Looking Back…Moving Forward

by Beth Crowley, Library Director

If you have lived through a number of decades as I have you can respond to the perennial question “Where were you when (insert significant event) happened?” For me it has been the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, 9/11, and the Sandy Hook school shooting. We note these tragedies over other moments not just because they were horrible but because their impact left clear boundary marks dividing time into “before” and “after” the event. Often the “after” time has resulted in a reduction of our sense of peace, security and belief that life is good and things will go as planned. Two years ago this month, on March 13, 2020, I experienced another of these defining moments when we shut the Library doors to the public due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

We found out on March 13 that we would be closing that same day.

Covid-19 didn’t strike in a single, sudden devastating event like the others I have mentioned but it clearly left a divider between pre- and post-pandemic life. Earlier in the week of March 13, 2020, I along with my fellow Town department heads attended a meeting with the Chesprocott Health Director, Maura Esposito and her staff. There we asked questions about precautions we should take to mitigate the spread of the virus among our employees and residents. I asked if the Library should put away the toys and craft materials in the Children’s Room. I was told there was no need and that the goal was to keep things as normal as possible for our patrons. By the end of the week, the Cheshire Public Schools sent all students home early and I got the call from the Town Manager to close the Library. Despite the sudden change in tone and urgency, we looked at the closing as a temporary measure perhaps lasting two weeks at most. None of us could have predicted the path we were about to take or where it would lead. Face masks, plexiglass barriers, social distancing, hand sanitizing stations, virtual programs, and mass vaccine clinics were still only shadows of things yet to be.

Leading an organization during the pandemic has been the biggest challenge of my 24 year career. Before Covid-19, I would try to calm stressed nerves by reminding staff that while library services are important to our customers nothing we did was in the “life or death” category. Now I was faced with making policy and procedural decisions that if wrong could result in serious illness or worse. For library employees, whose entire profession is based on access to accurate and trust-worthy information, the constantly changing messages and lack of clear guidance from national health and government leaders was frustrating. As library directors often do when struggling to solve a problem, I turned to my colleagues to compare notes. However, it soon became clear that based on varying rates of infection in different towns, conflicting guidance from health districts and that library buildings come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes it made sense to focus on what would work best for the Cheshire Public Library. I reached out again to Maura Esposito. She patiently walked me through every step I needed to consider and gave excellent and sound advice. Her guidance cut through the national noise allowing me to narrow my focus and plan for the immediate safety concerns with an eye to the future.

Providing library services during the pandemic was challenging but there were silver linings. Despite the disruption to my employee’s daily lives and work place, I soon discovered how resilient and innovative they could be. Faced with a closed library and working remotely, I was amazed at how my librarians quickly planned and delivered programs virtually. Until Covid-19, I thought Zoom was a TV program I watched as a kid! Our library clerks assisted with calling hundreds of Cheshire senior citizens to check on them and refer them for help if needed. To provide reading and entertainment materials for residents during the lockdown, we reallocated funds meant for buying physical items and added more digital content that users could freely access through our website. A number of patrons have told me this was the first time they tried our eBook collection and they were surprised by how much they enjoyed it. Since 2019, use of these resources has increased by 42%.

When we returned to a still closed building, staff coordinated and launched our first ever curbside “Grab and Go” service. At the program’s height we were filling an average of 60 bags with library materials every day! In order to help library users discover new materials while we were closed and browsing was impossible, we launched our Matchbook reader’s advisory program. We created an online form where patrons could tell us their reading interests and librarians would “match” them with books they may enjoy. The feedback from this program was so positive we have continued it and plan to keep it in place post-pandemic.

Now, almost two years to the day we shut down, we are finally able to relax most of our safety protocols and hopefully begin a permanent return to pre-pandemic times. But as with other life changing events, we can never truly go back to how life was before Covid-19 struck. For one the immense loss of life, at one point the equivalent of a 9/11 tragedy every day, has forever changed the lives of thousands of families. For students who graduated and began college during the pandemic, their experience of these milestone events was far from typical. How long will it be before we truly feel comfortable standing close to a stranger or giving a friend a hug?

Despite the difficulties and tragedies of the past two years, we must go forward. This month at the Library masks are now optional, we are resuming in-person programing including children’s storytimes, we’ve added back more public computers, increased capacities of our study rooms and reopened our Teen Space featuring new furniture purchased with American Rescue Plan grant funds.

No matter what life-changing events occur, the one thing I know about the role of the public library in a community is we can help our residents recover from hard times. Providing a peaceful place to read, work or relax can be a salve in scary times. Books, music and movies can be a welcome escape from the more difficult news we are bombarded with. Connecting with others to learn or discover through a program is an uplifting and renewing experience that can help buoy us after a hard day. It has been my honor to work with the amazing staff at the Cheshire Public Library during this challenging time as we tried to support and meet the needs of our residents. Since reopening our doors to the public in September of 2020 we are almost back to our pre-pandemic borrowing numbers and our library visits are continuing to increase. We hope with the return of more of our regular services and the addition of some exciting new ones (stayed tuned!) that we will be welcoming even more library users of all ages and we particularly look forward to seeing everyone’s smiles!


