In the middle of the children's section of the library stands an interlocking set of cubes, home to hundreds upon hundreds of colorful picture books.
The collection, which grows incrementally each year, was established by Tolland residents David and Linda Anderson in memory of their son, Marshall David Anderson, who passed away in 1997 after a short illness. He was not yet 4 years old.
"[Marshall] was an avid library user, a delightful, sweet, charming little boy who came to storytime and loved being read to," Ginny Brousseau, the Children's and Young Adult librarian, said.
Shortly after Marshall's passing, his parents approached Kay Mahoney, the library director at the time, proposing to establish the collection in their son's memory with the stipulation that they have some input into the selection of the books. David Anderson is the Coordinator of Gifted Education for the town of South Windsor, which is based out of South Windsor's Timothy Edwards School.
"The first year or so, we gave them some publishers' catalogs with a few recommendations, but in time they developed their own style," Brousseau said. "They've made some wonderful choices over the years. It's a very popular collection and a thoughtful and wonderful gift to our community."
Brousseau said the collection, which started on one shelf, has grown substantially over the years, first expanding to a second shelf, then a whole section before being moved into the cube display. The collection was recently moved again to a new area in the children's area to allow for continued growth as the Andersons plan to continue with their donations indefinitely.
As of the end of August this year, there were 1,182 books in the collection valued at about $15,000, Brousseau said, adding that with each new book the Anderson's purchase, they come into the library and affix their own specially designed dedication plate inside the front cover. Brousseau said the selected books are all hardcover editions with quality bindings so they will last for many years. Recently, the Anderson's purchased a few more books.
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"It's been an impressive endeavor," Brousseau said. "With prices running toward $18 for a good children's book, it's been a Godsend for the library, especially in these tight times. We are all so very appreciative to have a family so dedicated to helping the library."
The Anderson's have chosen books that target the 3 to 6-year-old age group, Brousseau said. "The type of books they have chosen are often ones that tug at your heartstrings a little bit," she said. Brousseau said she finds parents of children in this age group are very appreciative of the selections.
While, according to Linda Anderson, Marshall's favorite book was probably "Where Kit" by Seymour Fleishman, no doubt he would have loved every one of the books in the collection. In his obituary, his family mentioned that Marshall liked "listening to stories, particularly folktales of Mike Fink, Big John Henry, and Davey Crocket..."
"When you think of all the children whose lives have been touched through him, it's really amazing," Brousseau said.