Manchester's New Library

MANCHESTER - When people imagine a library, they picture books and silence. However, there is much more to a library than you might think.

At the Mark Skinner Library in Manchester, kids can not only take out cool chapter and picture books to read, but they can also take home some of the greatest films and comics.

All of this would not have been possible without the generosity of three women: Frances Skinner Willing, Sarah Larson, and Lyn Hoyt.

This remarkable library was first built in 1897, financed by a woman named Frances Skinner Willing in memory of her father, Mark Skinner, who was born in Manchester and later became a judge in Chicago. Frances' father loved Manchester and would spend his summers here with his family. The Mark Skinner Library opened on July 7, 1897, on 48 West Road. In 1964, another wealthy woman named Sarah Larson donated money to expand onto the Mark Skinner Library.

Now, the library has decided to relocate to a larger building, located on the corner of Route 7A and Cemetery Avenue.

Do you think Frances Skinner Willing would approve of the new library? Betsy Bleakie, the head of Mark Skinner Library, apparently does. "I think she (Frances Willing) was a very wise woman. She would understand that to thrive we have to move. She would be sad to leave the current building she gave to this town, but she'd hope, as we do, it will be honored and used in a better way suited for the times. I think she would join us in her enthusiasm. Her library will be located in the center of Manchester, accessible to more people, and even more important as a cornerstone institution for years to come," says Bleakie confidently.

They are also changing the name of the Mark Skinner Library to The Manchester Community Library. However, if an individual or family donates a large portion of money, this name can be changed after them.

Students at Manchester Elementary Middle-School (MEMS) also have ideas for the library. More than 75 percent of MEMS students would enjoy clubs at the Library. The most popular clubs for younger students are cooking, technology, science and art. Older students are most interested in cooking, technology, art, culture and photography.

They are also are interested in being a reading buddy to a younger student, while the younger MEMS students would like to befriend them. All students show excitement for the new Manchester Community Library.

One 5th grader shared, "I am looking forward to new books of different genres to read." Another stated that he is looking forward to "the new location." Of course, MEMS teachers had to have a say in this, too. "I could walk there from MEMS!" Mr. Schatz, a first grade teacher replies. Indeed, MEMS students and teachers will be able to walk from school to pick out cool and unique books to read in their spare time.

"I'm looking forward to a comfortable place to hang out," says another teacher. "It'll be accessible to all."

The new library will probably be like another Maplefields, a place where children and adults go after school. The only difference is that they'll be reading books instead of grabbing tasty snacks. There's a special surprise!

"We won't have a porch anymore, (sadly, as I love our Play Porch) but our new "Children's Barn" will have toys, games, and play items. Play is how children learn important social and pre-literacy skills and it is equally important for them to have these opportunities at the library along with books and technology," says Bleakie. "We will have puppets, games, puzzles, blocks, dolls, and dollhouses, Legos, trains, a play kitchen, a play town, a dress up box, maybe even a play general store or play farm stand...all designed for interactive and hands-on play for our kids."

Oh, and if you're an older kid, don't worry, they did not forget you.

"We're adding a separate room from the Children's Barn, The Loft, meant for middle school teens so they'll have their own place to study, game, hang out with friends, work on homework and projects...and with dedicated library computers, laptops, and tablets that can be checked out," Bleakie states. This remarkable library will be more than just a place to study. The Manchester Community Library will be a cool place to chill with friends, play games and (surprise) they're even doing birthday parties.

The library invites everyone to their Groundbreaking Ceremony on June 21 at 5 p.m. at the new site.

Sophie Kim is a fifth grade student at MEMS.


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