Two anniversaries, one year

Prospect Library has two reasons to celebrate in 2016

Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield, center, cuts a ribbon during a ceremony on June 16, 1991 to officially open the Prospect Public Library building at 17 Center St. This year, the library is celebrating the 25th anniversary at its current location as well as the 130th anniversary of the library association in Prospect. –COURTESY OF THE PROSPECT PUBLIC LIBRARY

Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield, center, cuts a ribbon during a ceremony on June 16, 1991 to officially open the Prospect Public Library building at 17 Center St. This year, the library is celebrating the 25th anniversary at its current location as well as the 130th anniversary of the library association in Prospect. –COURTESY OF THE PROSPECT PUBLIC LIBRARY

PROSPECT — In an ever-evolving digital age where most communicate via social media, it’s a rarity to have a place that draws youth and adults away from their screens. However, with various programs offered week after week and well over a century of experience, the Prospect Public Library does just that.

The library is celebrating two anniversaries this year. Staff, patrons and town officials gathered last month to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the library opening its current location at 17 Center St. Next month will mark 130 years of having a library association in Prospect.

Since the inception of the Library Association in Aug. 18, 1886, Prospect has provided its citizen’s with a hub that promotes literacy cultural growth. Prior to opening the first permanent library building, books were housed in the home of Sarah Talmadge, who became the town’s first librarian.

By 1905, construction of the library building was completed, and the original Prospect Public Library opened its doors. The building, which is now known as the Meeting Place on Center Street, held books for 86 years. In that time, the population of Prospect increased substantially, creating a need for a much larger space.

By June 16, 1991, the current library was built and dedicated. According to Library Director John Wiehn the site, formerly the Petrauskas Farm, was purchased in 1986 for $220,000.

For the past 25 years, the library’s patronage has continued to grow along with technological innovations.

Wiehn and his staff have worked to keep up with the rapid change of the digital culture, but have also provided engaging events and programs that pull people together and away from their tech.

“We’ve had quite a bit of activities to get people out of their houses and come [to the library],” Wiehn said. “You get to come over and see things going on. It’s like a cultural center over here. There’s no discrimination. Everybody is welcomed. Everybody’s equal, come on down, this is one of the few places you can do that.”

Wiehn, who has over 30 years of experience working in libraries, has worked in Prospect since February of 2013. A variety of events like book readings, author visits, guest speakers, and a plethora of performances often draw crowds of 20 or more to the library, he said.

Now, with summer in full swing, the library is in the midst of its 2016 summer reading program for children and teens. Thus far, the library has hosted acrobat Li Liu, magician Marvelous Marvin’s Brain Circus, The Creature Teachers Animal Program, and will have plenty of other events going into August.

For former librarian Eleanor Boruch, access to programs that draw youth away from their screens is invaluable.

“I think kids lose something by just paying attention to computers,” Boruch said. “There’s artistic stuff that they are missing. I think [the library] really adds to a child’s development. Many times computers and television take over.”

After 22 years working at the library, Boruch retired in December of 2015. In that time she, found it to be a learning experience with her fellow staff members. According to the Prospect native, her coworkers and the patrons created a welcoming dynamic for all to enjoy.

“I was so fortunate that I was able to be a part of it, [and we] got to know and grow with each other,” she said.

Moving forward, the library will be bringing in a new digital service that will offer downloadable music and movies to Prospect Library cardholders. The service is called FreeGal and will allow a set number of songs and movies to be downloaded directly to patrons’ phones, tablets, and laptops so they can stream them at their leisure.

“One of our most popular things are DVDs,” Wiehn said. “Since there is no DVD rental places here — there’s no RedBox — we’re it.”

According to Wiehn, the library has close to 2,500 DVDs for people to borrow, and it is his hope that the introduction of FreeGal will usher more people through its doors.