November 30, 2021

Between the stacks

Groton Public Library becomes hub for community

Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Rick Martinez, of Weedsport, right, builds a Lego pirate ship with Nattalie Lombardi, 7, Saturday during Pirate Day at Groton Public Library. The library has become a gathering place for the community.

GROTON — More goes on between the book stacks of the Groton Public Library than just reading. Just ask 12-year-old Andrew Saam — it’s his second home.

He’s often there reading, doing homework and participating in the programs it offers.

“Oh I don’t just enjoy it, I love it,” he said. “I think it’s my home.”

Library Director Sara Knobel said it’s just part of what a library should do. It provides a place for kids to play, programs to help families cope — even fresh fruit, a community meal and food pantry.

“I just think it’s a need. I feel it’s our job at libraries. We are a public resource, we are free, we should equal the playing field,” Knobel said. “We should provide resources here for everybody to have a chance. It shouldn’t matter who you are, how old you are, your sex, your race, whatever. It shouldn’t matter. Our doors are open to everyone no matter what.”

The open door policy and Knobels drive to make it a safe and fun environment for everyone is just one reason why Andrew enjoys spending his days at the library. He’s in the library so often, most of the kids know him. His favorite program is teen nights because he gets to play one of his favorite video games — “Minecraft.”

“If I’m bored this is the place I come to have fun,” he said. “They’re fun and I get to hang out with my friends. It never gets boring.”

Andrew recalled coming during the summer, when the library opened a couple of hours earlier to give kids their own time. He would play with the Nerf guns with his friends and said he still finds some of the bullets outside.

He also likes the free fruit at the checkout desk. It’s a new program Library Director Sara Knobel started. She got a grant giving her $50 a week worth of produce, which is locally sourced from Bad Apple Farms, and is hoping to get another grant giving her $100 a week to spend.

Come on down

Upcoming events this week:
• Tonight — Free community meal at 6 p.m.
• Tonight — Healthy thing, 6 p.m.
• Thursday — Teen thing, 3 p.m.
• Thursday — Book club, 7 p.m.

Knobel also has a community meal every third Tuesday of the month and people can take food home for free, in some instances acting as a food bank for the area, which doesn’t have a grocery store. Over the summer, she had free lunches for any visitor under 19. She partnered with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier over the summer to set up a farmers market for the kids to take produce home.

“That makes a difference,” Knobel said. “We had eggplant, I thought nobody’s going to take eggplant, but it was gone. It was like one of the first things gone.”

Knobel does at least three programs a week. Some are focused on food, while others focus on reading and other educational purposes.

The library is community gathering spot, said Sherry Saam, Andrew’s mother.

“They offer so many things for so many ages,” she said.

She liked the crockpot cooking classes, and Knobel said it’s among the most popular programs. Thirty people will show up for 12 spots.

“It’s like a little life saver,” Saam said. “This is the life of the town. We’d be at a huge loss without having the programs here.”