Your Local Library is a Hub of Activity

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If a library isn’t your idea of the “happening place” in town, it’s time to walk back through the doors of your local branch. Gayle Harrington, Cottonwood’s director of library services says, “Libraries have to change with the times. We’re not the old-fashioned library anymore, where librarians were always telling people, ‘Shhh.’ We’re in the modern age now.” In this modern age, libraries have expanded their services to not only circulate books, but to also organize educational events, provide access to modern technology, and serve as community hubs for clubs, services and activities.

Young children love the colorful play area at Paradise Branch Library. Colton, Lowell, Peyton, Jayden and Chloe are all excited about the comfy child-sized chairs and great books!

Young children love the colorful play area at Paradise Branch Library. Colton, Lowell, Peyton, Jayden and Chloe are all excited about the comfy child-sized chairs and great books!

For the youngest in the family, many libraries offer interactive story and play times that promote early literacy. This service alone makes the library valuable. According to First 5 California, “The first three years of a child’s life are the most critical for speech and language development because the brain is best able to absorb language during this period.” Unfortunately, the National Center for Health Research asserts that many children in this important learning phase spend too much time looking at screens and not enough time in personal interaction that actually fosters learning. Libraries offer parents and grandparents a ready-made opportunity to bond with little ones and help babies begin learning important skills.

For older kids, some libraries offer homework help, tutoring services, and fun, educational activities. The Chico Branch Library offers times where people of any age can practice reading to “StoryTail” tutors: dogs trained to “listen” as people read to them. Cottonwood Community Library partners with First 5 Shasta, awarding them the opportunity to send a few free books home with kids each month. Paradise Library engages kids in an after-school story and art time each Friday.

Teens GiGi Cooper and Megan Matti are students at Shasta High School in Redding and members of Redding Library's Teen Advisory Committee. Both enjoy working on fun projects geared for teens and youth at the library.

Teens GiGi Cooper and Megan Matti are students at Shasta High School in Redding and members of Redding Library’s Teen Advisory Committee. Both enjoy working on fun projects geared for teens and youth at the library.

Libraries can also offer a safe, positive environment for teens to spend after school hours.

“Libraries have become community hubs. There aren’t a lot of community centers otherwise, so teens don’t have many indoor places to go,” says Siskiyou County Librarian, Michael Perry.

Adults can also benefit from these “community centers,” finding everything from book clubs to parenting classes. Chico, Red Bluff and Yreka libraries even offer adult coloring groups to help relieve stress.

Many libraries in the North State rely heavily on volunteer efforts and can always use more help for everything from daily book shelving to staffing special events. Library volunteers come from all walks of life; retired professionals and teens looking for service hours can meet library needs side by side. 

Tom Ramont, Shasta County Libraries’ marketing and public relations coordinator, sums up libraries by saying, “A lot of people ask, ‘How are libraries relevant? You can get books online now.’ And that’s true. But everything you get at the library is free. You have access to a full spectrum of resources that are available to everyone.”

Anderson

With seasonal contests, a weekly story time for all ages, and special events, the Anderson Library warmly invites community involvement. In December, the branch will kick off winter break with an afternoon of crafts, raffles and free books. In April, the library will celebrate the Week of the Young Child with a petting zoo, fun community booths, and free books and puzzles provided by First 5 Shasta. As a smaller branch, the library can offer families personalized service. One boy’s parents, unable to get their son to read anything, brought him to the library. After trying several books to no avail, Branch Manager Christy Windle connected the young man with the book “The Shifter” by Janice Hardy, and something changed. “Now he reads everything,” says Windle.

Chico

With newly extended hours, the Chico branch of the Butte County Library hosts an array of activities for youth, including homework help, a chess club for teens, and age-specific a story times for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and school-age children. Each Saturday of the month features a story time in a different language, rotating through Chinese, Japanese and Spanish. Adults can connect through English and Spanish book clubs, join the knitting club, or learn to download audio and e-books through a tech-help group. Veterans and their families can access tailored support, such as help with learning to file for benefits, and access to help for Post-Traumatic Stress at the Veterans Resource Station. The Chico Library even boasts a growing “makerspace,” a collection of 3-D printers and other equipment available for use in the library. By the end of 2016, the library anticipates extending its educational influences. Thanks to the upcoming arrival of self-checkout equipment, patrons will be able to reserve and renew books themselves.

