By Christine Simek
After over 18 years of reading books and telling stories to the children of Philipstown, Polly Townsend (or ‘Miss Polly,’ as she’s known to her audiences) is retiring as the children’s librarian at the Desmond-Fish Library in Garrison. Her last day was Feb. 28.
“I’m going to miss them — the kids,” Townsend said. “I’ve loved doing crafts with the children and planning story hours.”
Townsend, a Garrison native, earned her undergraduate degree in writing from Franconia College and a master’s degree in English literature from the University of New Hampshire. After spending some time living and working in Greece, she returned to New England and spent several years teaching writing to incarcerated young men and as a freelance journalist, ever passionate about language and literature.
Townsend and her family moved back to the Philipstown area in 1990, eventually settling into a home situated on several acres of the land she lived on and roamed around as a kid. During her childhood, Townsend’s father tended an organic garden on the property “before anyone knew what organic gardening was,” laughed Townsend. “But I learned to love nature and the land with him.”
As she had two school-aged children to care for at the time of their move, the children’s librarian post at the library allowed Townsend to balance work (and her love of books) with her responsibilities as a parent. “It was a perfect fit,” she said.
Townsend’s appreciation for the natural world has, over the years, inspired the programs she’s developed at the library. Townsend (with the help of the children who attend her library programs) maintains herb and vegetable gardens on library grounds. In the spring and summertime, butterflies and hummingbirds visit the feeders she’s placed just outside of the huge glass window in the children’s room where stories are read.
Townsend is looking forward to spending more time in her own garden now that she’ll have more free time. She’ll also tap the maple trees on her property, care for her chickens and bees and increase the number of hours she volunteers at the Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Cold Spring.
Surely, Townsend will be missed. “Polly’s watched children grow up here,” said Library Director Carol Donick. “She’s passed on a love for reading and an appreciation for all of the wonderful things that libraries have to offer.”
The Desmond-Fish Library hosts children’s programs throughout the year. Music and movement classes for toddlers as well as story and craft hours for elementary-aged children are held weekly. Special programs are scheduled for weekends, over school vacations and during the summer.
Lucille Merry will be taking over the role as children’s librarian at Desmond-Fish effective immediately, and all programming will continue without interruption.
Photos by C. Simek