Connellsville's Carnegie Free Library's 110th birthday bash draws crowd

| Monday, May 6, 2013, 9:33 a.m.

With voices rising from the crowd singing “Happy Birthday,” the 110th anniversary of the Carnegie Free Library in Connellsville officially began as the newly refurbished, grand side doors were reopened to greet the public.

“We wouldn't be here today if it weren't for the hard work of the FRIENDS group and the others who volunteered to help make this day possible,” board President John Malone said. “It's the members of this community that keep our library going, and we are grateful for their continued support.”

The day began with the singing and ribbon-cutting, which introduced an afternoon of fun for many of the facility's board members, community members and new faces who came to see the library.

“We read about this and thought we would come to see the library and learn more about its history,” said Pat Welsh of Connellsville Township. “This is a remarkable building, and it's wonderful to see it still standing and thriving when so many close their doors. This may be one of the nicest libraries that I have ever seen.”

People filtered in and out throughout the day, enjoying the historical displays, new additions to the children's area, the soon-to-be opened café, and readings by students from Geibel Catholic Junior-Senior High School who volunteered to participate in 110 consecutive minutes of reading.

The students read from a large variety of literary works, averaging about 9 minutes each, penned by authors like Mark Twain and Jack London.

The 110 minutes was started by library director Casey Sirochman, who read the history of the library.

The Connell Room was open for the day, and Connellsville Area Historical Society President Karen Hechler welcomed visitors and explained the room.

“These books that are located in this room are only to be read here and not taken out,” she explained. “These are all rare books, historical in nature. We'll help you with them, but they must not leave this room.”

Hechler added that the room stores books that cover different facets of the area.

“There are many interesting books here that pertain to different areas of history from Connellsville,” she said. “You can find many interesting things to read about.”

A fun and interesting addition to the afternoon were “Mother May I” classes, which were offered to adults and teenagers. Demetria Pappas taught the fine art of everything from handshaking and introductions to table manners and etiquette.

“Don't ever take for granted something like a handshake and introduction,” Pappas said. “People will remember you long afterwards from the way you shook their hand. It's something that they will remember.”

The vibrant new carpeting in the children's reading area is eye-catching, with its colorful and whimsical patterns.

“The children love the new carpeting and all of the improvements that we have been making,” children's librarian Judy Takoch said of the work in that area for the past year. “From the ceilings to all of the work that we had done by the carpentry students, it's so colorful and fun, and the children just love it.”

Andrea Guth of Connellsville Township brought her granddaughter Kylie Cole to read for the afternoon.

“She just loves it here,” Guth said. “She loves all the new colors, and she just enjoys coming here.”

The afternoon also featured children's reading and music.

“This is an exciting day for us,” Sirochman said of the anniversary celebration. “It's so great to see people from the community come to celebrate with us and to enjoy this special day with us. We are so thankful to everyone who helped to make this a special day and a special celebration for us.”

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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