Letter-writing enthusiasts gathered at the Exeter Community Library on Aug. 13 to listen to librarian and children’s book author JJ Landis speak in a program entitled The Lost Art of Letter Writing. Participants not only had the chance to listen to Landis, but also enjoyed crafting letters to newfound pen pals at the Exeter Library in Devon, England.

Landis said that she ran the program at her own library in Lancaster, but was disappointed at the lack of turnout. She was stunned by the large attendance as more than 50 attendees came to hear her speak about the importance of hand-written notes in our high-tech society.

“In this day and age of texting and social media,” she says, “it’s refreshing to see people willing to take the thoughtful path of handwritten communication.”

Many of the program’s participants looked forward to writing pen pals and were able to do so with stationary and envelopes provided by Friends of the Exeter Community Library, an independent nonprofit organization that provides funding for the Exeter Community Library.

Jeff Uleau from The Perforated Post created customized decorative stamps for those who attended. Wayne and Leah Gehret of USMintSheets.com, located in Ephrata made an appearance to sell vintage postage stamps at face value. Wayne says he’s collected stamps since he was four years old and his biggest customers are brides who purchase a collage of flower and love stamps for their wedding invitations. The Gehrets graciously donated a portion of Monday evening’s sales to the library.

When asked about how the pen pal program was conceived, library assistant Denise Gierula said that she was given the idea from a patron who requested a program on pen pals and vintage stamps. Darlene Mest, Assistant Director of the library, thought it would be nice if participants could leave the program with a pen pal to write to. Knowing that another librarian could help organize such an event, Gierula reached out to Emily Macaulay, the Centre Manager at the Exeter Library in England.

Gierula says, “I emailed Emily with the concept and she thought it was a lovely idea.” Gierula then created a pen pal application for participants in England to describe themselves, and patrons at the Aug. 13 event read the descriptions provided and picked their pen pals.

The event was so successful that the Exeter Community Library has agreed to continue it on a monthly basis, calling it a Letter Writing Social. Future events will include mail art, post cards, and wax seals and may include writing to veterans, first responders, and aging Americans.

The next event will be held on Sept. 24 at 6:30 p.m.

For more information visit the Exeter Community Library’s website at www.berkslibraries.org/branch/exeter or on their Facebook page.

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