A thank you to Mrs. Soini, my childhood librarian

  • Dozens of residents and their children attended a retirement party for New Ipswich Library Director Anne Soini on Monday to say their good-byes. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Published: 10/2/2019 4:43:47 PM

I can’t quite tell you how devastated nearly five-year-old me was when I found out I was too young for a library card.

At the time, you could apply for your very own card when you entered the first grade. When my brother (two years older than I) went in to get his card, I, who was already reading, was furious I wasn’t allowed yet.

God bless Anne Soini. She understood my frustrated reader’s soul.

Anne Soini has been the librarian at the New Ipswich Library for as long as I’ve been alive, and she was well-known to me before that fateful day I got my library card. She knew I was a voracious lover of picture books already. And yes, that day, she bent the rules to ensure I walked out that day with a card to match my brothers – she even went out of her way to assign me an easy-to-remember card number. Until the day I moved out of town as a high school senior, my number was 500.

That memory is so very clear in my mind as the day I became “a reader.” And it’s only one of the several kindnesses Mrs. Soini, as she was always known to me, bestowed upon me as a member of her library.

I grew up in the midst of the Harry Potter craze, at a time when new books would be released and there would be a mile-long waiting list at local libraries for each new volume. I never had to wait, because I so anticipated them that directly after I finished a new volume, I would ask Mrs. Soini if she had started the waiting list for the next one (not out for at least another year) yet. She was always happy to oblige, and as the next summer’s release rolled around, and I checked in, she’d assure me she hadn’t forgotten I was first on the list.

When I entered Central Elementary School, each week, we’d troop across the street to the library for a story hour and to check out books. On the way there, I’d say hello to Mrs. Soini’s brother, David Cotzin, our crossing guard. He knew all of us by name, and many of us by inexplicable nick-names designed to tease and get us to giggle. We’d listen to a story, and Mrs. Soini would assist us in picking out books to check out for the week. She knew most everyone’s preferences, and would often have suggestions.

To this day, I’ll give books recommended to me by friends a shot, even if it’s not something I would have picked up otherwise. This is a habit that started from day one with Mrs. Soini. She made reading something to look forward to. She made visiting the library a chance to share what I thought of her recommendation.

I don’t know if Mrs. Soini remembers these small kindnesses. I don’t know if she thought she was going particularly out of her way. I think mainly, she is a woman who loves reading, and loves to see other people love reading.

I don’t know if she knows how much a hand she had in cultivating that love.

For Mrs. Soini, the fact that I loved books was more important than the fact that I wasn’t in first grade yet.

For Mrs. Soini, the fact that I loved Harry Potter was enough to start a waitlist for a book that hadn’t even been announced yet.

For me, Mrs. Soini was an adult who took my love of books seriously. For me, Mrs. Soini wasn’t just the librarian. She was my librarian.

So, thank you Mrs. Soini. Thank you for your love of books. And for mine.


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