As a baby storytime gathered at Athens Public Library, a circle began to form made up of attentive, sing-laughing parents, guardians, library employees–and of course, our youngest library users. (If you’ve never been in a library during a storytime, I recommend that you seek out the experience; you’ll feel better about the world.)
As these same babies grow, they will eventually be able to explore books about the world, individual countries, states, and STEAM and other educational topics, in part because of the generosity of Richard and Karen Harvey, who were honored in a small February 21st, 2017 thank you ceremony.
The Harveys have made several donations over the years to help support and grow the current children’s collection. Look for a new batch of books in Athens made possible through the Harvey’s latest donation sometime in April 2017.
When asked what they’d like to share with young ACPL library patrons and their families if they could, the Harveys stressed both the life-altering importance and fun of reading. “In a world with so many screens, I would ask adults to encourage children to enjoy and benefit from books,” Karen Harvey said. Richard Harvey added that he’d tell a room full of youngsters to “Find a book that, while reading it, it moves you to read another one, just to keep the ball rolling, keep it rolling!” We couldn’t agree more.
Stay tuned for other exciting ACPL projects made possible by the Harvey’s vision and generosity, including in Coolville!
“Go with eggs.” That’s a malapropism, but I take it to mean “Go gently.” A character from one of my all-time favorite novels, Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo, said that. You should read it sometime.
We are all the sum of our experiences, good and bad. I’m not a very introspective person generally, but as I finish up my time at Athens County Public Libraries, I’ve been reflecting back on how it has changed.
I started at the Athens branch in 1996 when it was a fairly new building (and I was fairly young!). I’ve worked at the main building in Nelsonville since 2005. In that time the system has had a fire in Albany, floods and near floods all around, budget crises, a tornado in The Plains, roof leaks, frozen pipes, mishaps and hilarity, zoo visits and author talks; we added bicycles and ebooks. The internet became a thing. There is little reference work anymore, but there’s fact checking and technology training. Alongside the computers, there are still books. There are still pencils, but not typewriters. Public libraries have adapted and grown and will continue to do so.
I’m leaving ACPL as the Assistant Director and Access Coordinator. Over the past 21 years I’ve also been a graphic designer, communications coordinator, branch manager (twice), Fiscal and Deputy Fiscal Officer, grant writer, book reviewer and furniture mover. I have dabbled in cataloging and human resources. I vaccumed floors when needed; I led a storytime once. I’ve also gotten married, earned a library degree, bought 3 different houses, became a father, got a dog, hiked, marched, and volunteered. My life has been here.
Over 45 years, I’ve lived in five states and countless towns and cities, but Athens is the only place that has felt like home. The family has built connections here that will always keep us tied to the area.
Begining Monday, I’ll be the Director at the Chillicothe and Ross County Public Library. It’s only 50 miles west, so you’ll still see me around. Someone called it a new project for me and I guess that’s right. I’m excited to learn from new co-workers and gather more experiences. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone, but not forgetting it.
Below, ACPL’s Luke Bentley shares about his passion for working with teens and describes the newly revamped Teen Area in Athens, which hosted a grand opening celebration Oct. 25.
ACPL: What made you want to work in libraries and with teens? Luke: My background is in education, particularly teaching in grades 7-12…What’s great about working in libraries is that I’m still involved in educating and enriching people’s lives, but there are no limits as to what I can do. If someone has a great idea, I can work toward making that happen to the best of my ability. I also think that teens are often under-appreciated by adults, and underrepresented throughout society… I like to take teens seriously, because they deserve to be taken seriously.
Why are you celebrating and revamping this space at the Athens Public Library?
I wanted to make the changes in our Teen Space because, to put it simply, I didn’t think it worked as well as it could when it came to welcoming teens and making them comfortable. I want teens from all over Athens County to know that if they need a sanctuary, or if they just need a place that they can come and be themselves, that this is that space.
What are some highlights teens can expect from the space?
The central feature is our set of four, top-of-the-line computers that are reserved specifically for people in grades 7-12. These computers will not only be reserved for usage for teens for most of the day, but they will also be equipped with the Adobe Creative Cloud, a suite of digital creation programs including Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Animate, and many other programs for image editing, video editing, audio editing, and more. You can also expect to be able to give your input on how you want the space to shift and change, and what you’d like to see displayed.
In a perfect world, what are some of your dream teen programs?
