Around Town

Southwick Library connects patron to his past

SOUTHWICK – The Southwick Public Library staff have been working hard to be a bright spot in the community amidst all of the hardship 2020 has brought.

The library has been open for computer use and browsing by appointments since mid-July. Since the beginning of June, patrons have been able to request to have items put out curbside for them.

“We hope we have been able to provide for the community’s educational and entertainment needs during this time. Whether this be a non-fiction book to help with a homework assignment or a novel to escape into during a very hard period or a fun virtual trivia program” says Library Director Lynn Blair. “We have a wonderful staff who has been dedicated to providing our patrons with the services they need and want. We have been faced with a difficult time, but we are changing and adapting every day.”

One librarian was able to provide one of Southwick’s patrons some holiday cheer a little early this year.

Southwick resident and World War II veteran George Harvey called Southwick Public Library with a special request.

“It seems that someone threw away two of my high school yearbooks. Would you be able to get two new copies for me? I went to high school in Highland Falls, New York. I’m looking for 1944 and 1945.”

His high school had since changed buildings and names. What was formerly Highland Falls High School, was replaced by a new building, James I. O’Neill High School, in 1971. Often times, memorabilia may be lost in the move, or a high school may only keep books up to a certain year.

The odds of replacing these lost memories seemed slim, but Young Adult Librarian Heather Paparella understood that fulfilling the request would mean a lot to Mr. Harvey. So, she took a chance.

She looked up Library Media Specialist, Sheri McNair, at the new high school in his hometown and emailed her asking for the name of the yearbook publisher of those years. Perhaps the publisher would be willing to provide additional copies for purchase. Sheri wrote back promptly, stating that the books had been published by T. O’Toole & Sons, Inc. Lithographers, based in Stamford, CT.

After doing some research, it seemed that the only available record of this company was provided by the Connecticut State Library- dated in 1935. Contacting the publisher for additional copies was a dead end as it appeared the company had gone out of business.

She tried another route of looking for copies available on the online marketplace, but with no success. Making this wish come true was looking like a long shot.

In a twist of fate, Sheri wrote back again and said that she checked storage for their alumnus, and found an extra copy of the 1944 yearbook! However, they didn’t have any extra copies of the 1945. Thankfully, Sheri went the extra mile and copied- page by page- 1945 edition for our patron! She even bound and covered it. James I O’ Neill High School gifted both books to him, with a warm note included.

Mr. Harvey was thrilled. “They did a wonderful job making and binding the yearbook. And thank you so much for getting these copies for me. It was really kind of you all.”

“I can’t stress enough what a wonderful staff we have here at the Southwick Public Library. Ms. Paparella took the initiative to go above and beyond for one of our patrons and was able to provide him with something that will bring him much happiness. These little acts of kindness are seen every day by our staff, going out of their way to provide needed assistance,” says Blair.

Mr. Harvey received the gift just in time for the holidays. Some books have a lifetime of meaning, and who better understands this than a team of librarians?


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