The picturesque Cuyahoga Valley is filled with many fine sights, but the winner of my “Favorite Place in Peninsula” award goes to the Peninsula Library and Historical Society. It took about one second for me to become a fan of this special, award-winning place!
My Peninsula plans included saying hello to Randy Bergdorf, director of the Peninsula Library and Historical Society. Randy is also a fellow member of the Ohio Library Council’s Subject and Special Collections Division Action Council. This summer, I was fortunate to join this group of eight librarians elected by their peers to promote and plan continuing education related to library and archival special collections.
Nestled in a beautiful setting, this community treasure traces its roots to 1942, when two leaders of the local Girl Scout troop decided to start a library as a scouting activity. The campaign kicked off during a Halloween party, where a book was the price of admission. The party raised about 100 books and $40. More donations of books and funds followed, the library officially opened in 1943, and it moved to its current location in 1964. Remembering its heritage, the library gives a book to each child who trick-or-treats at the library for Halloween.
I was sold on this place before I even opened its front door. On one side of the sidewalk, a pumpkin sits atop a millstone reminiscent of the four major stone quarries that once were in the Peninsula area, including the Deep Lock Quarry that produced millstones for the Quaker Oats Company. On the other side, an upright log is the foundation for a fairy-sized hut. More pumpkins point the way along the serpentine sidewalk that slithers up to the door in much the same manner as how the curving Cuyahoga River gave the village its name.
To the right of the front door is another clue to how unique this library is. Mural of Transportation in the Valley, a mosaic designed by Peninsula artist Honore Guilbeau Cooke, was installed on the exterior of the building in 1964. The mural’s shapes, lines and colors are reminiscent of how a geographical representation of Peninsula appears on old maps and in aerial photographs. According to the library’s website, the river is depicted by the white band, the turquoise line illustrates the B&O Railroad, and the grey-green section stands for Deep Lock. The Ohio & Erie Canal, the Stumpy Basin, the now-dry Oxbow River and the stone quarries are also incorporated into the mural.
In 1970, Guilbeau created another mural for the library commemorating the Peninsula Python. In the summer of 1944, a circus came through neighboring Bath Township. Two large snakes escaped; one was found dead, but the other disappeared. That summer, several people reported seeing a snake at least 15 feet long slithering around. Others think that it was a hoax created by Peninsula resident Robert Bordner, who wrote about it in the November 1945 issue of Atlantic Monthly. Whether or not the Peninsula Python existed, it’s a local legend, and Peninsula holds a festival in its honor. Python imagery abounds throughout the library and the village.
The Peninsula Python mural is just one of many endearing features I found inside the library. Inside the front door, a display celebrates Mickey Mouse’s 85th birthday. Four cases lined with “Happy Birthday” paper are filled with Mickey and Minnie figurines, snow globes, books and more memorabilia of the famous mice from Randy’s personal collection.
Randy’s favorite spot in the library is the Carole Wright Children’s Room. It is dedicated to the memory of Carole Wright, one of the original Girl Scouts involved in the library’s creation who served 34 years as clerk/treasurer of the library’s board of trustees before she passed away in 1996. Behind Randy’s shoulder, you can see a moving carousel featuring hand-carved reproductions of actual carousel horses.
At first, I was hooked by the curio cabinet of Beatrix Potter china figurines, a plush turkey sitting in a wing chair, and a plush Garfield proclaiming, “I’m a library cat!” And then I spotted the child-sized chairs painted with carousel images…
But all that was nothing compared to the Roush Room, where researchers can pore over an enticing collection of local history resources. Oh, it was hard to resist making a permanent nest in this inviting space! Here, Randy curates books and archival collections devoted to the history of Cuyahoga Valley communities, Summit County and northeastern Ohio; Boston Township census records; maps and photographs; cemetery records; scrapbooks and newspaper clippings; and collections related to local authors. If the contents of the room aren’t enticing enough, the picturesque view from its window includes a bandstand that is a favorite location for weddings and other shindigs.
Last week, the Peninsula Library and Historical Society was recognized as a Star Library in the 2013 Library Journal Index of Public Library Service. Rated on its performance within categories or peer groups determined by operating expenditures, the library was awarded stars for points earned in the areas of circulation, library visits, program attendance and public Internet use. Here are just a few examples of the clever, creative ways this small but well-loved library serves its patrons.
Join Randy for Classic Movie Night on the first Thursday evening of the month, eight months of the year, in the room pictured below. November’s film was Breakfast at Tiffany’s; on December 5, he’ll be popping popcorn for The Shop Around the Corner, the 1940 film starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. Randy provides interesting fact sheets about the movies he shows, including a synopsis, things to watch for, information about Oscar nominations and other trivia.
If you’re looking for unique gift items, shop the library’s Bizarre Bazaar! It’s stocked with fun and interesting new and gently used things, like Christmas decorations, household items, toys and sewing patterns. Unless the item is otherwise marked, make a donation of any amount to the Friends of the Library to cover the cost of your selection.
December is “Ugly Christmas Sweater Month” at the library. Wear a Christmas sweater to the library and it will waive any overdue fines up to $5. If you don’t have a fine, you’ll receive an “Ugly Christmas Sweater” prize from the library just for wearing it!
Even if your wardrobe doesn’t include an ugly Christmas sweater, stop by the library for its eighth annual holiday mini-tree display, which it co-sponsors with the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. Raffle tickets will be sold for trees decorated by local merchants and organizations. On December 16, the winners will be chosen, and they get to take their trees home for the holidays. Proceeds benefit the Chamber of Commerce and the library’s Carole Wright Children’s Fund for children’s programming.
During January and February 2014, the library is holding its fourth annual snowman photo contest. Build a snowman, take a photograph of it, and bring or e-mail your picture to the library by February 28. The images will be included in a display, and patrons will vote on their favorites.
In addition to these creative offerings, the library holds story hours and craft activities for children, book discussion groups, informative seminars, travelogues and more. Don your ugliest sweater and visit the Peninsula Library and Historical Society soon!