In a world without limits, I would love to have regular programs where teens produce their own podcasts and YouTube videos, learn screenwriting and animation, or design their own video games and apps. I’d also love for teens to come to me and tell me what their passions are, and what kind of programs they themselves want to run here in the library, and I’d do whatever I could to help!
Tell us about a memorable moment from a recent teen program.
I visited Athens Middle School recently, and it was just fantastic to see all the teens who are so passionate about reading, and passionate about creating. I was walking through the halls after promoting our upcoming in-school program called Young Adult Book Club, and I overheard a group of students talking about how excited they were to come, and asking everyone else if they were coming. Of course, I look forward to making more memorable moments when YABC starts!
What have Athens County teens taught YOU over the years?
The teens that I’ve been able to interact with teach me not to put my own passions down. Teens wear everything on their sleeves; they love what they love and they aren’t ashamed. I think people could learn to embrace themselves a bit more.
ACPL: Welcome, Connor! What made you interested in Americorps?
Connor: Americorps’ Guiding Ohio Online program provides a wonderful cocktail of library experience and service to the community. I was extremely excited by the opportunity to help make a positive impression on the area while also getting to be associated with an organization that is already committed to serving the community.
Where did you grow up, and what did you like most about it?
I am a local to Athens County, having graduated from Athens High School in 2009. There is a plethora of fantastic features to our county, and I believe that one is the incredibly diverse amount of produce that can be harvested throughout the area. A trip to the farmers’ market can yield anything from jalapenos to pears, making for a revolving door of wonderful eats.
What are some of your biggest interests?
I have found myself growing more and more interested in the environment and how to best treat it with the love and care that it deserves. I suppose that the movie Silent Running left a lasting impression on me.
What should patrons expect from Guiding Ohio Online this year?
We are extremely lucky to have a library system that reaches from one end of the county to the other, and with the Guiding Ohio Online Program we are looking forward to being able to provide our services to all areas throughout Athens County. Our focus right now is on one-on-one tech help sessions. My goal is to visit each branch every week, and to assist as many patrons as possible.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Although I am far from being a wordsmith, I do dabble in writing poetry. Beyond my own writing, though, I really enjoy seeing others read their work. It also seems that no matter how long you’ve lived in the area, spending time outside in the county’s natural beauty is perpetually entertaining. I like to spend my time outdoors hiking, kayaking, and playing tennis with my parents.
Anything else you’d like us to know about you?
I am absolutely in love with the original Star Wars movie and enjoy collecting fun and unique Star Wars memorabilia. Also, I am not afraid to admit that I like Wings way more than The Beatles.
A memorable highlight from Summer at the Library 2016 involved a large dose of teamwork, paired with rhyming skills, a guitar, and recording equipment. In just four hours over two days, young patrons at branches in Nelsonville, Athens, and Chauncey created three original tunes with the help of an expert, local musician Megan Bee. The libraries recently asked Megan to tell us more about her music and the summer songwriting workshops. Megan hopes to keep working with young musicians and with ACPL in the future, and is excited to share her own original music as she tours.
(ACPL) Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to teach songwriting.
(Megan Bee) I have a background in environmental education. I have always loved teaching and working with kids.Â Then music came into my life.Â I had been co-writing with other songwriters and eventually decided to see if that process could work with a group of kids.Â For the past two years I have been writing with groups in summer camp settings with great results.Â This summer I was honored to work with local kids at the libraries.
Is it true you asked participants to sign a “contract” at the beginning of each workshop? Tell us about this. Songwriting is a messy, silly, frustrating process sometimes, so it’s important for everyone to have an agreement right from the start.Â I have kids agree to 3 things:
1. Be positive … Even if you don’t like someone’s idea, stay positive because that idea might help us get to a better idea.Â If we get negative, people start to close off, then the ideas can’t flow out.
2. Be creative… For the process to work, you have to speak up and share your ideas no matter how silly they might sound.Â If no one spoke up, we’d never have a song.Â You can’t just sit in the back and take notes.
3. Have fun…Songwriting is fun.
What will you take with you from this experience? It’s so inspiring to work with kids.Â When I go into a workshop I know by the end of the two hours we’ll have a song recorded.Â Sometimes I think that’s a crazy goal, but they have always come up with a song under the pressure.Â It’s great to see the words and ideas fly around the room, then come together at the last minute.Â I love those moments where everything clicks together.Â As a writer on my own, sometimes I have trouble getting started.Â The workshops remind me how fun and easy it can be, and how much I love working with groups where everyone’s ideas build together.
