May 9, 2021

The Ivoryton Library Has Its Own Special Place in the Town of Essex

The imposing ivory tusks at the entrance of the Ivoryton Library

In many ways the Town of Essex is very fortunate to have two public libraries within its town boundaries. After all, Essex has only a population of 6,500. The two Essex-based libraries are of course: (1) the newly enlarged Essex Library, which is located across from Essex Town Hall in downtown Essex, and (2) the Ivoryton Library, which is located way out on the Main Street of Ivoryton, and which offers library services in a building that has been a library since 1889.

Elizabeth Alvord, the Librarian in charge of the Ivoryton Library, makes the point that the two Essex libraries are “very different places.” The Essex Library she views as a “more traditional” library, one that is conducive to studying on the library’s premises.

Head Librarian Elizabeth Alvord assists Ivoryton resident Carol Phillips in selecting a book

As for the Ivoryton Library she believes, ““We are more informal than the Essex Library. You can even come in here, just to shoot the breeze.” Also, Alvord says, “We are open to finding just what patrons are looking for, because we can take more time with patrons at our library.”

She also maintains, “The Ivoryton Library speaks to the residents of Ivoryton. We are truly a neighborhood library.” She continues, “A lot of young families use the library, as do lots of retirees.” Also, she says that many local children come to the library either on their bikes, or in their strollers. Sometimes whole families just come in to sit in the library, “which is perfectly fine with us,” she says.

A Look at the Inside the Ivoryton Library

As you come into the main room of the library, there is a display of the “Staff Picks” of the best books to read. “It is tough to keep the books there,” Alvord says, because the staff’s picks are so popular with the library’s patrons.

The main room of the library houses the collection of adult fiction and non-fiction books. To the left facing the main desk is in a separate room for the Young Adult books, and to the right is the Local History room, which contains materials on the Village of Ivoryton’s role in the making of pianos.

The Ivoryton Library also prides itself as having a very big selection of “take home” movies on DVD’s for both for adults and children. Also, it has many of the “best sellers” on hand.

The Ivoryton Library is a part of the Connecticut card system. This means that the library can borrow materials of all of the other public libraries in the state.   

Special Programs at the Ivoryton Library

The library offers a plethora of programs for its patrons. There are language courses in French and Spanish from Tuesdays through Thursdays. Also, the library’s Watercolor artists meet to paint on Wednesdays from 10am to noon.

More ominously, the library’s “Tea and Murder Club” meets every third Friday of the month, and the club has been doing so for the past five years. In addition, there is a Mah-jongg group that meets every Thursday at 6pm.

Incidentally, all of these programs are open to new members.                      

The Ivoryton Library also attracts many users, who come in after work to use the library. Since many of these patrons do not get off from work until five o’clock, Alvord recently extended the library’s hours from five to six on Fridays. The library was already open on Tuesdays and Thursdays until six, and on Wednesdays the library has been open until eight.

Also, the Ivoryton Library is open from one to four on Sundays, whereas the neighboring libraries in Essex, Deep River and Chester are not. The Ivoryton Library is closed Mondays.

The full schedule of when the library is open is as follows: Sunday 1-4; Monday closed; Tuesday 10-6; Wednesday 10-8, Thursday 10-6, Friday 2-6, Saturday 9-12.

Downstairs in the Children’s Section

It takes some careful maneuvering to go down the steep and narrow stairs that lead to the Children’s Section, which is located below the main floor of the library. However, the children’s section can also be reached by a ground floor entrance at the back of the library building.

Children’s Librarian Elizabeth Barlett checking out books in the downstairs Children’s Room

The Ivoryton Library at one point considered putting in an elevator from the main floor down to the Children’s Section on the floor below. However, the cost of $15,000, or more, to install such an elevator was considered prohibitive.

The Children’s Section is open during the regular library hours, and it is where children can pick out just the right book to take home and read. Also, there are two children’s computers and an assortment of play desks and chairs on hand.

The Ivoryton Library also has an extensive schedule of children’s activities. For example, every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. the library sponsors a “Drop-In Story Time.” All ages of children are welcome to join for the stories, as well as singing “silly songs” and doing small crafts.

Also, there is the “Afternoon at the Movies” program. It includes a movie showing and an afternoon snack. It is held every third Friday of the month from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

There is also the “Homework Club” for children, which meets every Tuesday, after school, until 5:00 p.m. The club is designed to get young people ahead on their homework. Computers are available and printing is free during club time. Also, a snack is provided.

Young patrons: Katelyn Marsh (r), Samantha Bartlett (r) and Brian Phinney (rear) studying

NO SCHOOL Day programs will also be held on Wednesday, September 26, and Monday, October 19, days when there is no school. The Children’s Room will be available for crafts both days, such as jewelry making, Lego building and painting pictures in a Young Artist Corner.

Finally, the month of September is “National Library Card Sign-Up Month,” which means that children who are residents of Ivoryton and nearby Centerbrook, who are five years and older, can sign up for a library card. If they do so, they are given a book to take home to read as a welcome present.

In addition to these children’s activities, the library has a special Junior Readers program. Junior Readers are library volunteers from ages 9 and up, who volunteer to help the library function. Among their duties, Junior Readers re-shelve books, help organize book sales and read out loud to younger children from favorite books.

Junior Readers meet every third Sunday from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. to discuss how they can help the library.

Background of Ivoryton Staff Librarians

Head Librarian Alvord at the Ivoryton Library holds a BA degree from the University of California (Berkley). She has spent 30 years in the book industry, as a buyer for book stores and as a publisher’s representative. She has also worked in other local libraries.

The Children’s Librarian at the Ivoryton Library is Elizabeth Bartlett. She has a BA from St. Joseph’s College in Hartford, and worked for many years in private industry. She also has three children ages, 1½, 9 and 11.

In conclusion the Ivoryton Library founded in 1889, is very much a going institution. Although some Essex residents may on occasion grouse about the expense of maintaining two town libraries, it is probably a safe bet that the Ivoryton Library, and the Essex Library as well, will be with us for many years to come.