Wellfleet Public Library
Sometimes, when you walk into a room, you can feel the energy and excitement in the air. That’s what is was like to walk into the Wellfleet Public Library on a recent visit. We arrived on a Monday afternoon and the library was abuzz.
Before going into detail on this lovely library as it is today, there’s something to be said for the space itself. The building dates from 1931 and originally was a curtain factory during the 1930s and the Second World War. It later served as a candle factory before becoming a library in 1972.
The space is a large one with large windows along the sides. Arched beams rise from the wall and create a long, low, and interesting central room. The finishing and furniture is comfortable and in good condition - it’s a pleasant place to visit, work, or spend some time.
But, as always, the physical space is only part of the story; what makes a library like Wellfleet so special are the people and programs they offer. When we arrived, we met Gabrielle Griffis, the outreach coordinator. The fact that Wellfleet has someone like this on staff says a lot about the library’s priorities. We spoke for a while before she had to break away to take care of patrons.
We also spoke with Naomi Czekaj, the assistant director. We were curious about the town’s population and how that impacts library usage and staffing. Year round, the town has approximately 2,700 people. During the summer, that population explodes to almost 18,000 people in this wonderful vacation spot! How does the library manage this? They don’t change a thing in terms of staffing - they just make it work.
What was clear in speaking with both Gabrielle and Naomi is that they are "enjoyed" by their work. (Stay with me and the apparent typo … Let’s reimagine the word “enjoy.” Think about the other words that start with “en” - “enlivened,” “enthralled,” “enamored,” etc. In those cases, some external thing is exerting a force on a subject. In the case of “enjoy,” the subject is describing a relationship with an external thing. We can be filled with joy by our work! Are you with me?)
It was also interesting to hear that the library is open six days a week during the summer, but seven days during the winter. With less going on during the off-season, the library becomes a more important local resource and gathering spot for year-round residents. Interestingly, the two neighboring libraries that we were really excited about visiting, Truro and Eastham, were both closed on the Monday we visited.
The big influx of summer visitors also means a sharp rise in the number of programs the library offers. Pretty much every day, there is something special going on at Wellfleet. We may need to visit again, on August 15th, when Adam Gopnik, author and New Yorker contributor, will speak on "Living Liberalism: The Rhinoceros Manifesto" at a library fundraiser).
Two of the coolest things that we heard about on our visit were Boomerang Bags and Fixit Clinics. Both reflect the library’s commitment to reuse and recycling. Boomerang Bags - if you’re not familiar with them - are bags made from repurposed textiles, sewn by community members, and given away for free. It’s a very cool project that’s happening around the world.
The Fixit Clinics allow people to bring in non-working items and be coached on how to repair them. Again, the goal here is to repair rather than replace an item. This, too, exists beyond Wellfleet, but we’d never come across either until this visit.
The whole visit was a delight! The final item we’ll point out is a display case of old kitchen gadgets with a sign reading, “Before it Could be Plugged in.” It was an interesting assortment of devices. One of which was a cherry stoner. Are there really electric versions of this device? Ha!
If you’re fortunate enough to find yourself on Cape Cod (come for the Wellfleet oysters and beautiful beaches), do yourself a favor and visit this wonderful library.