Person of the Week
Karin Badger: Re-Decoration Day
Through her role as vice president of the Chester Library Board of Trustees, Karin Badger has helped foster the metamorphosis of the 100-plus-year-old facility while it has been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Karin Badger )
It’s a familiar decorating story: Paint the ceiling and the walls look so drab, you decide to paint them, too. Then the other rooms look so impossibly dreary, you paint them as well. And while you are at it, why not redo the carpet?
All that has happened at the Chester Library, with trustees Karin Badger and Sandy Senior-Dauer working along with library director Stephanie Romano on the project. A hole in the ceiling of the downstairs area that needed to be patched was the starting point for the project.
Karin, vice president of the board of trustees, emphasizes that the renovation work was not done with town funds but rather with funds from a trust created to benefit the library by Gwendolyn Orton Jones in 1995. Orton Jones, herself a librarian, was an enthusiastic supporter of the Chester Library. She and her husband Harry were also active in the Chester Historical Society.
The library, constructed on land deeded for the purpose by its next-door neighbor, the First Congregational Church of Chester, was dedicated in 1907.
The timing of the renovations was a consequence of the closing the library to comply with COVID-19 regulations. Romano said current plans are for the building to reopen, following appropriate guidelines, the first week in August. Before that time, curbside service is available.
The library, Karin notes, was in dire need of some sprucing up.
“No one could remember when it was last painted, not even the town crew,” she says. “There were years of neglect and delayed maintenance. At last, everything has come together.”
Maintenance may have suffered, Karen thinks, during the debate over whether to build a new library in North Quarter Park, a project ultimately voted down by the Board of Finance some three years ago. That was a proposal Karin never favored.
“I have always supported taking care of this beautiful building instead of abandoning it. I think people will be happy to see the improvements,” she notes.
Now there are new coats of paint throughout the building, selected from a palette of historic colors appropriate for a structure that is more than 100 years old. The old red rugs upstairs have been replaced by new gray carpeting.
“The other carpet was put down decades ago,” Karin says.
The harsh fluorescent lighting is gone, replaced once again by historically appropriate fixtures.
“They [the lights] are warm and inviting. I smile when I come in, it is so nice,” Romano said.
In the process of the redecoration, Karin says, the original dedication plaque of the building was found behind a bulletin board. Now a new frame surrounds the plaque and the bulletin board has been moved.
Downstairs, the improvements include sealing the stone walls and constructing backs for the bookshelves so volumes don’t rest against clammy stone. That will not only help the dampness problem, Karin points out, but address another issue as well: mice.
“The mice had a field day down there,” she says.
There are also plans to install a combined dehumidifier, heater, and cooler unit to deal with the ongoing issue of dampness downstairs.
Chester resident Rick Hosley ground down a boulder that stuck up from the downstairs floor to make it level and the entire area was refloored with synthetic tile that Karin describes as looking like wood. She also wanted to recognize the work of painter Rich Sutcliff and carpenter Tom Peterson.
“They worked tirelessly on the library while it was closed,” she says.
Books are Karin’s business in her professional life as well. She is a graphic designer, who often works designing books and their covers.
“I’ve always loved books. The library saved my life when I was a child,” she says. “I grew up in pretty spartan circumstances, and there were no books, no art. The library was another world, so I have always been very passionate about libraries.”
Karin was born in Pittsburgh, but by her teen years she lived in Connecticut, graduating from Manchester High School and then Hartford Art School, a part of the University of Hartford. She went there because she loved the work of noted illustrator Rudolph Salinger, who was teaching at the school.
“I remember the foldout he did for the age of dinosaurs in Life magazine,” she says. “I was fascinated by his art.”
Salinger helped Karin not only with art, but for two years he drove her to classes.
“He was horrified when he found out I had to hitchhike to school,” she says.
Chester, Karin knows, is a town with a number of noted graphic artists. In fact, she says, there was a time when if you said you lived in Chester, the reply was: You must be a graphic artist.
“There is no competition,” she says. “We all have our own lanes.”
Her own work schedule has not been much changed by COVID-19.
“I freelance so I work at home anyway,” she says.
Still, her home has undergone some recent changes. After her cat of 20 years died, she has adopted two rescue kittens. Now the house is full of toys for them.
“It looks like romper room for kittens,” she says.
Locally, Karin is also on the board of the Robbie Collomore concerts.
Karin says her last name, Badger, sometimes causes confusion.
“My father is English and the badger is a beloved animal in England,” she says, noting the famous character Mr. Badger in the classic children’s novel, The Wind in the Willows.
Badgers, she has learned, are less well known in the United States.
“People have heard of badgers but really don’t know what they are. They think it might be some kind of rodent,” she says.
Given the current restrictions on gatherings, the library does not plan a big opening reception to showcase all the new improvements, but Karin thinks that patrons will be enthusiastic when they visit.
“People are going to appreciate this,” she says