Jaema Berman, director of the Addison Township Public Library, is inviting everyone to help celebrate the local institution’s 40th anniversary with “fine forgiveness” coupons this month and a big party on Tuesday, April 17. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio.
Turning 40 can be a tough pill for some folks to swallow, but not the Addison Township Public Library.
It’s proud of its age and looking forward to many more years of educating, entertaining and enlightening the community it serves.
It was 40 years ago this month that the local institution officially opened its doors and began lending books to eager readers of all ages.
To Jaema Berman, who’s served as library director since 2011, this anniversary is a sure sign of Addison’s “vitality” and how much it truly “values literacy” and giving people, particularly children, the “freedom to choose” the books they read.
“It’s inspiring that a community feels so strongly about their public library,” she said.
Judy Doublestein agreed.
“I think it’s outstanding. I’m really proud of all of the people who have made this possible,” said Doublestein, who was hired as Addison’s first librarian in December 1977 and continued to oversee the library through the late 1990s.
“To see where it’s at today from where we began, it’s really quite amazing.”
“I think it’s truly a wonderful milestone,” said Michele Presley, who served as director from the late 1990s to 2011. “It’s a tribute to the library that it’s managed to withstand all the trials and tribulations, and still be a valuable resource in that community.”
“There’s a bunch of really good people who support that library, (people) whose motivations are pure,” added Presley, who now lives in Texas. “They’re there for the library. They don’t have anything else that’s driving them. I hope it continues to succeed. I really do . . . . Congratulations to them for making it to 40 and here’s to 40 more.”
To celebrate its anniversary, the library is giving away $10 “fine forgiveness” coupons all month long.
“Our goal here is get people back into the library who might have stopped using it due to (overdue) fines on their account,” Berman explained.
But that’s not all.
The library is planning to hold a big 40th anniversary party on Tuesday, April 17 at 5 p.m.
“We’re having our celebration in April because the weather is so much more agreeable,” Berman said.
There will be cake, punch and music.
“We encourage people to come dressed up in their favorite vintage 70s styles,” Berman said.
It’s been a long road for the library to get to where it is today.
It all started in 1975 with a 200-book donation from the Oxford Public Library and a group of dedicated volunteers determined to see Addison have a library of its own.
“Many thanks went to the Oxford library and to its director, Ren Garypie, who was willing to share their collection,” Doublestein said. “It was two communities working together.”
Over the next few years, preparations were made and the groundwork was laid until finally, the Addison library opened in the back room of the township offices, which, at the time, were located at 3 E. Elmwood St. in Leonard.
“I remember the first day we opened, I was so excited because I think about 19 books were checked out,” said Doublestein, who also served as director of Oxford’s library from 1984 until her retirement in 2007. “Now, I probably took home 10 of the 19, but it was just exciting that we were finally open.”
Back then, the library had more than 700 books, was open 23 hours a week and was staffed by two part-time employees, Doublestein and Diane Wesp, both of whom were paid $3.20 per hour.
Doublestein recalled all the hard work that went into that early library, such as creating an entire card catalog from scratch by typing each and every card. “So many things are done electronically now, but we were doing it all by hand back then,” she said.
Much like “The Little Engine That Could,” the young library kept going and in November 1978, Doublestein was pleased to report to the township board that its collection had swelled to more than 3,000 books.
In the early 1980s, the library found a new home in the kindergarten classroom of the former Lakeville Elementary School, which became the township hall.
There it remained until 2011, when the library board signed a 10-year lease for approximately 3,000 square feet of space inside the Lakeville Towne Square strip mall along Rochester Rd. The grand opening was held in October of that year.
Dedicated volunteers spent countless hours sweating and toiling to transform this former commercial space into a functioning library. They did everything from demolition and clean-up to painting walls and moving books to sealcoating the parking lot.
Today, the library is still thriving and growing in this space.
“About a third of our population here in Addison Township holds (library) cards, which is about 1,900,” Berman said. “We circulated over 36,000 items last year, including e-books and movies.”
Last year’s summer reading program saw 277 children, teens and adults participate. That’s 64 percent more than in 2016. “It was really an amazing increase,” Berman said.
The community continues to be very supportive of its library as Berman reported it received more than $10,000 in donations in 2017.
“Some went to the new building fund and some went to programming,” she said. “It was a great year.”
Presley believes the Addison library is successful because of its “welcoming and inclusive” atmosphere. Patrons never get the feeling they “don’t belong here” and they’re never rushed like at “big city” libraries, she said.
“We would do our very best to help you find whatever it was you needed,” she recalled.
Addison’s library staff has created a “quaint” and “intimate” environment, in Presley’s opinion, because they love their jobs.
“The staff is there because the staff wants to be there. That’s the difference. To them, it’s not a job, it’s a passion,” she explained. “I didn’t have anybody who worked for me who wasn’t passionate about that library and (who) didn’t want to be there. I would assume that Jaema has continued that tradition of hiring people who are dedicated to the library.”
Looking to the future, Doublestein believes Addison’s library, and libraries in general, “will never go away” because they’re “essential.”
“The library is really the center of the community. It’s the place to meet and gather and learn – people feel welcome (there),” she said. “We touch so many areas in the community. We back up the schools . . . Libraries are important to people. They’re really a necessity.”
She believes there will always be folks who love the feel and smell of paper books.
“I don’t think that will ever die with some people,” Presley said. “Even Captain Picard had his books on the starship Enterprise.”
Libraries are also necessary, in her mind, because they help folks separate fact from fiction when researching topics.
“I think you need to have a clearinghouse, a place (that) a person can go (to) where they know they can get factual information,” she said. “There are tons of things on the internet, but you don’t know if (it) is a reliable source or not.”
Presley also believes libraries are needed because they provide a place for residents to socialize, especially in a rural township like Addison where there’s a lot of space between neighbors.
“Sometimes it’s the only place a person may go all day where they get to talk to somebody else because they live (alone),” she said.
To ensure it remains relevant to the community and continues to meet residents’ needs, Berman is inviting folks to participate in a patron satisfaction survey being conducted now through March 31.
“We are asking our patrons for their opinion on how we’re doing,” she said. “It’s important to know what people really want from us and for us to know how best to serve everyone.”
Copies of the survey can be obtained at the library (1400 Rochester Rd.), or on-line at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Q5Y7PSG.