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Get Out of the House, Meet Some New People, Learn Something New

Published Dec 06, 2017 • Last Updated 01:58 pm, December 05, 2017

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Sure, this can be a fun time of year. And it can be stressful. To combat the overload, a meditation session is ideal, as is yoga, and just kicking back, relaxing, and doing something completely fun, like playing a game, maybe.

But what if there’s no extra money right now for a meditation or Hatha yoga class?

What if no one at home wants to play games?

Well, then, head on over to the library.

Area librarians offered this list of their favorite no-stress, have-some-fun and blow-off-the-stess programs open to walk-ins not only from their own town, but from any town. Unlike one-off events also offered by libraries, these programs are repeated from week to week, or month to month, providing participants with an opportunity to do a deeper dive on a topic and develop new relationships centered around information, common interests, and having a good time.


Solve a Puzzle in Branford:

For some people a lock is just that, a lock.

For other people, it’s a puzzle to be solved.

One Branford resident, a tech guru and lock-picking enthusiast, approached the library with an idea to try out a class, which has turned out to be highly successful, with each session filling up, says Whitney Gayle, the program coordinator at the James Blackstone Library in Branford. Using transparent pin-tumbler padlocks and some basic picks, participants learn a variety of techniques for opening basic locks. It’s a hands-on session. Also provided to the lock-picker wannabees is some legal talk, a demonstration, and then plenty of time to try to pick as many locks as they can.

“A Branford resident approached us with the idea...He explained that lock picking is becoming more and more popular as a hobby. The moment he compared it to doing a puzzle, we were sold on the idea! Jim is so knowledgeable and passionate about his hobby. He visits flea markets and antique centers around Connecticut to collect locks,” Gayle says. “He also has a massive collection of picks for all different types of locks. It’s a fascinating hobby and so fun to learn. Jim also explained there is a dedicated online community of hobbyist lock pickers, where you can learn to pick almost any kind of lock you can imagine. The class is quite a bit challenging, but by the end of the night you’ll learn how to pick a variety of padlocks, both keyed and combination.”

The library also offers a First Friday Game Group, also known as F2G2, on first Fridays from 6 to 9 p.m., where all types of board games, from fast-paced hilarious games to strategic thinky games are offered. Participants can also bring their favorite game. Adults of all ages are welcome. Upcoming dates including Dec. 1, Jan. 5, and Feb. 2. “The First Friday Game Group is from a group of adults of all ages (18+) who’ve been gathering at the library and at Thimble Island Brewery each month to play tabletop games. We started holding our monthly game nights in May 2017 and people really enjoyed it and requested that we keep it going. It’s been so much fun and our group has been growing steadily. We teach new games each month and those of all experience levels are welcome,” Gayle says. “Our goal is to bring people together to have fun and introduce more people to the hobby of board gaming. We want to show that there are thousands of new, creative board games out there other than the classic games of Scrabble and Monopoly. Today’s game designers are giving you opportunities to explore, race, bluff, gamble, farm, and auction your way to victory!”

Another ongoing series is called Uncover Branford, (on Saturday, Dec. 16 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.; Saturday, Jan. 13 from 1 to 2 p.m.; and Saturday, Feb. 10 from 10:30 to 11:30 a..m.) where participants share their favorite places in Branford places and stories, and then, plan a group outing to the special spot. “As you go out into the community to explore and uncover new places, you’ll make new friends, have lots of fun, and discover the hidden gems of Branford. Document your adventures with photos and a short write up of your own personal favorites and we’ll turn that into a publicly available booklet,” Gayle says. This was developed as part of a program specifically designed when surveys, interviews, and focus groups found that “Branford residents feel isolated and have a strong desire to make connections within their community,” Gayle says. “Uncover Branford addresses this need by bringing community members together to create personal connections while exploring the hidden gems that make Branford unique. Our target audience is adults, teens, and families in Branford.”

