From renovation to innovation: Hotchkiss Library’s expanded offerings

Little ones of varying ages take advantage of the Monday morning story hour led by Renee DeSimone.

Leila Hawken

From renovation to innovation: Hotchkiss Library’s expanded offerings

SHARON — Since its beginnings in 1893, Sharon’s Hotchkiss Library has been a landmark on the town green, imposing in its architecture and welcoming in its nature.

The same is true today. Following a local capital campaign that raised $3.7 million in support of renovation and expansion, the town celebrated the library’s reopening in August 2023.

While construction was ongoing, library services were offered at a temporary location at Legion Hall. The library did not miss a beat in continuing essential service to its community.

The months that have passed since the reopening have seen growth in programs and library resources. The community has continued to find that the library is central to Sharon life, only more so now that there is more space and flexibility.

“We have held 80 adult programs with over 900 participants,” said Gretchen Hachmeister, executive director of the library, on Thursday, Feb. 22, reflecting in the growth in numbers of programs and numbers of patrons.

“There is so much going on, and the numbers and variety far exceed our prepandemic and prerestoration volume,” Hachmeister added, citing as examples library book clubs, yoga classes, Qigong workshops, art courses, afternoon movies, and knitting groups, as well as evening and weekend programs.

Thanks to the energetically imaginative volunteer Guild members, Hachmeister noted the assortment of new Guild-sponsored offerings, including chamber music concerts, film screenings, artist and author talks, community coffees and group discussions on meeting food security needs in the area.

The “Little Women” Community Read Aloud was a particular favorite among local readers, Hachmeister said.

Younger readers and children are not overlooked in the renovated library. Hachmeister noted that Renee DeSimone, head of children’s programming, has offered 72 children’s programs that have included visits to Sharon Day Care and the classrooms at Sharon Center School.

Looking ahead, Hachmeister said that the library hopes to offer more programming for the town’s older adult population, including exploring how to combat isolation and loneliness.

“We are always looking for diverse ways to engage the community,” Hachmeister said.

Town committees have found the new Hayes Family Community Room to be a convenient and comfortable location for meetings. So far, a total of 17 such meetings have been held by six different town committees.

More people have been taking out library cards since the renovation, Hachmeister said, estimating an average issue of 18 new cards each month. Nationally, those statistics are falling, she noted. She said that more than 1,000 patrons visit the library each month.

With the renovation came new technology, Hachmeister said, praising the staff for embracing the new way of doing things and learning new procedures and systems.

While the old Victorian building stands as the visually striking architectural gem that it is, thanks to the generosity of donors to the capital campaign, the interior is serving the needs of 21st-century Sharon in the most productive and exciting ways.

“The Hotchkiss Library of Sharon has become THE community center of Sharon,” Hachmeister said.

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