Cathrina Skov hadn’t planned on living in Waldoboro even though it was on the coast, an attraction because she was from New Hampshire’s coast. Mostly, she wasn’t ready to settle down or leave the nomadic lifestyle she and her husband had crafted as raft river guides. But then the Miller place came up for sale, and she has never left.
Although her mother had been a librarian, it took Cathrina a while to imagine it for herself. She started instead with a solar installation company, then in the schools teaching life skills, and then as a mother who farmed their market garden, supplying restaurants. But after “the most insane summer” of her life – rising at 4 a.m. to farm for four hours, being a mother for another eight, then waitressing at a restaurant they supplied for another four, plus working crafts fairs on the weekend with her husband – she spotted an ad for an assistant librarian at Waldoboro Public Library. She checked it out but decided she wasn’t qualified. She had a degree in forest and park management, not library science. But the director called her back and offered her a 10-hour a week job on the circulation desk, exactly what fit her schedule. From there, Cathrina took on whatever they gave her, learning everything she could about both the library’s collections and library science, supplemented with conferences, workshops and online classes. And this led to her being the director of the Waldoboro Public Library in 2012.
“Some years ago there were people in town who asked, ‘Why are we giving the library money? We have a high school library.’ And I’d say, ‘But it closes at two. It’s not public. It’s not open in the summer or weekends. It doesn’t have story hour, and it doesn’t have board books.’
“Sure, schools have libraries, but they don’t have authors coming in to give talks. They don’t have large-print books for older people. They don’t have public access computers. They don’t print-out tax forms. They don’t offer faxing. They don’t have an art club. They don’t have a summer reading program.
“When we first got computers, we became a sort of school in basic computers, teaching people how to set up and use email. How to print. How to access magazines. How to find out about things for kids. We did a lot of hand-holding.
“We started a video cassettes library and added audio books on cassette, which were really popular. But now people are streaming movies and downloading audio books from the Cloud Library. So people come in for books. Print is not dead. Like a lot of libraries we have a lot of mysteries and biographies. But we also have a Waldoboro reference section with histories, town reports, and genealogies. But what makes our library unique is that we buy books based on what people ask us to buy. Our library reflects the tastes of the people of Waldoboro.
“Many still come to use our computers. Maybe theirs at home has broken down, or they don’t have one. On them, we help people fill out job or other applications like home or rental assistance. And our Wi-Fi is on all the time, so people will sit outside, too, without even going into the building.
“We have social workers coming to the library for meeting with a client or supervised visits between parents and kids. Tutors use the library because if a kid is suspended, they’re not allowed back on the school campus. So they meet here because it’s advisable not to do it in somebody’s home. And then there are the people who need a place to work without the distractions of home.
“And the library is the one place you can come and be among people, and not have to buy anything. If you want companionship, you can go to Moody’s, but you can’t just sit there. You have to buy a cup of coffee. You can see people at Hannaford, but you can only wander down the aisles for so long. Here, you can come without having to talk to anyone. You can just be with people. We have a lot of lonely people.
“We try to provide quiet. Not everybody can sit in the woods for quiet, and especially not in winter. And churches don’t have their doors open all the time. Everywhere else is noisy. I knew one mom with a bunch of children, and when her life became too rich, she’d come to the library just to have peace. To me, quiet is a commodity, and it’s something the library can give. I just wish this library had more walls so we could have both — quiet spaces for being quiet and community spaces for everyone else.
“I’m still watching COVID and wondering when we can start up our story hour, our Lego club again, and board games on Monday afternoon. But we’re letting people meet in the conference room again. Our knitting club was here this Friday, and we’re letting tutors come in to work with kids, too.
“Pre-COVID, we had music get-togethers for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers 1-6 years old, and the room would be packed. We’d have to turn people away. We had a special one for infants – newborns to 8 months old for music movement in the morning. We had story hours for toddlers and preschool kids. And board books and the easy readers and everything in between, and in good times we had puzzles and a dollhouse and games. We try to get the children in very, very young. I want young children to come to the library so that they’ll feel comfortable at any age in a library, wherever they are.
“For some people, I think, the library is intimidating. They think you have to be a reader, or be good in school. But that’s not the case. We used to have a regular group from Mobius (for disabled adults). They didn’t read at all. But they still found something that they wanted to take out. My dream is for everybody to feel welcome in the library.”
(Rebecca Cooney interviews Waldoboro public servants, interesting community members, and other people with a village story – or two – to tell. She lives in Waldoboro.)