By Patrick J. Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Beth Bessemer reads a children's book to Carly Birch, 5, and Olivia Bessemer, 4, at Lane Memorial Library. The children's room reopened Friday after renovations to repair water damage from burst pipes earlier this year. [Staff photo by Jay Reiter]
HAMPTON - Jen Gasper and her two young children, Josh and Anna, couldn’t wait for the children’s room at Lane Memorial Library to reopen.
For the past two months, the family members have had to do without their favorite part of the library, which was closed this past winter after a heating pipe burst and water flooded parts of the room. No books could be checked out, and no story times could be held.
"I’m very happy," said Gasper. "It’s been a while since we’ve been here. I used to bring my kids here every week to take out books. I can’t wait until they get all their books back."
Gasper was one of many who came out in force last Friday afternoon to celebrate the grand reopening of the children’s room.
More than 600 books were destroyed in January’s flooding, which also caused substantial damage to the carpeting, furniture and stacks.
Children’s librarian Cindy Stosse said the room couldn’t have been reopened as soon as it was without the support of staff, volunteers and the community as a whole.
"Everyone pitched in," said Stosse as she cut the ribbon to signify that the children’s section of the library is once again open for business. "It was a real community wide effort."
More than 50 residents and children came out to see the improved and refurbished children’s room, which had been given a new coat of sunshine-yellow paint and brand-new blue carpeting.
But the main attraction for the children was a chance to take out their favorite books, to listen to music by Julie and Brownie and to see the Hampton firefighters, who were the first to respond after the pipe burst back in January.
"Not only do they save lives but they also save books," said Stosse. Library trustee Mary Lou O’Connor said the celebration was a way to say thank you to the entire community.
"I’m very happy with the renovations, but more importantly I’m happy that the children’s room is back up and running," she said. "I have children, and they’ve been so upset that they haven’t been able to take out books.
"They were also upset that there was no story time at the library," O’Connor added. Although children were able to check out books from neighboring libraries in North Hampton, Hampton Falls, Seabrook and Rye, it wasn’t the same.
"This is the library that they know," said O’Connor. "This is where they know where all their favorite books and puppets are. … This entire experience just shows you how important a library is to a community."
Stosse said she was overwhelmed by the number of residents who came out of the woodwork to donate their time and money to ensure that the children’s room would reopen in a timely manner.
More than 300 books were donated - including a collection of 39 books in the "Franklin the Turtle" series by Paulette Bourgeois from sisters Amy and Nicole Strong.
"They heard that we lost all our 'Franklin’ books, and they gave us their own personal collection," said Stosse. "It really has just been unbelievable."
Students at Centre School and Sacred Heart School also have come forward to help the library in replenishing its stock of children’s books.
Kathie Street’s first-grade class at Centre School donated 100 books to the library, and Sacred Heart students started a penny drive and in the end were able to give the library a check for $50. Stosse said the nonprofit Friends of the Library organization also has done a lot by raising funds and donating furniture for the new children’s library.
"We donated the beanbags, chairs, pictures and bookshelves," said Friends of the Library member Dot Gooby, explaining that the organization, which was begun in 1968, was resurrected just last year. "We just wanted to help out in any way we can," she said.
Bob Thompson, whose wife is a member of the Friends of the Library, built a wooden bookshelf and a wooden rack for holding compact discs.
Stosse said that while there’s still some work that needs to be done, it’s a good feeling knowing that the children’s room is open again.
"You know why this is such a wonderful library?" said Stosse. "It’s not because of the new paint or carpeting, it’s because of the children and the community."