If you’re at the Wilton Free Public Library on Friday mornings around 10 a.m., chances are you’ll be caught in a stampede of local children running eagerly to the library’s weekly story time. They’re anywhere from toddlers to grade-schoolers, and they’re voicing their excitement about what book the library’s children librarian, Cassie Savage, picked out for the week. But unlike what the library stereotype would suggest, no one will be telling them to keep their voices down here.

“That’s what it means to be a family library. We don’t mind children running around. We don’t go ‘shh,'” library director David Olson said.”We’re pretty laid back here, and that’s probably the secret to our success.”

The sentiment of bringing fun and learning together will be at the heart of the Wilton Free Public Library’s celebration of its 100th anniversary Saturday. The event is open to the public and will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the library’s downtown Wilton location.

The celebration highlights the learning environment that the library has fostered over the last century, Olson said. With activities including historical displays, musical performances, cider pressing, a wool-making demonstration, and arts and crafts, Olson thinks the celebration will capture the importance of the library’s place in the community, which he believes goes far beyond just the bounds of books.

“It’s all about learning. That’s what we do,” Olson said.

The library is funded primarily by the town, with supplemental funding coming from library fundraising events, allowing for free public access to its resources and programs for residents of Wilton, East Wilton, East Dixfield and Dryden.

Since 1915 the library has been in the center of downtown Wilton, separated from the main business district by a brook that flows around its granite building. With a bridge that leads librarygoers over the rushing water and up to the front steps, a large stained-glass skylight that greets visitors with natural light when they enter the lobby, and two reading rooms flanking either side of the building adorned in hand-crafted oak woodwork, the building has a grandeur that ties in with Olson’s vision of the library as a place to serve a public mission.

The library prides itself on offering more to the public than just its 25,000 books, Olson said. The library serves as an information center in Wilton, allowing access to free Internet, e-books and educational opportunities. “It’s fun. We’re not afraid to try new things,” Olson said.

Many of the “new things” that Olson mentioned are learning programs hosted by the library for participation by community members ranging in age from children to senior citizens.

The library offers childhood education outreach programs, in which Savage goes to schools and day care centers to host reading groups rather than having the classes come to the library. At the library, a twice-monthly Lego group meets for children ages 5 through 8, during which, Olson said, the children learn critical development skills.

“They’re learning from each other. They’re learning about sharing. They’re learning how to build things. At the end of the group, they show what they’ve made and they talk about it. … These are kids who, not all of them are comfortable standing up in front of their peers and talking about things, and they’re learning to do that here,” Olson said.

But the learning opportunities aren’t just for the children. Olson said the library hosts educational programs for adults, in which the library staff and community members lead sessions on a range of topics. Olson said the next of these sessions will be about health care — specifically, how Medicaid and supplementary health care work.

For homebound senior citizens, librarian Lynne Hunter heads a delivery program in which she brings requested books to homes of the elderly, often sitting and discussing books when she makes the delivery.

“The take-away from all of this is that small libraries aren’t dead. We’re vital parts of the community, doing things that other organizations can’t or don’t,” Olson said.

The Wilton Free Public library is one of 200 libraries nationwide that are certified as a Family Place Library. Those libraries, 10 of which are in Maine, are “devoted to promoting healthy and well-informed young families” by providing access to educational programs and technology, Olson said.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate


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