She says the monthly meetings allow people in the community to meet their neighbors, share their stories, and plan the outings. While the program does have a strong focus on the local community, all shoreline residents are welcome to participate.

Other ongoing programs include Hatha yoga, a knitting group, library tours, fiction writing workshops, ask a lawyer, intro to 3D printing/modeling, internet basics, creature creation with 3D printing, and intro to arduino, where participants learn how to use a computer microchip to control simple electrical elements like LEDs, buzzers motors, and more. There are also several book clubs, including one that meets at the Thimble Islands Brewery.

For more information, visit



Play Games in Guilford

Sara Martone, the adult reference and teen librarian at the Guilford Free Library, says the library has had a great deal of success with its game night.

“Once a month, we keep the library open late an extra hour so that people can come after work and dinner with their families or friends to play a variety of different board games at the library together. We’ve had people of all ages come—families with young kids, millennials, the elderly,” she says. “What I love most is seeing people meet for the first time and bond over playing a new game that they all end up loving. By the end, they are laughing together and are on a first-name basis. The connections that I witness warm my heart. You get to meet new friends in the community as well as learn a new game that you can share with others. It’s such a simple idea—putting people together in a room with a bunch of board games, but it yields such amazing results.”

In January, the library is planning to kick off a young adult book club called Grill ‘n’ Chill. “Once a month, I will meet with the teens and discuss that month’s book and serve grilled cheese. It’s a simple comfort food that they can enjoy while we discuss aspects of the books we read.”

To find out more, visit



Meditate in Madison

Andy Northrup, the adult services librarian and director of programming at the Scranton Memorial Library in Madison says Monday Meditations, at 12:30 p.m. on Mondays, have been popular.

“Certified Meditation and Mindfulness teacher Johanne Vanelli leads each session. Generally Johanne speaks for 15-20 minutes about a topic related to mediation, then guides attendees through a 40-minute mediation,” he says. “On average 15 people attend, but we’ve had up to 30. There’s no registration required and drop-ins are quite welcome. People of all ages and backgrounds have come in the past.”

He says, in general, both meditation and mindfulness are extremely popular.

“There’s a lot going on in the world and in people’s individual lives—it’s easier than ever to get stressed out. Meditation is really helpful and our program gives people a chance to try it as a group and be guided by a professional,” he says. “Plus, it’s free, and outside the library mediation coaching and services can be expensive.”

They’ve also had good luck with fun and games, and, in particular, their Trivia Night on the first Thursday of the month, which is scheduled to run through June 2018.

“We have a professional host who prepares all the questions and runs the night. Teams of up to six people compete in five rounds of 10 questions. Trivia Night has been a regular event for most of this year, aside from a break in the summer. We have several regular teams and always welcome new people,” he says. For this one, sign-up is required and people can do so as a full team, or as smaller groups or individuals, and form teams upon arriving at the event. “There are refreshments provided by the Scranton Library Friends and prizes go to the winning team of the night (usually gift cards to local restaurants or shops).”

He says trivia is a natural fit for a library as it appeals to the curious, learned side of people. “Plus, there’s the added fun of some light competition among the regular teams and newcomers arriving to shake things up. Trivia at the library also fills in a gap for people of all ages who aren’t really into the bar scene,” he says.

In mid-December, the Madison library is hosting an Essentrics workout class, led by an apprentice instructor.

“This is a medium-paced stretch and tone class that draws on the flowing movements of tai chi, the strengthening theories of ballet and the healing principles of physiotherapy to develop lean, strong and flexible muscles, with immediate benefits to your posture,” he says. “Depending on the interest level this is being considered as a recurring event.

Those who are interested can contact me at 203-245-7365 or via email at,” he says.

For more information, visit



Self Care in Clinton:

Wellness and self-care can seem like fully indulgent notions, until you find that you’ve nearly hit your limit when it’s come to stress and doing for others. With that in mind, the Henry Carter Hull Library set up a series that acknowledges “sometimes we need a little encouragement to practice wellness and self-care in our everyday lives,” says Sarah Borgnis-Tobin, the adult programming coordinator at the library. The wellness offerings include Tai Chi, Mindfulness and Meditation, and a monthly Wellness Wednesday programs.

