WILTON — Wilton Library’s 2019 Wilton Reads program has earned it the Excellence in Public Library Service Award from Connecticut Library Association. The townwide reading program focused on the Holocuast, using as its foundation “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris, a historical fiction based on the life of the Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig Sokolov. It is a story of hope, courage and survival.

According to the association, this award is presented to a library that exemplifies “creativity and innovation, service to the community, leadership in creating model programs and programs which will affect the future of the library and its community.”

Lauren McLaughlin, the library’s assistant director, patron services & collection development, wrote the award submission’s introduction, which said, in part, that when Executive Director Elaine Tai-Lauria “read about the reappearance of signs of intolerance and anti-Semitic symbols in town, [she] knew Wilton Library had to take a leadership role in educating the community about the signs of prejudice that were emerging in society again.”

In receiving the award, Tai-Lauria commended the schools’ participation and that of the library staff, who also worked with other community organizations including the Wilton Clergy Association and American Legion Post 86, to collaborate on numerous programs.

“I am very proud of the library staff members who helped create this significant programming,” Tai-Lauria said. “They embraced this project from the start and cultivated the robust programs, providing an immersive experience for the community.”

Building out from the closing event when author Heather Morris traveled from Australia to spake at Wilton Library and Wilton High School, the staff planned all-inclusive book discussions; a talk by Holocaust survivor, Judith Altmann; a presentation by the daughter of artist William Pachner whose art ultimately was inspired by the loss of 80 members of his family in the Holocaust; a Wilton Clergy Association discussion on tolerance that also included artifacts relating to the Holocaust and World War II-related objects, such as a surviving Torah from Czechoslovakia; a book talk about an Iranian diplomat in France who managed to help hundreds of Jews escape; a musical performance by Igor Pikayzen featuring music written by musicians who became Holocaust victims; a seminar on poetry inspired by the Holocaust; and a moderated documentary film viewing, as well as walk-in viewings.

“Wilton Reads is a model program that has brought a whole new dimension to the Town of Wilton,” said Carol Johnson, vice president of Fairfield County Bank, an event sponsor that donated copies of the book to be given away to the public.

“Wilton Library is most deserving of this award for its leadership in fostering creativity, innovation, and collaboration in our community,” she said.

“Ultimately, our goal with Wilton Reads 2019 was that, as a community, we would emerge from this experience with a greater understanding and appreciation of the common bond of humanity that we share,” Tai-Lauria said. “The future of Wilton and other communities depends on our tolerance and respect for each other, and libraries can be catalysts in promoting greater understanding of our common humanity, then we all win. We continue to receive kudos for Wilton Reads 2019 and hope the lessons learned are not forgotten.”

Wilton Public Schools and Wilton Library were recognized last year with the National School Public Relations Association Golden Achievement Award for Wilton Reads 2019.

The library also received an Honorable Mention for its 2019 Annual Appeal video created by library staff member Kathy Trentos.

2020 program

The Wilton Reads 2020 selection is “Tales of the Jazz Age” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which has been postponed due to the pandemic. The program was planned as an exploration of American jazz and part of the centennial celebration of jazz legend and Wiltonian Dave Brubeck. It was scheduled to launch in April with a Wilton Public Schools collaboration. A new start is to be announced at a later date.

“The Tattooist of Auschwitz” is available in e-book and e-audiobook formats from the library’s Digital Library. For information, visit www.wiltonlibrary.org.