By MARTHA SMITH
Special to the Standard
NORTH KINGSTOWN – Cyndi Desrochers is trying to love her new e-reader but, well, it’s just not the same as holding a book.
The new director of the North Kingstown Free Library, who started her job Sept. 7 after serving as acting director of the West Warwick Public Library, finds the electronic device helpful for traveling.
“It’s better than lugging 20 pounds of books in my suitcase,” she laughs, “but you don’t read the same way. I like to read cover to cover and when you put down an e-reader it’s not as easy to pick it up again. There’s something comforting about having a book in your hands. It reminds you of going to the library as a child, of being read to.”
In fact, she still remembers two childhood books that were very important: one, read to her by her mother, had a Christmas theme; the other was The Village That Slept, discovered when Cyndi was in sixth grade.
“I took it out of the library so much my mom bought it for me.”
Despite being a lifelong bookworm, the Kansas native initially chose a different career path. She graduated from Kansas State University with degrees in Spanish and social work, receiving her master’s in library services from the University of Rhode Island after marrying and having children.
Attending URI, she says, “was pre-ordained.” She’s been a professional librarian 21 years.
Cyndi’s husband is a fulltime member of the Army National Guard stationed at Quonset; he was deployed to Iraq in 2005 and is also a nurse. The Desrochers’ children are now grown; their daughter lives in Boston and their son in Arizona.
At the North Kingstown library, she is taking over at a time when state and local finances are in turmoil and support for such entities as municipal libraries is dwindling.
“When I was in West Warwick, in 1993, we closed for six weeks. Then the hours [of operation] were cut, cut, cut. The situation [with the library closure] in Central Falls is really scary. Whatever happens will affect a lot of different libraries in the state.
“You want to do your best, provide your best. There will always be issues with funding but, hopefully, the town will continue [its financial support.]”
Cyndi was encouraged last week when she met for the first time with the Friends of the Library board.
“It’s really exciting to have a group like this,” she says. “They know what they’re doing.” So far she has concentrated on learning the system, how things are done and becoming acquainted with the staff.
“It will probably take another three to four weeks to get comfortable. It’s a hard thing learning everyone’s name, putting names with faces.”
She’s looking forward to getting suggestions and opinions and notes that a long-range plan for library development expires in 2013 and will need updating.
The North Kingstown library continues to be a hub of activity with a variety of diverse programs, a popular bank of public computers and heavy use of reading materials and DVDs.
In the last fiscal year, Cyndi notes, 363,989 items were checked out and a total of 187,828 visits were recorded.
As a native Kansan, she says trading one form of severe weather – tornadoes – for the hurricanes, flooding and heavy snow – wasn’t terrible. For one thing, she recalls the obligatory storm cellars of Kansas as disgusting spider-filled places.
And then there was the unfortunate Dorothy and her close encounter with high winds.
“My mom was kid when The Wizard of Oz came out. It scared her to death.”
The Desrochers have two yellow Labs at home. Buster was rescued and Tessie thinks she’s a Yorkie.
“We watch football on Sundays with her draped across my lap.”
Cyndi also scuba dives and, for 20 years, has taught exercise classes at the YMCA.
Not surprisingly, she reads voraciously. Her all-time favorite book is Gone with the Wind.
“It’s one of the few books that I’ll watch as a movie.”
A youthful fondness for the Hardy Boys is probably responsible for Cyndi’s devotion to mysteries.
“I love to solve them,” she says.