At the Orient Country Store, there’s a little bit of anything the mostly commercial-free community at the end of the North Fork might need.
As of this spring, that includes books, books on tape, DVDs and magazines, courtesy of the Floyd Memorial Library in Greenport.
Twice a month, assistant library director Poppy Johnson brings a curated selection from the Greenport library - about six miles away - to the country store. Thanks to a laptop, a portable bar code scanner and a digital library system, Johnson can do everything from her small corner of the country store that she could in the library.
“I can check in, check out, answer reference questions and just talk to people,” said Johnson, who has been a librarian in Greenport, where she’s lived for more than 20 years. “It’s a good way to remind people about everything we do.”
And while the outreach program is relatively new (and in a community that values things that stay the same), Johnson does more talking than checking out.
“People are still getting used to us being here,” she said, greeting the customers that walk into the store - many by name - and asking them about their days, their families and news around town.
But she’s committed to the project. As a young girl waits for her lunch at the deli counter, Johnson sizes her up: “What do you think we could tempt her with?” she asks her colleague, Stephanie Prato, an intern at the library, suggesting a children’s book with a unicorn on the cover.
Johnson also remembers that the owner of a nearby cafe does not have a library card.
“We could go get her to sign up,” Johnson said.
“Maybe I could go watch the counter for her,” Prato offered. “She’s there alone.”
Late in the shift (Johnson is there from 2 to 4 p.m.), Evan Ozolins, 13, who lives in East Marion, comes to the store for a drink and leaves with a book.
“I thought my brother would like it,” he said about the book he chose, “Shakespeare for Beginners.”
Ozolins said they don’t get to the library very often, and this was his first time checking out a book from the country store. This was more convenient, he said.
By the time Ozolins was checking out his book, his whole family had already been through to the store on separate occasions. He was in earlier, when he left his glasses there, then his brother came back to collect them. Just before Ozolins checked out the book, his parents were there to pick up a few things as they took a break from cleaning out their house in Orient, which recently burned down in a fire.
Johnson said the foot traffic and the camaraderie is what makes the country store the perfect spot for an impromptu library.
“The library is not the building,” she said. “The library is the people and the desire to share, and you can do that anywhere.”
Photo by Erin Geismar. Poppy Johnson, assistant library director at Floyd Memorial Library in Greenport, and library intern Stephanie Prato check out a book for East Marion resident Evan Ozolins at the Orient Country Store. (July 25, 2012)