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Philanthropy A to Z

O – Osterville Village Library

Text by Elizabeth Shaw

The idea of a library is a simple one: a place where people can check out books and other media. But what happens when those running the library go above and beyond for their beloved community? The Osterville Village Library shows us how it’s done.

Though the library has moved around since its inception in 1873, occupying quite a few homes, including its first location in Mrs. Thankful Ames’ dining room, The Osterville Village Library has been working as the backbone of the community out of its home on Wianno Ave. since 2012.  Executive Director Cyndy Cotton says they’re especially thankful for the space now in the time of COVID. Like every other business, the library closed its doors in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that didn’t stop Cotton and her team in their pursuit of helping the community; in fact, it only motivated them more. “When COVID first hit, we put all the books we had in our bookstore out front and we gave them away on a daily basis,” says Cotton of the early days of the pandemic. “We ended up giving out 3,000 children’s books and games, as well as adult books. I thought it was just something I would do for a week.” Once the team had the time to assess the situation and make a plan, the library worked non-stop throughout the pandemic to do whatever they could to help the community. “Whatever we could do, we did. If we could be of help to someone, whether it was getting them books, getting information, getting them a library card so they could access materials or just listening to them, we were there,” says Cotton.

But they don’t limit themselves to traditional library services. “We have a 30-foot gazebo, and an event company donated a balloon arch, and someone donated a banner, so in June, we held graduations. Kids from grammar school to high school got to have their graduation. “Alexa” played Pomp & Circumstance. I had a microphone, and everyone submitted a little write-up about the kids, and we read them out as they walked through in their gowns,” says Cotton of bringing a little joy to the community. “We actually had an adoption ceremony as well. The child walked through with his old last name and graduated with his new last name and we played ‘We Are Family’.”

For Cotton, it was important to support the community in whatever way possible, and during this time, that meant creating more resources for mental health. When the library first closed, Cotton and her team spent the early days calling patrons to check in, and as the shut down continued, Cotton began looking for more ways to help. “We’ve done some YouTube interviews with mental health experts. Part of our motivation for re-opening when we did was to do everything in our capability to help those in the community who needed us. We set up printers and curbside pick-up very early on. We helped people with housing and getting rental assistance. I was here every day answering phones, helping people get cards, helping them download books.”

Whether rain, shine or global pandemic, the Osterville Village Library is here to help. From blood drives to beach trash clean-up to online learning databases, this is more than just a library. And Cotton couldn’t be prouder, “We say we’re the heart of the community that never skipped a beat.” 

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