Teen Library Patrons Awarded Peacemaking Grant

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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.

Peggy Gish, Marissa, Alexis and Rachel at the Wells Public Library.

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.

“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!

“Summer at the Library” Means Free Programs for School-Aged Kids

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2016 Summer at the Library
Click image for full online schedule.

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.

Watch our summer photo album on Flickr grow + listen to a podcast about summer programming with children’s and teen librarian Luke Bentley!

programs page
Click image to download a PDF.

Spring Staff Day 2016

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Photo: Your ACPL family. Special thanks to Betty Ranck.

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.

Our staff who have served 15-20 years in Athens County.


ACPLs’ director Lauren Miller hugs Karen Guffey, the longest-serving member of our library staff and branch manager at Glouster. Thank you, Karen!
Library staff recognized for over 21 years of service.


Joyful Sounds of Reading: Free Workshops Teach Parents, Caregivers about Early Literacy Skills

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Each workshop participant receives 10 free children’s books.

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.

Betty leads a story time at The Plains 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 Lost
by 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 Bird0439851475.01.TZZZZZZZ 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.


Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?
 by Bill Martin Jr.: This book is timeless. Children love the large pictures and are eager to name each animal.

“Take 5” Youth Services Conference Ignites the Power of Peer Groups

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Amy, Take 5 planning team member and ACPL host, with speaker Miguel Figueroa.

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.  IMG_20160504_092200489

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.

Photo taken by Fairfield County Library and shared on Twitter using #take5ohio hashtag.

IMG_0750Youth 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.

Next Chapter Book Clubs Are for Everyone

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next chapter book club

This past February, two branches began hosting a new kind of book club where anyone can join, regardless of reading ability. Described as community-based literacy programs for people with developmental disABILITIES and everyone else, Next Chapter Book Clubs (NCBC) invite members to keep reading and to make friends in a supportive atmosphere.

Club meetings occur in a public space, both to visibly promote taking part in an activity that others of various abilities also do, and to encourage interactions with passers-by, who often stop to say hello or to ask how they might get involved. Clubs are led by trained facilitators and now take place in over 100 cities. Ohio alone has several chapters, with Athens as one of two main facilitator training sites.

Deborah Parsons, a local facilitator and library employee, enjoys sharing the overall NCBC experience with others. “Literacy is not just the mechanics of reading,” she said. “It is the enjoyment of gaining ideas and sharing them with others who also want a bigger life. That’s the why of book clubs. Book clubs are for everyone.” 

Photo courtesy of The Sech-Kar Studio Group.
Photo courtesy of The Sech-Kar Studio Group.
Photo courtesy of Havar.

Members of a Next Chapter Book Club decide how they would like their club to be run. Debbie Schmieding, who facilitates the NCBC in Athens and is the former executive director of Havar, says that members meet on a week-to-week basis and typically spend some time choosing a book together based on interests. Members then take turns reading the book aloud and receive as much help as they want. Right now, club members range in age from 18-75. According to Schmieding, sometimes they can experience an improvement in their reading after just one meeting. In her experience, club members also like coming to the library. “Two of our participants have gotten library cards, and others were excited to tell me about the resources they had discovered, like free magazines,” she said. “Havar appreciates the leadership of the library system in bringing NCBC to the county, and we are very excited about this partnership.”

Director of the public libraries Lauren Miller also noted that “to be able to offer an additional library service only makes the library system more diverse. Next Chapter is an opportunity for all of us to recognize the importance of inclusion within our communities.”

The NCBC that meets at our Nelsonville branch recently finished their first book Adalyn’s Clare about a girl and her therapy dog. To celebrate, members received certificates of completion and held a party with two special guests: a Nelsonville resident and his own therapy Border Collie.

Photo courtesy of The Sech-Kar Studio Group.

Next Chapter Book Clubs currently meet at the Athens Public Library every Tuesday from 10:30–11:30am and at the Nelsonville Public Library every Tuesday from 1:00-2:00pm. All are welcome!  

National Library Week 2016

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ACPL joined thousands of libraries and library employees in celebrating National Library Week (NLW) April 10-16. Inspired by this year’s theme of “Libraries Transform,” Larissa and Becca visited our seven branches with a menu of special programming.

3-D printer demo of a tiny Chewbacca figurine.


One of the most popular NLW programs featured a 3-D printer, borrowed from the Southeast Regional Library System. Library branches chose what they wanted to try printing, and patrons gathered to watch plastic canning jar lids, napkin rings, toy airplanes and more taking shape. Discussions with patrons turned to practical and emerging uses of such technology in the industrial and medical fields, and a little online research gleaned videos of 3-D-printed human organs, airplane parts, and even cars!

Patrons of all ages also (re)discovered the joys of messy creativity, transforming out-of-circulation books into artistic sheets of handmade paper using blenders and screens. As the week IMG_20160414_162447254_HDRprogressed, each branch tried out new methods, plus inclusions like flower petals and book covers, creating their own special brand of original paper. Thanks to Larissa, our Guiding Ohio Online Americorps volunteer, for spearheading this undertaking!







Finally, stories were shared and sometimes drawn or recorded about how patrons saw their own lives and communities transformed by public libraries, including memories of retired library workers and of Athens County library buildings in past decades.


To read real stories shared by library workers and patrons across the nation on the “Libraries Transform” theme, click here.
Thank you to all who participated–we look forward to celebrating National Library Week with you next year!

