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Books Heals Hearts Program Providing Community Resources

Newtown’s Cyrenius H. Booth Library’s Books Heals Hearts program, which was created in the wake of 12/14 to help the community grieve and heal, has proven itself to be an effective and useful resource for a community dealing with tragedy.

The program privately funded through donations of materials and money provides books, CDs, coloring books, and audio tapes, which people can take free of charge from the library.

Unlike circulated materials, there is no expectation or requirement to return these items. The materials are displayed on two desks in the main entrance and on top of bookshelves in the children’s section.

Children’s Librarian Alana Bennison said the relaxed environment of the public library makes it a safe and appropriate place for members of the community to seek out books and other resources for comfort.

“Parents can read them and review them and decide whether or not it’s age appropriate for their child or their family. So, we really wanted to create a sort of low profile area where people could browse and take what they need,” Ms Bennison said.

Over the last three months, since the program’s creation, Head of Circulation and Tech Services Brenda McKinley said roughly 5,500 books have been distributed through the Books Heals Hearts program. Darlene Spencer, who is tasked with tracking and cataloguing the donations has filled three two-inch binders with notes and records. She described the volume of donations as “overwhelming.”

The impressive number of resources reassures Ms Bennison that the program has helped the community.

“Books can help at a time like this. And we’ve noticed that people have been taking them. We know that it’s serving a purpose and we know that it is helping people out,”  Ms Bennison said.

According to Ms McKinley, $22,000 dollars have been received as monetary donations in addition to all the materials the library has received. Ms McKinley said the library has used the money to fill in the gaps of the privately donated materials.

“The initial thing we’re doing with the donations is buying books for young adults and teenagers, because most of what’s getting donated is for children and for adults. So we’re finding that the teenage group is kind of the forgotten group, so we’ve been just immediately buying in bulk for that age group. And as soon as we buy them and put them out they’re gone,” Ms McKinley said.

Ms McKinley also said the library would like to use the funds in the future to support various community members and organizations.

“What we’d like to be able to use this fund for going forward is just meeting community needs. Giving out stuff for counselors, teachers, clergy, whoever comes and says we need resources to do this sort of a class,” said Ms McKinley.

Ms Benninson said the donors, which include authors, publishers, insurance companies, individuals, schools, libraries, and various civic organizations, can specify what they’d prefer their donations be used for, which can be a topic other than grief management.

“Some of the donations said we just want you to purchase books for the library,” Ms Bennison said. “Funny books, fun books, happy books, books on childhood. So it was dependent on what the donor specified.” 

Ms Bennison said that while she acknowledges the program will eventually wind down and materials will end up in “a bookcase that is smaller and not so obvious” she said the library plans to use the donations to positively impact the community in the coming years.

“That’s our hope is that now we’re going to go forward with things that will help people get through these next difficult years that are ahead, especially as they start to process things that are happening,” said Ms Bennison.

Additional information regarding the Books Heals Hearts program can be found on the Cyrenius H. Booth’s website, www.chboothlibrary.org/BooksHealHearts.php, which includes a link for donations and current list of available books.

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