Arts & Life : : Features
Newton's library beats at the town's heart
By Manette Newbold
October 11, 2005 NEWTON -- At the center of town, the library stands as a place for the community to come together. A once-upon-a-time elementary school, Newton's public library opened in May 1998 and now has year-round activities for families and children.
In December the library has Santa Claus, in May it celebrates its birthday, and in the summer it invites kids to get involved in the state summer reading program, said Librarian Cleo Griffin, 77.
At the library parents can also get their kids involved in the weekly preschool that started in 1999 and invited children to story time and activities, Griffin said. The library also has a party every year at the end of the summer reading program and continues with other programs year-round.
"I like seeing kids learn how to read," Griffin said. "That's the reason for the library.
Griffin was part of the original library board in 1998 and said she has always loved books. Her father loved to read and she said that trait was passed on to her and now that's had eight children of her own, she likes to see that children are still reading.
Griffin knows the books, the people, the kids and the history. If you enter the library on a day she is working, she can tell you all about the history of the Newton Town Library and how it came to be.
"That's the nice thing about a small town," said Griffin. "It doesn't take long to get to know [the people]."
She said the library is involved with the community and always has a float in the 24th of July parade. They also have sales when the town citizens can buy books for 25 and 50 cents.
"It's the best buy in the world," she said.
Not only do the town people come for books, but they come to use the computers too. One is specifically for children and has games they can play. Six others have the Internet for adults and their kids.
One of the programs the library does continually is the weekly preschool for toddlers. Randi Jorgensen said she started the program when her son was in kindergarten and now between 10 and 20 kids attend each week for stories and crafts.
She said she doesn't really remember how the program began but that it sort of evolved when Griffin suggested story time. Jorgenson wanted to help and said it's been "a really fun thing to do ever since.
"Moms stay a lot too," she said. "They have fun talking and getting out of the house and just meeting other women from the community."
For one hour the children are engaged in story time and activities including singing, coloring, cutting, painting, or sidewalk chalk, Jorgensen said. She said they also plan seasonal crafts around holidays and around Halloween the kids get to wear their costumes so everyone can see them.
Elizabeth Lyon said her two children that she brings each week really look forward to coming to preschool.
Lyon, who occasionally helps with story time, said everyone is welcome; there is no sign up or registration. She said as long as people keep coming, the preschool will continue.
The Newton Town Library started with a group of interested citizens who proposed the idea to Mayor Benson in January 1998. Permission was granted in February of that year and 70 volunteers signed up to help get things going.
Eagle Scouts painted the North Hall in the Town Building and put up metal shelves that were donated. Citizen Lyle Cooley built and donated 12 wooden bookshelves that held books donated from people and several communities.
The library grew and was moved to the gymnasium of the Town Building and again Eagle Scouts offered to paint and build shelves. Carpet, tables, chairs, lumber, bookshelves and money were all donated.
The library is larger now with several sections of books and a corner for kids. There are tables to study and children can color with crayons and coloring books.
Griffin said the library is a well-known part of the town. She said she once saw an advertisement for a piece of property that said, "in walking distance for the library.
"When I saw that I thought -- we have arrived!" Griffin said. And the library will be around for a long time.
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