Tai Chi meets every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m and is led by local instructor Kim Langley. “All levels are welcome at this gentle exercise class, which is a great way to stay active at any age,” Borgnis-Tobin says.

Mindfulness and Meditation meets weekly on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. and is led by Licensed Massage Therapist Sarah E. Johnson. “Sarah combines her unique insight and training to create a calming environment that encourages mindfulness and reflection,” Borgnis-Tobin says.

And, once a month, the library invites a local wellness professional to lead a presentation or workshop that offers an introduction to different methods for well-being. In November we welcome Director of Nutrition Kara Pachiuk, MS, CNS, of POP Weight Loss CT for a workshop on ways to make life easier and save time through food prep. On Wednesday, Dec. 27, Marjorie Russel of Your Essential Grace will discuss how to beat the winter blues and encourage happiness through the use of aromatherapy and essential oils.

Other programs offered at the Clinton library include a monthly series on the third Tuesday of each month at 9:30 a.m. called TEDxHCHLibrary, based on TED Talks, the popular videos of educational speeches that feature every engaging topic from how to form better habits to how to be a more thoughtful traveler. Lynn Hidek curates and presents a selection of TED Talks that relate to a common theme. After watching the talks, guests engage in a discussion and reflect on the points that were made. On Tuesday, Dec. 19, Hidek’s talk will focus on “Seeing the BIG Picture.” In addition to engaging conversation, complimentary coffee and refreshments are offered. No registration is required and walk ins are welcome. “It’s a great way to start the day,” says Borgnis-Tobin.

The library also offers New Movie Matinees on the first Monday of every month at 1 p.m., complete with popcorn from Chips Pub III.

The best way to stay up-to-date on all upcoming programs at Henry Carter Hull Library by “Liking” the library’s Facebook page, checking the events calendar at, and signing up for email newsletters.




Explore the Civil War in Old Saybrook

The Shoreline Civil War Roundtable has built quite a following on the first Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m., at the Acton Public Library in Old Saybrook, says Norma J. Wright, the catalog librarian and acting adult programming coordinator.

The library also hosts two book discussion groups, one focused on popular fiction and the other on mystery books. A genealogy interest group meets on Thursdays at 10:30 p.m., and recent movie releases are featured once a month in an event called Light.Camera.Acton! The Italian Cineclub which meets Tuesdays shows Italian films for those interested in Italian culture.

“There are always programs going on to bring the community to the library. We are starting a collaboration with Key Bank to introduce basic banking and other financial needs,” Wright says. She says her goal is to fully engage all patrons and members of the community. She says ongoing programs, “allow libraries to fulfill one of their most important goals, which is help people in the community connect around common interests and information.”

For more information, visit



Surviving Grief in Essex

Grief is an inescapable fact of the holidays for some people, and so for surviving spouses, family members, pet owners, anyone, a program like the one being offered on an ongoing basis at the Essex Library Association is particularly appropriate for this time of year. The group started about five to six years ago, and is well-attended, says Ann Thompson, head of adult services for the Essex library.

“The participants have been vocal with us about how important the help had been for them and how grateful they were for the informality of it so we’ll keep it going till we can’t any longer,” she says. “Sometimes there are only a few folks and sometimes it’s a dozen or so. And, believe it or not, sometimes there is a lot of laughter in the room despite their grief. Some of the folks have become friends outside of the group after sharing time together here at the library.”

The Service Corps of Retired Executives volunteers also offer business help for anyone interested on Thursdays, and by appointment. “We’re not sure how many folks have been helped by the SCORE volunteers over the years but they are kept busy every week and then also with separate appointments at other times. We aren’t privy to the conversations but in our community there are mainly small businesses and I expect that SCORE is a terrific resource for the area,” Thompson says.

