Thea Taube — much like the Ottendorfer library’s suddenly famous doll mascot — has been inundated with such an outpouring of love and appreciation lately that she is nearly coming apart at the seams.
“It has been quite a week,” said a harried Ms. Taube, the children’s librarian at the Ottendorfer branch of the New York Public Library, in the East Village.
Readers of an article in The New York Times last week will recognize Ms. Taube as the resourceful children’s librarian who, after she was hired in 2004, rescued an American Girl doll named Kirsten Larson from a storage shelf and began lending it out to girls, elevating Kirsten to mascot status at the branch.
The article described Kirsten’s journeys to the homes of a diverse group of girls who use the branch and the recent send-off party as a worn-out Kirsten was packed up for shipping to the American Girl’s doll hospital in Middleton, Wis.
News of the doll available for loan was referenced on the Weekend Update segment on “Saturday Night Live,” as the host Seth Meyers joked sarcastically that the doll was being lent out “because some people haven’t gotten the flu yet.”
Kirsten’s story elicited many offers to donate dolls or money to libraries, in New York and elsewhere. American Girl dolls retail for $110.
But officials at the New York Public Library’s main press office said they could not accept doll donations. They released a statement from Anne Coriston, vice president of the system’s public programs and manager of the 87 branch libraries.
“The incredible outpouring of support we have received in response to Kirsten’s story, both from N.Y.P.L. patrons and others across the country, has been heartwarming and inspiring,” the statement read. “Due to the overwhelming number of offers we’ve received in the past two days, the library is simply not able to manage such a great number of donations and therefore, we kindly ask those who have generously offered their dolls to consider donating them to their local child welfare organization.”
This policy presented a problem for Ms. Taube, who was flooded with e-mails and phone calls from people offering to send her branch new and used American Girl dolls.
“I had to tell them I couldn’t accept them,” she said of the dozens of offers she received. She was, however, allowed to accept money donated to the branch, including a $1,000 check for the branch in a letter that arrived by mail on Monday.
There were those – bless them — who simply sent dolls without asking. So far, five new dolls have arrived in packages addressed to the library: three for the branch and two addressed by name to girls mentioned in the article whose parents were unable or unwilling to splurge for a doll.
Ms. Taube plans on loaning out a roster of dolls, including a rehabilitated Kirsten and the three new dolls: Rebecca, Saige and Kit. She plans on putting each doll in a backpack with the corresponding books that provide their biography, and a diary to accommodate each girl’s description of the visit. Ms. Taube then plans on running monthly discussions for the children who borrow the dolls.
The other offers Ms. Taube has received included one from a teenage girl from the Upper East Side who offered to take a group of friends to the branch to volunteer. A professor of American studies at Yale said he would travel from Connecticut and run a junior writers group. A literary agent suggested Ms. Taube write a children’s book about Kirsten, and Ms. Taube was to appear on Tuesday on the daytime talk show, “Live From the Couch.”
“What am I going to wear?” she said, looking down at her usual outfit of a sweater and jeans and sneakers, in the branch on Monday afternoon. “My wardrobe consists of three pairs of jeans.”
Ms. Taube had just run a toddlers group, and a woman walked up and thanked her for making Kirsten available for lending.
“You are appreciated, and not just by mothers of daughters who borrow the doll,” said the woman, Beth Weiner, who lives in the neighborhood.
Ms. Taube said she had also played the role of therapist to callers who wanted to relate their poignant doll stories, including tearful reminiscences of daughters who have outgrown the dolls
“I’ve gotten calls from across the country — California, North Carolina, the Midwest, down the street, Long Island,” she said. “It’s just been so moving.”