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Year In Review: Director Search, Many Activities Marked 2017 At CHB Library

Published: December 30, 2017

After working at the C.H. Booth Library for more than 20 years in various positions, C.H. Booth Library Director Brenda McKinley accepted the position of Ridgefield Library director on January 2.

Newtown’s vacancy for a director was soon filled, when Weston Public Library Director Karen Tatarka was unanimously voted in by the eight-person search committee to fill the role.

On March 1, Ms Tatarka officially started her new position in Newtown and expressed that she was eager to be a part of the library’s Strategic Plan, which includes marketing and implementing more outreach to the community.

However, C.H. Booth Library Board of Trustees President Bob Geckle announced on June 15 that Ms Tatarka would be leaving her position as library director, effective July 7, as she had decided to return to the Weston Public Library as its director, a position she held for six years prior to coming to Newtown.

Mr Geckle said the news of her resignation was unexpected, and that he and the rest of the members of the library were “universally shocked” by the decision.

The C.H. Booth Library’s current assistant director, Beryl Harrison, began filling in as interim director — a familiar role for her.

She had recently stepped into that position after Ms McKinley left, as well as when Director Janet Woycik’s retired in 2012, and again after that when a new library director abruptly left his post in 2013.

“We are so grateful for Beryl being willing to step up. She knows every nook and cranny in the building and knows everybody,” Mr Geckle said.

As of early December, the library board was continuing its pursuit for a new library director, but had called in reinforcements to help in the search. According to Mr Geckle, in mid-November the library decided to hire Chris Nolan Associates, a consulting group with experience assisting searches for public libraries.

“The process is still underway,” Mr Geckle said, “and we are confident we will end up with an ideal individual for the important role.”

Fun For Everyone

The search for a library director did not diminish the quantity or quality of activities at the C.H. Booth Library this year.

On February 13, the mouthwatering aroma of chocolate was in the air as teen chefs participated in the Chocolate Test Kitchen.

The sixth through eighth graders who signed up for the program had the opportunity to create different chocolate-infused treats with the help of Young Adult Library Kim Weber and library clerk Terry Tortora.

St Patrick’s Day may have been March 17, but for many Newtown residents the celebration continued into the weekend at the library when it hosted a special performance by faculty and students from Ashurst Academy of Irish Dance on March 18.

Between student dance routines, husband and wife team Craig Ashurst and Christina Dolzall-Ashurst did partner dances that showed off their levels of expertise. They also invited children in the audience to come up and learn basic instructions on Irish dance.

In May, the C.H. Booth Library offered a special single-session class for middle school and high school age students interested in learning how to edit videos using a software program called WeVideo. The course was taught by Emma Mankowski, 15, and Anna Bigham, 18, who both had begun volunteering their time to create digital book trailers for the library’s website.

Another first of its kind class that the library offered in 2017 was the Lava Lip Gloss Workshop. Sixth to tenth grade students were invited to make lip glosses that replicated the retro-lava lamps of the 1970s.

The class was led by Laura Luther, owner and chief mixologist of Olive My Skin.

In July, future engineers in training gathered at library’s chbMakers’ Corner to participate in the “Learn To Solder” class that allowed students to explore the world of soldering, starting from the very basics.

The class was instructed by Newtown resident and Darien High School’s tech ed teacher Rich Reynolds, who had also taught students in previous weeks how to make light up “squishy circuits” out of Play-Doh and wires, as well as how to use the computer program called Raspberry Pi.

The following month, three local 15-year-olds — Aliya Hafiz, her twin sister Sofiya Hafiz, and friend Aalia Haque — volunteered their time over the summer to create more than 50 quick-deploy paracord bracelets at the library for the national nonprofit group Operation Gratitude.

Operation Gratitude’s website says the organizations sends more than 200,000 care packages each year to “veterans, first responders, new recruits, wounded heroes, their caregivers, and to individually named US service members deployed overseas and their families waiting at home.”

Along with sending out the paracord bracelets, the teens also took the time to put together a handwritten letter of thanks to the person who will receive the care package.

“Even if we don’t hear back, we’ll still know that we helped someone,” Aliya said.

After nearly a year in the making, the C.H. Booth Library conducted its first instructional class for young adults to learn how to make 3D printed prosthetic hands for children in need.

Newtown High School sophomore Darren Huffman taught more than half a dozen library volunteers the step-by-step process for creating the functional hands.

These hands, as well as many of the items created and skills mastered at the library, will go on to help improve the quality of life for those involved for years to come.

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