The library: not just books anymore

Doll donated by children's author has history lesson for young borrowers

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Apr 02, 2014
Photo by: Sarah E. Reynolds Third-grader Elizabeth Akin holds Josefina, the American Girl doll donated by children's author Cynthia Lord to the library in Appleton, while her mother, Sarah Akin, looks on.

Appleton — Thanks to Newbury Honor-winning Maine author Cynthia Lord, the Mildred Stevens Williams Memorial Library, 2916 Sennebec Road, now has an American Girl doll to lend.

A couple of months ago, Lord, who lives in Topsham, posted on her Facebook page that she would donate an American Girl doll to the first library that responded to her post. Appleton resident Mona Pease, a friend of Lord's, saw the post, and got word to Library Coordinator Angela McKenna. She was not adept at using the social networking site, but did send Lord a friend request in response to the post announcing the doll donation offer, which led to the library's receiving the American Girl doll Josefina Montoya, a Mexican girl whose story is set in the New Mexico territory in 1824.

Several of the American Girl dolls, including Josefina, come with period clothes and story books about the time they are from. Appleton has an extra copy of the first book about Josefina, acquired before the doll came to live at the library. It also has several of Lord's books for children.

Lord did not stop at just the doll, but also donated a tote bag to hold Josefina and a book about her – the first in a series of six stories about this doll – a journal for borrowers to writer about their experience with the doll and some extra clothes. On top of that, McKenna's mother-in-law, who used to sew for her granddaughters' American Girl dolls, has made a large number of outfits for Josefina and a garment bag to hold them.

In an effort to draw new patrons, libraries are starting to lend themed cake pans (for example, Dora the Explorer), dolls and other items connected with children's books, McKenna said. Many children have already requested to borrow Josefina, who is loaned for a week at a time. Parents are asked to sign a borrowers agreement to fix or replace the doll if it is damaged or lost, and children can then take Josefina out on their library card, McKenna explained.

One borrower was Elizabeth Akin, a third-grader who is home-schooled by her mother, Sarah Akin. Taking Josefina home was part of a history lesson for Elizabeth, her mother said.

McKenna took pictures of all Josefina's outfits which she put into plastic pages in a loose-leaf notebook along with tips on caring for the doll; that way borrowers can be sure they are returning everything to the library.

She said she chose Josefina because her Mexican heritage and brown skin is different from that of most people living in the Midcoast. She hopes the enthusiasm for this doll will inspire people to donate other American Girl dolls.

“It's not just a doll, it's a historical experience,” McKenna said.

The library's phone number is 785-5656.

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