DANVERS — There’s a cool, quiet oasis in the middle of the hot summer that’s available to all.
Libraries such as the Peabody Institute Library of Danvers have long been a beacon of knowledge, learning and truth, but with the pandemic they’ve evolved into so much more. Now, libraries can be a go-to destination for family fun, yoga or classic films.
The age-old stereotype of a librarian shushing patrons is long gone. Libraries may be quiet, but they are far from silent these days.
On any given day, the Peabody Institute can be filled with the sound of children laughing at a storyteller, the rhythm of a drum circle or even a full-blown concert outside at the neoclassical mansion’s bandstand at the 15 Sylvan St.
Library Director Noelle Boc laughs when the stereotype of librarians shushing visitors comes up.
“My original background is as a childrens librarian and I’ve rarely ever ‘shussed’ anyone. Most of it is because the library isn’t a quiet place anymore, because of this evolution towards the community center-kind of feeling to it, especially on the first floor or in the childrens room.”
The evolution of libraries Boc refers to can be seen by a brief glance at Peabody Institute’s calendar. In the coming days, the Peabody will a wide variety of events such as Friday’s 1 pm showing of “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.” On Monday, there will be a presentation of North American Birds of Prey followed by the Historic District Commission monthly meeting. Or there’s Tuesday’s Social Justice Book Club and a Zoom program, “Pottering Around the UK: Real Life Locations from the World of Harry Potter,” both at 7 pm and Wednesday’s lineup features a 11 am Zoom program, “Beachcombing for Signs of Wildlife” with the Mass Audubon followed by an outdoor concert by the Perfect Crime Band at 6 pm
And that’s just a few days of events at the Peabody Institute.
“Libraries have always been a community hub, it’s just more people are figuring that out now. Really, the goal of the library is to serve everyone in the community. To that end … we even have a position that is ‘community and outreach’ services, so we try to be involved in the community in a variety of ways,” she said, ticking off the outreach services tackled at the Peabody Institute.
Jennifer McGeorge, assistant director who is involved in programming at the Peabody Instutite, said today’s libraries aim to delight patrons.
“My role in it — with the programming — is that you want it to be entertaining, you it want to be educational, cultural, responsible, all these things. So we try to mix it and do anything we can think of. We try to have authors, we try to have classes, we try to have some fun stuff,” she said.
Even a presentation by a paranormal investigator in October is part of the library’s mission, she said.
“That’s definitely more of an entertainment thing, but there’s information to be had, too. It’s a lot of fun. We just try to run the gambit, we try to get every kind of interest covered.”
As the pandemic changed much of the world, McGeorge said libraries such as the Peabody had to take different appoaches to serve its readers.
Zoom allowed for the rapid expansion of offerings, of patron-reach or collaboration with other libraries, schools and other agencies. Zoom has opened many doors, she said.
“We do (activities) in person when we can, but we found the Zoom programs that we started doing during the beginnings of the pandemic have really taken off and attendance is running strong,” she said. “A lot of folks like to stay at home (while taking part).”
Despite the innovations, the library will always have a special place in the community.
“Oh, it’s definitely changing. There’s a lot more that you can do online, more that you can do from home, but you still see a lot of people coming in here to use the physical space, to use the books, to use the study space, the computers, the printing, scanning. We try to offer everything,”
“A lot of time, people are coming to meet here, or to chat or to do work together and that’s a whole other piece of what the library is because it is a free, open space for people to come to meet and we don’ t care who comes in our doors.”
Summer reading, for kids and adults, is, of course, emphasize at the Peabody Institute Library. The library used long-standing connections with the town’s schools to get the word out to students in elementary schools, the middle school and high school about this summer’s campaign.
“We let it be known the library’s summer reading is available whether elementary or young adult or even mom and dad,” Boc said.
In-person activities, paired with online resources, offer up a dynamic and personal experience, regardless of visitors’ age. For kids, it might be reading suggestions, activities and even links for further exploration.
Entries in summer reading raffles serve as incentives as “we try to encourage — at all levels — that reading is a pleasurable activity.
“For a lot of kids, it’s ‘Awh, I have to read this summer for school’ but here we try to make it something fun that you can do and there’s rewards to reading,” Boc said.
IF YOU GO
Peabody Institute Library of Danvers 15 Sylvan St., Danvers Monday — Thursday: 9 am-9 pm Friday & Saturday: 9 am-5 pm Sunday (Sept. to May): 1 pm to 5 pm 978-774-0554 www.danverslibrary.org