growing up, I would spend the hot Friday afternoons eating yummy food with my parents as they bought groceries. My favorite thing was getting my face painted. A local bakery sells these over-sized cinnamon buns that my grandmother would always buy for us, and I remember getting a cinnamon bun painted on my cheek. When Diane mentioned that she was buying face paint for the farmers’ markets I was so excited! She bought some paints online, it came with a little booklet and face glitter. Listen, I’m not an artist and don’t claim to be. I do enjoy painting but I wouldn’t call myself an artist. I did a genuine job painting, and all of the kids had a great time.
One day Diane asked me to find some “space” arts and crafts to bring to the farmers’ market. Something with materials we already had, and would be simple for me to make. I found the perfect craft: little aliens using pompoms, plastic cups and bowls, and googly eyes! These little aliens were so fun and easy to make, I immediately made one to test out the process. The little alien floated around the library as a little friend! I even made him a book to read on his flight. I underestimated the amount of kids who wanted an alien buddy, and ended up running out of supplies right at the end to the farmers’ market. Every kid had an alien by the end of the night, and we used yarn we had been given for the knitting class.
This internship opened my eyes to both the magic I already knew, and some that I had yet to discover. I connected to more adults and kids in my community. I worked the front desk, shelved books, taught knitting, made aliens, put up posters, and sold raffle tickets all for my town’s little library. This building and the people it serves are more important to me now than ever before, learning more about myself and its culture than I ever thought I could. I grew as a person and community member as the summer went on.
The library is hosting a puppet show as I write this with a local comedy couple, two people I work for on their other projects. Knowing them, knowing other talented patrons and supporters, knowing friends and visitors to the library is comforting, a family that comes together for more than just books. The town I live in is a family, a quirky odd family. Without the library, there’s not much to do in Hardwick for children and families, adults and visitors. There are few places to go that will print things for you, free wifi and computer services. This internship taught me how to give back. For all the library does, there’s 20 people giving right back, either checking out books or coming to events, making donations or volunteering. Hardwick is full of giving, loving, exciting, creative, genuine people. I wouldn’t have known that without the Jeudevine Library.
Diane Grenkow is the Children’s Librarian at Jeudevine Memorial Library.