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Library-Less No More

For two long years, I have been library-less. How did this terrible state of affairs come to pass? In five letters: COVID. Back in 2020, my husband and I came up to Bethel to visit with my mom. That was in June. In October 2022, we were still “visiting”, with trips home to Chicago for doctors, dentist and fresh-from-the-oven pita bread. In all that time, I have missed three things:

  1. my friends

  2. the farmer’s market

  3. the library

Let me explain.

The friends part is obvious. Friendships of long standing (30+ years) are not re-created quickly (by definition).

My Farmer’s Market? I had my favorite vendors who grew some pretty cool stuff that I spent too much money on.

Now, the library. Yes, I knew about the Bethel library. I even went in a few times. But I had deep roots back home at the Evanston Public Library (EPL). You see, I had volunteered there since 1995, performing a wide variety of tasks and roles. (About the only role I never wanted was as a children’s storyteller—I leave that to my betters.) In those 30 years I made friends with many of the staff, knew a lot of the gossip, and generally had the run of the place. In today’s parlance, the Evanston Library was my happy place. All that came crashing down when COVID began. Evanston Public Library closed and I began my “visit” in Bethel. Once EPL re-opened, it wasn’t the same. Many of my friends had retired and the branch where I volunteered (primarily) was permanently shut. And I spend most of my time here in Bethel, so even if everything were the way it was before back home, I wasn’t there much.

But if libraries are your “happy place” eventually you have to find one to love. And lucky me, the Bethel Library Association (BLA) is right here. I have started volunteering there and I already feel more grounded and purposeful. Even better, there is a project just perfect for me: replacing all the barcodes in preparation for the transition into the Maine State Library network. (By the way, more volunteers to work on the project are welcome! I get to handle books again! I have already taken out five books that were not on my too-long To Read list. There is a new peacefulness in our house because reading is quiet, unlike scrolling through Instagram or Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong—I still listen to books (my preferred method to “read” while I knit, exercise, or *gasp* clean), but nothing beats a physical book. When you read a book, you can’t do anything else. You are not multitasking. You are immersed in a world someone else dreamed up or researched extensively—whichever it is, you have the luxury of being “there” while you read. And it didn’t cost you a penny!

So while my garden goes to sleep and the ponds freeze up, I will burrow myself into the Bethel Library Association. I will learn the library’s collection, patrons, systems and its quirks. And all the while, I will make new friends, read new books, and revel in the wondrous thing that a library is. I am library-less no more.


By Jessica Jolly Bethel Library Association Volunteer


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