What are the names of the seven dwarfs?
That was one of the most frequently asked questions to the reference desk at the Darien Library in pre-Internet days, according to Louise Berry, a former library director, who worked at the library for 35 years.
“In the 70s, before computers and Google, people always would call the library and ask all kinds of trivia questions like that,” said Berry, a Stamford resident.
The month of May marks Darien Library’s 125th birthday.
As a way to celebrate, on May 29, the library will hold Giving Day, where it will try to raise $125,000 within 24 hours.
“This is an opportunity for all of our users to give back on one day,” said Caroline Lopez, the library’s associate director of operations.
In addition, on the same day, there will be activities throughout the day including crafts and a family scavenger hunt throughout the building. There will also be cake and coffee at 4 p.m., near the front desk.
To donate, visit darienlibrary.org/donate or visit the Darien Library on Facebook.
“We are a public-private partnership,” Lopez said. “The town funds 75% of our budget, which goes toward operations, salaries and benefits. We fundraise for collections, programs, and technology. Our goal is to raise $700,000 per year.”
The Darien Library has had a total of six locations around town over the past 125 years. The original location was at 805 Post Road, where there is currently a Shell gas station.
Other locations included the former Holly Bell Homestead and 35 Leroy Avenue, where the Board of Education is now located. The library has been at its current location, at 1441 Post Road, since 2009.
The earlier years
“Reference questions were a big part of what we did, of what people looked to the library for,” Berry said.
Additional questions that were often asked of library staff were: “What are the hours of the town dump? and “How do I start a business?”
“We had a Rolodex with answers,” Berry said. “Blanche [Parker] was a wiz at the desk.”
Parker, who is assistant head of knowledge and learning services, has worked at the library for 41 years. She started as an intern and was later promoted to reference librarian.
Many times, people asked health-related questions about different diseases.
“They would ask us questions that they would be intimidated to ask their doctor,” Parker said.
“We had boxes of information that we would order, and go through little catalogs that the government published,” Berry said. They would also consult world almanacs and encyclopedias.
“We both have master’s degrees in library science and we learned you don’t learn facts. You learn how to find sources,” Parker said.