“Currently staff members spend about 60 percent of their time checking books in and out. Our new system will allow them to spend more time helping people in the library, planning new programs, visiting schools and retirement homes and doing other community outreaches,” Explains Branch Manager, Brenda Crotts.

Cottonwood

Since Shasta County closed the Cottonwood branch in 1988, Cottonwood Community Library has operated independently, sustained by the generous dedication of community members. After 11 years of watching the library outgrow various buildings on Main Street, local contractors volunteered their services to construct a new library building on donated land, using materials paid for by the fundraising efforts of the library staff.

“It’s a fairytale story,” says librarian Gayle Harrington. Now, small but mighty, the library offers a weekly story time, Spanish and English tutoring, citizenship classes, and a computer lab. It also partners with First 5 Shasta for early literacy programs, serves as a clearinghouse for town information, and promotes community unity. “We’re kind of like a country store,” says Harrington, “we’ve got something for everyone. Every aspect of the library is used.”

Mt. Shasta

The Mt. Shasta Library promotes early literacy and kindergarten readiness with an Early Start program and a weekly preschool story time. School-age kids enjoy the library’s afterschool art program and book club. During the summer, the library opens a world of culture to kids through programs such as “Food for Thought,” which introduces culinary delights from various countries. The library also fosters international awareness by participating in Global Read Aloud, an initiative for global discussion about selected books.

Local teens can benefit from inspiring opportunities such as writing with a published poet. At monthly presentations, adults can meet authors and learn about subjects such as meditation. For daily tasks like homework or paying bills online, all ages benefit from the library’s helpful staff and public-use Chromebooks.

“In our rural area, we help bridge the digital divide by providing computer access to everyone,” says Executive Director, Courtney Laverty.

Paradise

About six years ago, Paradise Library received a federal Family Place Libraries grant to create an interesting and stimulating environment for kids. With a train set, a play kitchen, blocks, toys and books, the Family Place welcomes parents to play and read with their children. With the help of volunteers ranging from teens to retired professionals, the library further caters to families through a monthly kids’ craft time, a weekly story time for preschool children and an afterschool club for older kids. In October, the library began Baby Story Time, a new program for the youngest of their patrons.

Redding

Under leadership from a new youth services librarian, the Redding Library offers a welcoming, exciting environment for kids and families. In December, the library will transform into a Winter Wonderland. Teens can participate and help plan peer events such as movie and game nights by joining the Teen Advisory Board. By the end of 2016, the library will open its “Create It! Space,” outfitted with 3-D printers, video editing equipment, animation tools, knitting kits and more – all free for public use. In April, more than 1,000 people will gather outside the library to explore police cars, fire trucks, cranes and even a helicopter. This year the library also launched a special campaign to provide every student in Shasta County with a library card. The brightly colored cards have already been given to a third of the county’s students.

“It’s a great partnership,” says Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator Tom Ramont. “The library can give schools access to a lot of the resources they don’t have money for.”

Yreka

Founded in the 1850s by local women who saw the need for artistic and literary culture in the wake of the gold rush, the richness of the Yreka Library continues to stem from the dedicated commitment of local volunteers. County Librarian Michael Perry calls the Siskiyou county libraries “people-rich,” and Yreka is no exception. From its adult coloring group to its special summer reading program, the library has become a community hub for resources and activities.

“Families come in to find a DVD for the night, but the kids also end up finding fun books in the children’s section,” says Perry. “There’s something for everyone, at any stage of life.”

Be sure to check out North State Parent magazine’s Going Places events calendar to see what is happening at local libraries each month!  

Jonathan Jordan and Mike St. John, both former educators, work with student Xing Shen, a Chico High School student, during the Chico Branch Library's Homework Help drop-in program.

Jonathan Jordan and Mike St. John, both former educators, work with student Xing Shen, a Chico High School student, during the Chico Branch Library’s Homework Help drop-in program.

Jenna Christophersen
About Jenna Christophersen

Jenna Christophersen is a Chico native who loves her community and can never get quite enough of the arts. She supports fostering creativity in any venue, especially as a part of young people’s daily lives.

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