Stereotypically, libraries are quiet spaces. But when bibliophiles gather on the front steps of Smith Memorial Library to celebrate Chautauqua Institution’s annual Library Day this morning, the scene will be anything but silent.
“We’re not a quiet library,” said Smith Director Scott Ekstrom. “We’re available to people for study and research, but we’re also a community center, and we really emphasize the community aspect.”
This year’s festivities, running from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. today, July 16, at the Smith, mark the library’s 88th year of operation.
The morning will include birthday cake, refreshments, and at 10 a.m. Ekstrom will lead more than 100 kazoo-armed Chautauquans (kazoos will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis) in the fifth annual “Kazoo Chorale.” Bestor Plaza will be serenaded with kazoo covers of popular television jingles and patriotic standards.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Friends of the Library President Bijou Miller. “People enjoy it and get into it, and we attract a lot of attention that way.”
Friends of the Library has been sponsoring the event for more than a decade, though not without some changes along the way.
“Back in the day it was a more formal thing,” Ekstrom said. “We and the Friends of the Library have transitioned it to be a fun day.”
The event serves as a fundraiser for the Smith. Friends of the Library will accept cash or check donations of any amount, which in the past have gone toward upgrades like improved technology, new outdoor chairs and tables, furniture repair and expanding the library’s digital collection.
“(The Friends of the Library) have given us things that maybe don’t fit into our general operating budget, but would be good to have,” Ekstrom said.
The Institution has expanded the day’s scope to celebrate libraries and librarians of all kinds; local public and school librarians as well as library trustees are offered complimentary morning and afternoon gate passes for the day.
“Hopefully there will be a lot of librarians on the grounds,” Ekstrom said.
Miller sees Library Day as a celebration of the unique position the Smith holds within the Institution.
“We’re trying to promote well-deserved support of the library,” she said. “It’s a wonderful library; it’s the only one I know that’s open on the Fourth of July and on Sundays.”