And there also is a knitting program.

“One of our librarians runs the Diamonds and Purls group. There are usually a handful of knitters coming in for a congenial chat while they knit or for specific help with a difficult pattern. In its early days there was more instruction going on with the ages spanning from about 6 to 75. It was wonderful to see the gathering of women of all ages around a table sharing stories and knitting expertise,” she says.

Other ongoing programs including bridge, with two groups meeting weekly, one on Thursday and one on Friday; five book clubs that meet monthly or every other month; and the Centerbrook Architects Lecture Series, an ongoing architecture and design lecture series, held Friday evenings monthly, on dates that vary.

“All of these programs meet regularly, are open to the public and open to new participants,” she says. “The word that appears most often here is ‘opportunity’ which is what we’re hoping to offer in ways that fill the needs of the community. So, in that sense, we’re always open to new ongoing programs. We’re looking at putting together a chess club for ages 7-up after the New Year. And we’re happy to take suggestions from patrons. You said it when we try to help make connections and offer learning opportunities at the same time.”

Drop a Stitch in Deep River

Wendy Sherman of Deep River is hard at work knitting her son’s Christmas present. (Shhhh! Don’t tell him!) And she’s also putting aside time to help new knitters deal with dropped stitches, the best way to bind off, and the intricacies of alternating a knit row with a purl row at the Deep River Library.

“We have had two classes in the past, and they have been fantastic,” she says, adding that the classes are open to all, but really targeted to beginner knitters. She’s hoping to launch a new group, “Knit Together,” that meets once a month on Saturdays, or even twice a month if there is enough interest. “The goal is to create a welcoming community of knitters where people at all levels can come to share the craft, helpful tips, and fun conversation.

Also in January, the Deep River library will hold a series of water color classes featuring local artist Allan James. The classes are currently scheduled Wednesday, Jan. 10 and Wednesday, Jan. 24 from 5:15 to 7:45 p.m. Participants are asked to bring their own painting supplies, but the class is otherwise free. To find out what’s needed by way of supplies, and to sign up, those who are interested can visit Facebook, search for “Deep River Public Library,” and click on “Events” in the lefthand column.

The Deep River Public Library also has a monthly book club that meets the third Wednesday of the month at 1 p.m.

For a full schedule of programs, and to find out more about the library, visit


Everyone is Invited

Sometimes getting out, meeting someone new, and doing something new and non-holiday related and, even better yet, free, can be just the thing to beat the seasonal doldrums. And if you don’t have time this month, be sure to put it on your list of things to do next month, since most of the programs are ongoing.

“The more public libraries can become a regular part of people lives—whether it’s to check out items, use computers, study, or attend programs—the stronger the connection with the community,” says Northrup, adult services librarian and programming coordinator. “Something like our mediation program is great because it’s brings people together to explore an increasingly important topic. A program like Trivia Night also connects people and is pure fun. A lot of public libraries are more like community centers now—places people can go for events, meetings, to create things. And ongoing programs are a nice example of that.”

Martone, the adult reference and teen librarian at the Guilford Free Library, agrees

“It’s great to have fun and interesting one-off programs, but I think having ongoing programs that meet regularly is a fantastic way for people in the community to come together and connect,” she says, “It forms bonds between members of our community who may have otherwise never met!”

Gayle, from the Blackstone Memorial Library in Branford, says the library’s mission is to provide essential access to information, resources, and unique shared experiences, and that the ongoing programs do just that.

“The Blackstone Library continues to offer an extensive and diverse selection of books and other materials for lending, but the staff consider the programs offered just as important in ensuring Branford is an educated and enriched community,” says. “There are ongoing programs for every age...and for every interest (yoga, maker sessions, community exploration, knitting, and so much more). Ongoing programs at the library give community members the opportunity to enjoy shared experiences with people of similar interests and to learn something new while exploring their creative sides.”

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