A Conversation With Alex Eames

Alex Eames. Christine Sampson photo

The John Jermain Memorial Library on Saturday dedicated its new “Little Free Library” in memory of Shana R. Conron, a faithful supporter of the library who died in December 2018. Little Free Libraries work on a “take a book, give a book” system, and this one in particular began its life filled with books from Ms. Conron’s collection. Ms. Eames, a close friend of Ms. Conron who is actively involved with the library, reflected on Ms. Conron’s life and her love of books and the library.

Were you familiar with the Little Free Library concept before this one was dedicated in memory of Shana Conron?

No, and it was [John Jermain Memorial Library director] Cathy Creedon who, instead of putting Shana’s name on the elevator, which we sort of thought wasn’t quite appropriate, came up with the idea. I think it’s marvelous because we all have books at home that we’re done with. All you do is take your book down to this little birdhouse-looking box, and take out a book that you’re interested in reading, and put your book in its place. I’ve heard since, now that I’m sort of apprised of what it is, that they’re all over the country and that it’s a not-for-profit. They sent the little box as a kit. It was already painted and it had all the parts. One of the handymen who works at the library put it together, put it on the post and set it in. The rest is up to the public.

What do you think Ms. Conron would think about having this Little Free Library tribute?

I think she’d be thrilled because she was a voracious reader.

RELATED STORY: Little Free Library Dedicated in Memory of Shana R. Conron

What went into the selection of books from her collection to put into the Little Free Library?

When my husband and I were helping pack up her books in her apartment at Peconic Landing, we found rows of books all in French and lots of Proust. She had gardening books because she took the Cornell Cooperative Extension gardening course and became a master gardener. She had art books as well. When you’re packing up books to give to the library, you start to think you can’t make it all garden books or all books in French, so we tried to edit and pick a little bit of the classics. There was a good assortment of books to put in the box.

What is your hope for this Little Free Library?

I hope that people really enjoy it. Even in the middle of the night, if you have a good flashlight or your iPhone, you can go down there — it will always be open. Open up the little box, slip in your book, get another book if you can’t sleep. I think it will be wonderful. With kids, I think it will be fun. I think it will be good for everybody.

Can you tell me a little more about Ms. Conron herself?

The thing that impressed me the most was that she was super smart. She had a very sort of quiet, open mind. She would just solve things. She used very succinct language, and I think that was from being an attorney. Also, she loved people. She entertained, she was busy, she was in a book club, she had a French conversation group that she went to. She was always having a good time.

It’s clear that books meant a lot to her. Can you expand on that and her contributions to the library?

Shana was part of the “One for the Books” committee, which were the fundraising dinners and then they turned into cocktail parties for the library. It’s an interesting thing being around a table working on a project with someone. You really get to know one another. Because she was the person that any individual who knew her would go to for advice, I think she was a big help to the library through the renovation. I know that Cathy Creedon and other people on the staff respected that in her and grew to be very fond of her. She was just lots of fun. This was a lady who knew how to laugh. She had such a wide range of interests. I think that books were so central to her life, to her work.