As if Covid hadn’t made  things complicated enough, now we’ve come to Tax Time! Lots of people are likely to be filing online this year, but some of us still need to put pencil to paper. Libraries have traditionally been places you can get tax forms and instruction booklets, but this year … not so much. Actually, the amount of CT State forms and booklets libraries receive started dwindling even before Covid times, but this year there will be no hard copies of CT State Tax materials at the library, and a very limited amount of Federal Income Tax printed materials.

But fear not! Everything you need is out there in the Cloud, ready for you to download and print. For CT State Tax forms and instructions, visit https://portal.ct.gov/DRS/DRS-Forms/Current-Year-Forms/Individual-Income-Tax-Forms. Federal Income Tax forms and instructions can be found at https://www.irs.gov/forms-instructions.

No printer? No problem. You can make an appointment to come in and use one of our computers to print up your documents (.10/page for black and white copies). Adult public computer use appointments for specified time slots may be reserved by phone (203-272-2245), up to one day in advance, and patrons may book one session per day.

You can also use our Mobile Print Portal to send print jobs from home to the library’s printer. More information on mobile printing can be found on our Printing & Technology page. You can arrange to pick up your printed pages through our Grab ‘n Go contactless pickup service.

The CT Department of Revenue Services also offers a number of ways to help you file your state taxes. Upon request, patrons are welcome to contact DRS at the following phone numbers below Mon-Fri from 8:30-4:30 to request tax forms, booklets, and instructions that DRS maintains in-house, and can mail directly to the patron’s home address.

  • 860-297-5962 (from anywhere)
  • 800-382-9463 (Connecticut calls outside the Greater Hartford calling area only)
  • 860-297-4911(TTY, TDD, and Text Telephone users only)

The DRS website has the answer to many state tax questions,including a Frequently Asked Questions page. Taxpayers are also encouraged to call or email DRS with questions specific to their situation. DRS now also offers remote assistance, where taxpayers can schedule an appointment and receive real-time DRS tax assistance from the comfort of their own homes, from a trained DRS professional during normal business hours, via the online Microsoft Teams platform. DRS tax examiners are available to schedule appointments with patrons and library staff (to insure technology for the patron is available), at a time that is mutually convenient.



Why do I have to wait SO LONG for library ebooks?

Why do I have to wait SO LONG for library ebooks?

It’s been an increasing source of frustration for many library users: waiting weeks, sometimes months to get to the top of the waiting list for a popular eBook or e-Audiobook.

As I write this, the ebook for Michelle Obama’s 2018 memoir, Becoming,  has over 200 people waiting for their turn at one of 16 eBook copies. If each of those 16 copies is checked out for the full lending period of 21 days, well, that’s a very long wait if you’re at the bottom of the list. (Take heart, if you’re using a Cheshire library card, your wait won’t be quite as long.  We have purchased 2 additional copies for Cheshire cardholders exclusively, so CPL users will move through the hold queue a little faster).

Why does it take so long? After all, it’s not a physical object, it’s a digital file that lives in the “cloud”, why can’t multiple people access it simultaneously instead of only one at a time? Barring that, why doesn’t the library just buy more copies so that the waiting list is shorter? Getting people access to books and information is what libraries are all about, but the struggle to acquire lendable e-content is very real, and it’s getting harder all the time. Why? What’s the big hairy deal? For that answer, you have to look to the “Big 5” Publishers, who are responsible for close to 80% of trade book sales.

First, a little background. When Cheshire Library started offering eBooks to their patrons in 2006,   lending of downloadable items was in its infancy.  Publishers were extremely wary about allowing library users virtual access to their books. After all, digital copies of books never wear out or have to be replaced, and are more vulnerable to unauthorized copying (“pirating”). Publishers were afraid if they allowed libraries access to their books digitally, they would be losing money. Individual publishers came up with their own sets of rules for libraries to access their e-content, and they have been tweaked many times since 2006. The graphic to the right outlines the current purchasing & lending restrictions for libraries purchasing e-Books from the “Big 5”. Over the years, all 5 publishers have gone to a “metered access” model, meaning that titles expire after a set number of uses or months, at which time the library has to purchase the item again if they want to keep it available to their patrons.

And, unfortunately, the prices libraries must pay for ebooks and e-audiobooks are very high. Libraries must pay up to 4X the retail price for digital versions of books (which only one user can have access to at a time).  Meeting the library patron’s needs for downloadable content is a very expensive enterprise, indeed! Take a look at this comparison of the prices for various versions of the same book:

e-Audiobook publishers have used a “perpetual license” model in the past, (meaning a title only needs to be purchased once, regardless of the number of uses or months) but that is starting to change. Many are converting to a “metered access” model like the eBook publishers, which will have a significant impact on how many titles a library is able to purchase.

