Person of the Week
Christine Carpino: Never Too Young for a Good Book?
Behind the desk at the Essex Library, Child and Teen Librarian Christina Carpino is working to assist patrons despite the challenges of the COVID pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Christina Carpino )
A good book lingers in the memory. Christina Carpino, the new children and teen librarian at the Essex Library, knows that. It’s why parents helping their youngsters select books often opt for the favorites of their own childhood like Make Way for Ducklings (this reporter’s favorite), Goodnight Moon, and Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel.
Christina is enthusiastic about being a young people’s librarian.
“I love working with kids and helping to build lifelong habits of reading,” she says.
Contrary to what adults often think, Christina says that children do not prefer to read on electronic devices.
“Kids prefer books over digital media. They like to read books; on a tablet, they play games,” she explains.
Essex library patrons can learn more about what is going on at the library at the upcoming annual meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 5 p.m. The meeting will be virtual with people logging on electronically through Zoom. The library’s website www.youressexlibrary.org has information on connecting to the meeting.
The meeting will feature a talk by Essex resident Sam Tannenhaus, retired editor of the New York Times Sunday Book Review, about how to write a book. Tannenhaus is the author of The Death of Conservatism and a biography of Whittaker Chambers, the journalist central to accusations against Alger Hiss in the trial which riveted the nation some 70 years ago. He has almost completed a biography of William F. Buckley, which has a publisher but not yet a publication date.
At the library, in the precautions necessitated by COVID-19, Christina has been holding story hours electronically. She does three different programs, one a live video, one a YouTube program, and one a recorded story hour that families can access on their own schedule. In addition, she is doing number of programs for teens and more advanced readers.
Not all the fans of story hour are children. Christina’s 96-year old grandfather in Illinois regularly watches the recorded story hour and her mother has just set up his computer so that he can follow events at the Essex Library on Facebook.
Christina also creates craft kits weekly for parents and children to pick up. So far, the crafts have included a scarecrow puppet and a bumblebee mosaic. Each kit has all the materials to make the project.
Christina puts together 20 crafts kits a week and they are serving a wider population than she had anticipated. She says grandparents are picking up the kits to do with grandchildren. She puts out a new kit each Thursday and says by Saturday they are all gone.
On Tuesday, Oct. 20, Christina will host a virtual program for the whole family, a Harry Potter trivia night. On Halloween, the library plans a drive-up trick-or-treat where parents with their children can proceed through the library’s circular driveway, picking up at treat bag as they do. Maintaining social distance, costumed children can have their pictures taken with librarians, who will also be in costume.
Christina, whose undergraduate degree was in education at Central Connecticut State University, taught for five years before starting on her master’s degree in library service. Library service is typically not an undergraduate program. She says becoming a librarian was always her goal, and more specifically become a school librarian. But a part time job as a children’s librarian in at the public library in Rocky Hill changed her mind.
“I just loved working there,” she recalls.
She had planned to get her master’s degree in library service from Southern Connecticut State University but just as she was making her plans, the library school lost its accreditation. It has since regained certification. Instead, she got her masters from Kent State University.
Christina, who married her college roommate’s brother, didn’t have to wait for marriage to gain an Italian heritage.
“People are always surprised when they hear that,” she says.
She points out her background was always Italian, though her maiden name, Scatchell, didn’t necessarily indicate it. She says the spelling had been changed sometime in the past to Anglicize the name.
Although Christina graduated from high school and college in Connecticut, she hasn’t always lived in New England. She spent several years in Texas, which explains why she roots for the Dallas Cowboys. Outside of the Cowboys, her teams come from the Chicago area, where both her parents grew up.
She is not only an avid football watcher, she is also a fantasy football player, as is her husband. In the league in which they play, Christina has three times come in second. But her competition is very close to home: Her husband has come in first twice.
Football isn’t the only fantasy league Christina has competed in. She also has played fantasy ice hockey with her father and her three brothers. She not only enjoys watching ice hockey, for a time she also played.
When she watches sports, Christina is typically doing something else: crocheting. At this time of year, she is usually getting ready to display her wares at holiday fairs, but coronavirus has curtailed such events. She crochets things like hats, shawls, market bags, and wall hangings.
Her mother taught her how to both crochet and to knit, but she far prefers crocheting.
“It is so much faster,” she says.
Watching a recent football game, she completed two hats.
Keeping busy is the essence of Christina’s schedule.
“I never have a problem with what to do with spare time. I have never been the type not to work. Even when I was teaching, I always worked in the summer,” she says.
She makes time for reading and next month she is looking forward to participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, a program to encourage people to try their hand at writing. Christina hopes she can also encourage local teens to participate.
She has done the program for the last several years, often trying her hand at writing fantasy. She says she doesn’t think any of her efforts are good enough to publish—so far.
“I’m slowly editing one,” she says. “I could always self-publish but I’d like to get a commercial publisher. I’m just not there yet.”
Editor’s note: Rita Christopher is president of the Essex Library Association Board of Trustees.