Library event goes 'Off the Page'

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Columbia - posted Mon., May. 9, 2011
Children's librarian Megan Quigley represented Harriet the Spy at the April 30 'Off the Page Gala.' Photos by Melanie Savage.
Children's librarian Megan Quigley represented Harriet the Spy at the April 30 'Off the Page Gala.' Photos by Melanie Savage.

Two Cleopatras stood chatting in the entryway of Yeoman’s Hall in Columbia. Pat Grabel and Ellen Marshall, each dressed as the Queen of the Nile, were two of the guests at the first Off the Page Gala, a fundraiser for the Saxton B. Little Free Library that might just become an annual tradition.

“We wanted to do something literary,” said Beth Marshall, chair of the library board’s Community Relations Committee. The original idea was to have participants dress as their favorite author. “But a lot of authors have died violently,” said Marshall, “and we didn’t want it to turn morbid.” So the group came up with a gala which encouraged masquerading as a favorite character from literature, which allowed for a lot more flexibility and variety. “I am really pleased,” said Marshall. “We sold more tickets than we expected, and we had people show up at the door as well.”

“We’re doing this because we’ve established a new library fund,” said board chair Pat Shimchick. The library long ago outgrew its current building, and is in need of new space. “We felt that with the times being the way they are, we really need to start raising funds ourselves,” said Shimchick. So far this year, the board has arranged a tag sale, had a farmers’ market presence, and instituted an annual giving fund in an effort to bolster the building fund. Board members feel that the library is well worth the effort. “It’s the real gem of our town,” said Shimchick. “All interests, all people are welcome there. It’s a resource used by everyone. If you look around, you see people of all ages here.”

Shimchick said that Columbia has an extraordinarily active library, with numerous adult and children’s activities, book groups, and a huge DVD collection, in addition to books. “People want to be entertained, but can’t afford that much,” she said.

“The library is the community hub,” agreed Marnie Faupel, a member of the board and the library building committee. “It’s an extremely utilized library. Lots of people from other towns use it, in addition to people from Columbia.” And, with 60,000 volumes in a 4,800-square-foot facility, “other libraries have far fewer volumes in much more space,” said Faupel. “It’s very much a necessity that we eventually build a new building.”

Adult librarian Carol Kubala attended the gala dressed as one of her favorite children’s characters, Amelia Bedelia. “These are the books that I read to my own children,” she said. “[Bedelia] is funny, and what I love about her is that she is literal.”

Kubala’s co-worker, children’s librarian Megan Quigley, represented Harriet the Spy. “I figured she’d be recognizable,” said Quigley, “and she’d be easy to dress up as.”

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