Recently, another way for libraries to offer digital content has emerged, the “pay-per-use” model. Platforms like Hoopla, Kanopy, and Freegal, are examples. These platforms offer libraries a pre-curated collection of digital items that have no limit on how many people can check them out at the same time. Rather than buying individual titles, the library pays a fee each time an item from the collection is checked out. For a while, this sounded like a good solution to the long waiting periods users experienced on traditional platforms. The drawback? The service can become so popular that the monthly fees quickly become unmanageable. This is what happened at CPL when we tried Hoopla.  The monthly fees kept skyrocketing,  even when we lowered our checkout limit to 5 items per month. It became impossible to sustain the expense without reducing the service even further, so we discontinued Hoopla and looked for something better.

Since discontinuing Hoopla, CPL has added a platform with a new lending model for e-Audiobooks that we hope will ease some frustration. RBdigital began offering a new service with a core collection of 30,000+ audiobook titles that allow muti-user access (always available, no waiting lists), plus the ability for libraries to add newer and more in-demand titles to the collection (following the one copy/one user model). RBdigital charges libraries a flat monthly fee for the “always available” content, so the library doesn’t have to limit the amount of items patrons check out, and knows exactly how much to budget for each month. We’ll continue to look for ways to bring the most value to the library experience.

The digital media landscape for libraries is constantly changing and adjusting. Here are some articles to check out if you’re  interested in learning more on the subject:






30,000+ audiobooks are waiting for you!

Did you hear? Cheshire Library recently announced the dramatic expansion of our RBdigital audiobook collection. With over 34,000 titles, there’s something for everyone—from classics to bestselling new titles, debut authors to major literary prize winners, children’s literature to business books, and more. With your Cheshire Library card, you’ll have access to thousands of free audiobooks!




The core collection of these audiobook titles are unlimited access—always available for immediate access without holds or delays. We will also be adding new titles to the collection every month, with the traditional borrowing model (1 user at a time). So while you’re waiting for that bestseller to become available, there are over 30,000 titles to select from in the meantime (everything from classics like The Hobbit and Great Expectations to contemporary favorites like Red Rising and Outlander, in addition to nonfiction, self-help, children’s titles, and more)!

You can listen to audiobooks at home from your computer, or on-the-go from your tablet or smartphone. You can also have up to 10 audiobooks checked out at a time with no monthly limits!  Find the link to our RBdigital collection on our website, or download the app to listen on a mobile device:



We’re really excited to be offering this service to our patrons. Try our new expanded audiobook collection and let us know what you think!











May is Cheshire Food Pantry Month

In the state of Connecticut, 414,730 people are struggling with hunger – and of them 117,380 are children. Here in Cheshire, one might hope these statistics don’t apply to our residents, but of course, we are not immune to the problem. The Cheshire  Food Pantry is a community organization that provides food in situations for all eligible individuals and families in need, regardless of their race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, or disability.
 The Cheshire Food Pantry is different from many food pantries because it uses a client-choice model in which clients are allowed the freedom to select their own groceries. This model provides food subsidies to low income families in crisis, while nurturing their ability to be independent and take control of their life.
For the month of May, we are shining a light on the Cheshire Food Pantry with a Food for Fines campaign, and craft programs that will benefit the food pantry. Throughout the month, CPL will be accepting donations of non-perishable food and toiletry items in lieu of overdue fines on library materials.  All donations will be delivered to the Cheshire Food Pantry. 
According to Library Director Beth Crowley, “This is a great time for patrons who are returning library materials late or who have accumulated overdue fines to clear their record while helping someone in need.” Crowley said “We chose the month of May to run this program because, in speaking with the Cheshire Food Pantry, we discovered donations tend to drop off this time of year but the need is always there.”

Donations can be used to clear fines on materials that have been returned in good condition.  They will not be accepted for lost or damaged items.  There is no rate of exchange; a minimum of one donated item can be used to clear fines on one account.  A list of suggested items to donate is available at the Library and on our website at www.cheshirelibrary.org/food-for-fines All donations must be non-perishable, unopened and cannot be expired. (Items of particular need include: Jar Pasta Sauce, Mayonnaise, Canned Peaches, Fruit Cups, Crackers, Toilet Paper, Tissues, Paper Towels. )

We also have 2 programs for kids and families to create totes for Food Pantry users. Caring Crafts is a twice-monthly program for kids in grades K-6 to make things while making the world a better place. We’re getting extra-creative this month and decorating canvas tote bags for food pantry clients on May 9th, and on May 23rd we’re making birthday cards for kids who use the food pantry.  Crafters and artists of any age are invited to decorate totes at Crafting for a Cause on Wednesday, May 22nd. We’ll supply art materials and design ideas if you need some inspiration, but feel free to bring your own designs and your own supplies. We’re making one tote for each of the 130 food pantry clients, so you’ll have plenty of blank canvas (literally) to create something beautiful! Please register in advance for these programs.

Want to learn more about the problem of hunger in America? Here are some resources at CPL:

A Place at the Table / Participant Media presents a Catalyst Films/Silverbush production ; a Lori Silverbush/Kristi Jacobson film ; produced by Julie Goldman, Ryan Harrington ; produced and directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush  (DVD | 2013, rated PG)

Hunger in America : Issues and Assistance edited by Gaston T. LaBue (E-Book)

Hunger : A Modern History by James Vernon (E-Book)