Guiding Ohio Online: Partnership Brings Free Technology Training to Library Patrons

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One of the ways ACPL empowers its patrons is by offering free technology training. Larissa Wagner, our 2015-16 Guiding Ohio Online AmeriCorps volunteer, shares more about herself and her ongoing outreach below:

ACPL: What were the reasons you wanted to do AmeriCorps?

Larissa Wagner: I wanted to get involved with AmeriCorps initially because it offered a lot of different opportunities. There was the opportunity to really serve my country and its communities (technically, I am a national service participant rather than an employee or volunteer), the opportunity to see more of the country and learn more about its people, and the opportunity to gain some work and life experience in an area I’m interested in.

Have you had other assignments?

LW: This is my second AmeriCorps assignment. Last year I served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with South Suburban Adult Basic Education in South St. Paul, Minnesota. I helped with program outreach and general office tasks, managed the volunteers, assisted in one of the English classes, and discovered that I really like helping people learn to be comfortable with technology.

Describe what you’re doing in Athens County, and what patrons should expect.

LW: This year I am part of a program called Guiding Ohio Online that puts AmeriCorps members in libraries across the state. The program aims to help people increase their digital literacy –their comfort and skill using technology like computers, tablets, and other devices. I go to all seven branches in the Athens County Public Library system as well as the Work Station in The Plains and offer a combination of classes and individual appointments. If you see me at a library branch, feel free to ask me questions even if you don’t have an appointment. I am here to help.

If you want to set up an appointment, there are a couple of ways you can go about it. There is a form on the library website you can fill out and submit. Each library branch also has paper forms that you can fill out and turn in at the circulation desk. After the form gets to me, I’ll contact you and we’ll set up a time to meet.

Each appointment lasts for about 45 minutes and can be shorter if you don’t need or want all that time. When you make an appointment you should have a specific question, problem, or goal in mind (e.g. learning to use email, not knowing how to get apps on your phone, wanting to be able to keep in touch with your family through social media, or learning how to use a program for a project). This helps give the appointment a focus. When you arrive at the library, we’ll decide where to sit and either use your device or one of the library computers to discuss and walk through the steps to accomplish your goal. If you still have questions at the end of the appointment we can set up another one –you are not limited to only one appointment.

Have there been highlights so far?

LW: Some of my favorite trainings and workshops have been ones on the digital services and collections the library offers. I really enjoy showing people how much more they can access digitally through the library –eBooks, audiobooks, music, movies, and more –there’s a lot. I also really enjoyed the Pinterest workshop I did a couple of weeks ago. Pinterest is probably my favorite social media site, because it really helps you find and keep track of different things you’re interested in. A lot of libraries have really amazing things on Pinterest, as well.

Anything else you want us to know?

LW: If you’re not sure, just ask! I definitely don’t know everything, but if I don’t we can try and figure it out together; I’ve already learned several new things so far. The program is funded by a grant and is guaranteed to continue through August of 2017 at this point. So don’t miss your chance to take advantage of this. There is no charge for any of this –appointments and classes are completely free. I can arrange to meet you at any branch.

Larissa’s updated schedule can be found at https://www.myacpl.org/techtraining/.


Athens County Community Energy Savers Award

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CES banner

The “big check” ceremony with representatives from AEP, Columbia Gas of Ohio, county government, UpGrade Athens County, HAPCAP, the libraries and the libraries’ board of trustees.

After many months of coordination, collaboration and “boots on the ground” outreach, Athens County surpassed its ambitious goal in a Community Energy Savers challenge, sponsored by AEP and Columbia Gas of Ohio.

Volunteer participants in the program earned the county points through various activities assessing personal and business energy use, and that offered tips, resources and incentives to improve energy efficiency.

On March 8, 2016, a crowd gathered on a very windy day to celebrate the program’s success. The celebration, held at the Athens branch of the Athens County Public Libraries, was open to the public and included many community partners who helped make the county award a reality. Watch a short video of ceremony highlights here.

The libraries are wholeheartedly honored to have been selected by county government officials as the award’s recipient. We’re excited to use the generous check below towards ongoing energy upgrades in our buildings! Hear more about our plans in this Public News Service story.



Most of all, we want to sing/dance/form a conga line of thank you’s to all the individual patrons, library staff members, Athens County families, government officials, nonprofit communities and businesses who participated in our Community Energy Savers program. We could not have done it without you, and it truly was a county-wide effort!

Paxton Donation

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Image by Bonnybbx, pixabay.com

Some people continue to impact their communities through their generosity, even when they are no longer with us. This is certainly the case for Dr. Bruce R. Paxton (March 19, 1938 – January 24, 2009) and Aline Paxton (February 21, 1939 – July 30, 2015), whose legacies are felt in southeast Ohio on a daily basis.

The libraries are grateful for a 2015 donation given by the late Dr. Paxton, which will allow programming and other library services to expand, strengthening our communities and giving back to the people of Athens County.

For more than four decades, the Paxtons contributed to the Athens, Ohio professional and nonprofit communities and are fondly remembered for their integrity, kindness and devotion as co-workers, parents and friends.

Aline Paxton, an avid reader and volunteer, belonged to un-countable bridge clubs in retirement and was an enthusiastic bird-watcher. During her career, she also founded and managed Putnam Square Apartments in Athens.

After attending Ohio State University and serving as an anatomic pathologist in the Air Force, Dr. Paxton co-founded Eye Physicians & Surgeons. During his long career in Southeast Ohio, he served as president of the Ohio Ophthalmologic Society, president of the Athens Rotary Club, a clinical assistant professor at OSU, and as chief of staff at O’Bleness Memorial Hospital.

The entire library system will feel the impact of Dr. Paxton’s generosity for many years to come!