What do you do when you see a need in your community?If you’re Marissa and Alexis, two rising high school seniors and young library patrons in Athens County, you create the “Helping Hands to Mend Hearts Project,” a new, award-winning teen peer support group.
“We know a lot of people dealing with things like stress and mental health,” Marissa shared during an interview at Wells (Albany) Public Library, where the group has been meeting. “We wanted to create a place where you can be yourself, to show how you’re really feeling in a safe space.” She added that sometimes talking to an adult can be intimidating, and that having people your own age to open up to, and who are usually going through similar things, is also key.
The two articulate and creative teens were already coming to the library to work on online projects. Soon, it became a regular weekly activity, eventually growing into what’s now known as Teen Night. Thursdays during the school year from 4-5:30pm, teens can gather for crafting, games and free snacks. Or, simply to talk through the stresses and trials many young people face. “A couple of times when we’ve met, we just cried, and that’s what we really needed,” Alexis said, recalling one Teen Night gathering after an especially grueling week of required school testing.
Another reason the teens have chosen to host “Helpings Hands…” at Wells is Rachel Everett, children and youth librarian who has become both a mentor and friend. It was Rachel who first read about the Art Gish Peacemaking Fund online and immediately reached out to Marissa and Alexis, encouraging them to apply.
“I knew that this grant was looking to empower community members to do the work that they do, and these two immediately came to mind,” she said, adding that it’s been rewarding to see Marissa and Alexis receive recognition.
In fact, the two are the very first teens to both apply for and be awarded a grant from the Art Gish Peacemaking Fund, now in its fifth year. While deciding this year’s grant recipients, Peggy Gish, an Athens County writer and activist, visited Teen Night with other grant board members to meet with the teens and to get a better sense of what they were working towards. What she found were two young friends who were organizing and serving, which she found impressive.
“This is an award that wants to support people who are just learning how to support their communities,” she said. “When we ask ourselves, ‘What is peace? What is justice?’, it doesn’t always mean something on the other side of the world. There are all kinds of needs in our society that can lead to local conflict—or local community.”
Alexis and Marissa hope that “Helping Hands…” group participants can experience free expression, host art shows, and even conduct fundraisers to help strengthen the local Albany area and beyond. They will use their award to purchase games, art supplies, and refreshments. “Nothing is better than sharing a meal with somebody,” Alexis said, smiling, “even if it’s just cheese and crackers.”
“It feels amazing,” Marissa said when asked how it feels to be a grant recipient. “And to not just be helping myself but others, too.”
All teens are welcome at the Helping Hands to Mend Hearts Project meet-ups, and its two founders are already thinking about how they might hold meetings at other county library buildings. They want others to know that everything in their meetings is confidential, and that they are connected to community resources that can offer further support and resources for anyone who needs them. Teens can call the Wells Library at (740) 698-3059 or follow myacplteens on Instagram for more info.
“It’s a lot easier to think you’re alone,” Alexis admitted. But the major work of Helping Hands is to prove to area teens that they are anything but.
Stay tuned to see what these inspiring teen leaders do next!
What do a four-time international magic champion, a trio of battling chefs, and a master origami artist have in common? They’re among those headlining this year’s “Summer at the Library” schedule!
A wide range of free programs for children and teens hosted by ACPL since 1999, Summer at the Library (formerly known as Book Camp) incorporates the theme “On your mark, get set, read!” in many of its offerings this year.
“Book Camp has been a beloved part of summers in Athens County for a long time, and it’s still here, just under a different name,” Taryn Lentes, youth services coordinator for the libraries, explained. Since literacy is not the only important focus of library programming, the revised name aims to more accurately represent this, along with attracting more families who may be new to the area, Lentes said.
Summer at the Library participants can expect hands-on activities and presentations that explore the sciences, arts, literacy, and physical fitness, led by both noted local and out-of-state experts and enthusiasts.
Youth librarians across the county have been putting their heads together to make sure this summer’s one of the most memorable yet, and that families have the option of exploring more than one county library building. “Among our different branches, we’re hosting nine programs a week, plus additional workshops and events, meaning that families can count on quality summer activities just about every day,” Lentes said. Five of the seven county library branches will also offer free lunches for kids ages 1-18.
