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Laurie West Prichard, the new director at Killingworth Library, is welcoming more people through the doors with extended summer hours and warm weather to enjoy the Reading Garden. (Photo by Susan Talpey/The Source | Buy This Photo)
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When Laurie West Prichard saw an advertisement for the top job at Killingworth Library, she took a trip to the library.
“I visited the book sale and asked for help at the circulation desk. I spoke with the volunteers and looked around. It was a lovely first impression and when I walked out, I had decided to apply for the position,” she says.
“Killingworth Library is unique because it’s young. So many libraries in Connecticut have been around for 100 or 200 years, but here the townspeople decided in 1964 to build a library in Killingworth. It’s a testimony to the residents and their sense of community.”
The local commitment has continued for more than five decades, Laurie says.
“Our library is unique because the circulation desk is primarily run by local volunteers. That’s a tribute to the sense of dedication of the people of Killingworth. We have 24 volunteers and they are all amazing.”
Laurie also credits the library’s hands-on board of directors for its hard work and vision.
“I’ve been so impressed with how engaged and committed they are,” she says. “From fundraising to yard clean ups, they are not just doing their job to have their name on the board, they are actively involved and that benefits everyone.”
A Summer at the Library
Since Laurie started her new job in February, she and the library team have been busy with an exciting list of new initiatives.
“People are so busy now, but we want them to know that the library is more than just books in a building. We want to take our programs and services outside our walls. We’ve had some great talks and events at the firehouse, and our second Earth Day fundraiser at Chatfield Hollow [Inn and Farm] was a great success.”
This summer is even busier at Killingworth Library, with a new pilot program for extended hours running through August.
“On Wednesdays, we are now open until 6 p.m. rather than closing at 4 p.m., so that people who are visiting the farmer’s market or coming home from the beach can stop in. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we will now open at 9 a.m. instead of 10 a.m.,” she says.
“We serve the entire community. When people think, ‘What can I do with my children or grandchildren today?’ we want them to come to the library,” she says. “It’s warm in winter and cool in summer—and we have everything from books to movies and we also have kits with games and toys for kids this vacation.”
The library has a new collection of novels by English authors requested by patrons titled “The British are Coming,” as well as another display that features titles from the Great American Read series on PBS, encouraging residents to vote for Killingworth’s most popular book. With a grant secured from the Killingworth Community Fund, Laurie says the library plans to purchase new shelving for the book sale items in the foyer.
There’s more coming for a hard to please contingent, too.
“We are looking at new ways to get teens to come in here. We have two young women who starting as volunteers this summer and I’d like to have the library signed up as an official internship location for library science students,” she says.
“We’re a small library, but we have a robust collection of non-fiction and we can help with whatever information people need,” she says. “We also have volunteers who do home visits to people who cannot come to the library—patrons just have to email or call us and we’ll help them.”
The warm weather has attracted more people to the popular Reading Garden at the rear of the library.
“We want people to come and enjoy the beautiful setting. It’s a nice space for small groups and eventually, we’d like to have meditation and reflection classes in the warm months,” Laurie says.
Another recent addition at the library is a collection of books and reading programs for elderly seniors with memory challenges.
“The Reading2Connect books feature photos and text in a format that is easy for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s to enjoy,” Laurie says. “People still love to read, but it’s hard for them to read a standard book. We got our first Reading2Connect materials two months ago and we’ve had several caregivers and elderly patrons check out the books.”
Turning the Page on a Second Career
Asked about her professional path, Laurie states, “I took the long and winding road to become a librarian.”
Laurie grew up in Clinton, Massachusetts, and graduated with a B.A. from Clark University in Worcester before moving to Connecticut with her husband Paul more than 30 years ago. They settled in Moodus, where they raised their two daughters, Kara, now a sophomore at Eastern Connecticut State University, and Ariana, a freshman at Bryant University in Rhode Island.
Professionally, Laurie established a successful career in information technology at a large insurance company, The Hartford.
“In 2001, the recession really hit the insurance industry hard. I had two girls in middle school and I was working long days, so I decided to take a [buyout] package and start a new career,” she says.
“I thought about I enjoyed doing and where I wanted to be. I volunteered at my local library in Moodus and become an employee. Over time, I realized that I wanted to direct a small-town, neighborhood library where we greet patrons by name as they come in,” she says. “Of the 160 libraries in Connecticut, that narrowed it down, and Killingworth was a great fit for me.”
Learning from her colleagues on the job, Laurie was assistant director of the East Haddam Library System before taking on her new position in Killingworth. She is currently studying for a master’s degree in library science at Southern Connecticut State University, and in between assignments always finds time to read a good book.
“I’ve rediscovered the joy of books, of reading what you want to read not just what you have to read. I’m an omnivore of reading so I like to all different types of books. I love the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and I like George R.R. Martin’s books,” she says.
“I loved the community feel at the East Haddam libraries and I’m so glad that I’ve found that same community here in Killingworth. We have regulars who come in and they tell us about their grandchildren and the trips they’ve taking,” she says. “It’s great to get to know the local community.”
From a visit to the Killingworth Library on a cold winter’s day to the job as director, Laurie is excited for the future.
“I love my job and the Killingworth Library. I absolutely love it,” she says.
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