Sunday, March 22, 2015

Windham Public Library tea celebrates 10 years - By Michelle Libby

For 10 years, librarians Barbara Keef and Laurel Parker have been hosting Tea for You @ Your Library at the Windham Public Library. They have held 80 teas, had 2,236 plus people sign the guest book and have served more than 4,500 cups of tea. With a different theme every tea, the patrons who stopped by and the guests who came to socialize, enjoyed the tea and snacks provided by the librarians. 
On Tuesday, the library once again pulled out the china tea cups for a gathering. However at this tea, the library and all of the guests, from town councilors to the new fire chief, attended to celebrate 10 years of community teas at the library. Keef and Parker were honored with Mad Hatter headbands and plants.
The Friends of the Windham Library provided money for cut up fruit and cakes to be dipped under a chocolate fountain. This was an especially big hit with the teens just getting out of school. The friends also provided the other snacks and paper goods.
“We’ve had so many bars and cookies (over the years), including Laurel’s huge layer cake,” said Keef.  
Ceil Clark from Cumberland, raised her children in Windham and lived here for 37 years. “I’ve been to all of them,” she said, taking a sip of her tea. Others had never been to the tea and decided to check it out Tuesday. The afternoon knitting group procured a table off to one side of the room to knit while snacking and drinking tea, hoping for more interest in their library group.
A slide show played throughout the tea, showing pictures of many of the events over the years. “If we did not have this tea we would not have the pictures of the people who have passed away,” said Parker. There were pictures of children having tea with older community members, talking about whatever the theme of the tea happened to be.
“We are building community with the tea,” said Parker. All ages come to the tea and find people they haven’t seen for years.
There is a list of all the teas, notable people who attended and what was served. On average the teas draw about 40 participants, but according to Parker, who remembers a tea where no one showed up and all of the staff at the strawberry shortcake and fresh whipped cream, there are “always new people coming.”
New themes are always up for discussion as is who will make which homemade snack to share. From King Cakes for Mardi Gras and election day cakes for voting days, the library goes all out.
The tea gatherings also were the reason for the new chairs and the round tables that were added to the meeting room, Parker said. “People didn’t like the long tables,” she said. The money for the tables and chairs came from an endowment that was left to the library from Fran and Paul Vogel. Parker called their daughter to tell her what the library decided to do with the money and she couldn’t imagine a better way to spend the money, Parker said.
As the teas progressed, more and more tea cups were donated. Now the eclectic collection gives everyone the choice of shape, pattern and style. One cup became known as “May Lunt’s cup” because she had to have the same cup every tea. When she no longer could come to the tea, Keef and Parker gave the cup to her to have at home.
As Parker surveyed the gathering on Tuesday, she smiled. “This has fulfilled our purpose.”
The teas take place every six weeks. The next Tea for You @ Your Library is on April 28th.

The tea also presented the perfect venue to unveil the new 3M Cloud Library for Windham Public Library card holders. Library director Jen Alvino said that the library is advancing technologically and since the introduction of the Minerva interlibrary loan system, this was a good next step. 

There will now be a 3M Discovery terminal upstairs at the library to be used to select books for a mobile device that uses apps, like iPads, Kindle Fires and Nooks. Readers were encouraged to download the 3M Cloud Library app from an Android or iTunes app store to use the service. If using the terminal, just scan a library card and the book will show up on the app for that user. Right now there are about 250 titles that can be taken out for two weeks each. 

“It’s new and exciting,” said Alvino to the crowd that has gathered. The library will also be getting Nook lowlight devices for patrons to check out for use at home. There are only three other libraries in Maine with this 3M service, Camden, Scarborough and Mt. Blue. 

When Alvino started the library she described it as “walking into a library and having nothing on the shelf.”
The library is looking for businesses to sponsor shelves in the virtual library. 

“This is why you’re the best librarian in the state,” said library volunteer and friend of the library Sherry Andre, who stood at the terminal with Alvino. 

The new system is up and running now.  

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