Summer at the Library 2016 kicked off Monday, June 6th as children’s librarians Mary VanDoren and Rachel Everett co-hosted a Field Day with Southern Ohio Copperheads baseball players at the Glouster Public Library. For a complete schedule of programming and lunches, visit myacpl.org/summer, pick up a Summer at the Library schedule at your local branch, or download the complete programs page.
Twice a year, all ACPL staff members gather in one place (a rare sighting captured in the photo above.) This year’s spring staff day included guest speakers, discussions about new library resources like Select Reads, a lunch field trip to the Boot Grill at Rocky Boots, and a staff recognition ceremony.
For more than 16 years, ACPL staff member Betty Ranck has promoted the transformative power of reading. She first became passionate about early literacy after the Public Library Association and the Association for Library Service to Children began a national campaign named “Every Child Ready to Read @ your library.” Its main goal was to reach beyond the youngest library patrons to their caregivers. Today, planning programs for children/their families and maintaining the children’s section continue to be major layers of Betty’s position at The Plains Public Library.
“It is very rewarding to show parents how important they are,” Betty said in an interview. “And that there are many simple activities they can do at home to help their child be ready when they enter school.” These activities range from reading aloud together, to writing, and even singing.
After completing trainings about how to educate others on the importance of nurturing pre-reading skills, Betty has been offering hands-on workshops and presentations for community groups and early childhood education classes at both Hocking College and Ohio University. She has also regularly visited area schools as a children’s librarian.
“When I first started visiting the public preschool to read,” she said, “one of the students would call me Miss Betty, and that soon began a tradition with children coming to the library. Years later, I was presenting to a Hocking College class, and I heard a familiar voice saying, ‘Hi, Miss Betty.’ It was the same preschooler from so many years ago who was now studying early childhood education!”
To schedule an early literacy skills workshop with Betty, call The Plains Library at 740-797-4579. You can also check out more resources on the libraries’ newly revamped kids’ page.
Here are a few of Betty’s “Top Picks” for promoting pre-reading skills with little ones:
Little Owl Lostby Chris Haughton: Little Owl falls out of the nest, and Rabbit helps to find Mother Owl. The anxiety is lessened by the variety of animals that Rabbit assumes to be Mother Owl. Children will laugh at Rabbit’s silly suggestions until the real Mother Owl is found.
Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard: We have all had days when we just wake up grumpy. That includes young children, and they will relate to this book! Grumpy Bird’s friends want to tag along, and finally, their company helps him feel better.
What is a positive memory from your teenage years–and what might that memory look like when drawn on paper? This ice-breaker started the state-wide “Take 5” conference recently hosted by ACPL at the Athens Community Center in early May. Throughout the day, attendees revisited these “memory maps,” gathering stories and sketches from others to add to their own and to eventually share during a final reflection session.
Collaboration and hands-on learning continued throughout the day as approximately 75 library employees who work with teens and children jumped into group brainstorming sessions, activity fair stations, and a guided, local-foods lunch discussion inspired by a “500 Plates” community event in Akron, Ohio.
Speaker Miguel Figueroa from the Center for the Future of Libraries (American Library Association) also shared about the latest trends shaping our world and library youth services, and how libraries can be both curious and critical of trends in such areas as connected learning, sharing economies, and technology. “The future is many, not one,” he stressed in a morning presentation that set an energetic and inspiring tone for the rest of the conference.
In the afternoon, participants engaged with ACPL community partners and programs such as book-a-bike, pop-up maker-spaces, and a “Windows to Our World” poster display of best practices, experiments, and ideas from Ohio libraries. Guest partners included Rural Action (Survival Skills and Team Building), Community Food Initiatives (Discovery Kitchen Tasting Tables), Athens Area Mediation Services (“What’s Going On?” mediation skits geared towards teens), Rising Appalachian Warriors (alternative outdoor education and exploration), and more. Sydney, a volunteer therapy labrador at Jackson City Library, won more than a few hearts– and her handler Sharon encouraged attendees to consider the diverse roles and rewards of therapy animals in a library setting.
Youth services librarians know how to have fun! Post-conference activities invited participants on a guided tour of the Special Collections archives at Ohio University’s Alden Library, as well as invitations to local food and drink establishments–including an evening euchre game led by Athens Public Library staff.
Many thanks to all at ACPL who helped make this conference possible. Special gratitude to the following: the Take 5 Planning Team, the Southeast Regional Library System (SERLS), the State Library of Ohio, and the Teen Advisory Board of the Wright Memorial Public Library.