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Lyme - Library patrons waiting in line to check out books were also celebrating 100 years of the Lyme Public Library Tuesday - with cupcakes.
Brightly colored balloons floated from the library's iconic blue sign along Hamburg Road. Inside, the library sported displays of the institution's history, a table of books spanning the century and plates of 100 frosted cupcakes.
"It's a realization of what this library has meant to the community," said Library Director Theresa Conley about the anniversary. "In a small community like Lyme, the library is at the center of everything."
The library opened its doors Feb. 3, 1914, but had to wait a day to celebrate its 100th year because of snowy weather Monday.
The library's mission has broadened over the past century, as it serves the community in more ways, said Conley. As before, residents come to the library for books. But now they also check out e-books and audio books, learn languages online or get assistance with information technology. The library can be an informal office for people or a meeting spot, she said.
The town had approved establishing the library in 1913, and the institution officially opened on Feb. 3, 1914, in the Lyme Congregational Church. It moved into its current location on Hamburg Road in 1971. Tuesday's celebration was the culmination of the library's centennial celebration over the past year, in which the library hosted a lecture series and a tour of local artists' studios.
The library is also pursuing plans to serve the community for the next century: a new, expanded library is slated to be completed in October, as part of a construction project to renovate the Town Hall.
On Tuesday, the library's windows offered a glimpse of contractors working through the snow, and renderings of the new library were on display. The new library will have upgraded technology, host the town's archives - currently at Lyme Public Hall - and offer a community room for hosting programs and as a meeting space for community groups.
Katherine Gibson, who serves on the library's board of directors, said libraries have evolved into more of a gathering place, where people stop by for historical lectures or book clubs. In a digital world, she said people crave the personal interaction they find at the library. Gibson said Lyme is part of a growing number of libraries that are expanding in recognition of this new role.
"The library brings people together more than ever," she said.
The library can both showcase the culture of a period and show how enduring literature can be, Gibson said. The display at the library featuring books from throughout the decades that continue to be popular include "Make Way for Ducklings" from the 1940s and "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" from the 1950s.
"So many of these are truly timeless," said Gibson.
Chuck Lynch, a board member, said the library is an asset to the town and provides rich programming to introduce children to books, such as children's after-school reading events. He said reading about different life experiences in fiction or practical matters in non-fiction opens up the world to people.
"It's just a wonderful window to knowledge, to the world - and it's fun," he said.
And many library patrons - such as Morgan Buerger, 4, who had chosen some tractor books to read Tuesday- enjoy stopping by to pick up books and visit Emma, the library's cat in residence.
For Conley, helping the library's approximately 1,100 cardholders is rewarding. She also gets to watch the 2-year-olds at story hour grow up to go off to college and become professionals who contribute to the community.
"In Lyme, especially being such a small town, the community and the relationships that you make with the people are very strong," said Conley. "It's a very community-minded town."