Printed in The Mercury Sept. 9, 2012.
Excitement is in the air this fall. The library has kicked off our fundraising campaign to expand the Children’s Room, including more space for books, reading, computers, homework areas, and a larger storytime room for programs. I am thrilled, of course, having watched the use of our room grow since I started as the children’s manager in 1999. I have seen us go from one experimental Internet computer that December, to a hub of six high-speed access computers in the Children’s Room which are constantly in use by children, from one-year-olds to tweens. I have witnessed the need for more storytimes and events and just space for kids and families. In 1998, the total attendance at our programs was 10,661, and in 2011 it was up to more than 18,000. This summer alone, we presented 76 storytimes with a total attendance of 2736, an average of 36 per session, and about 18 percent of those storytimes actually had 50 or more people crowded into our small performance space. It is amazing to live in a community where the library is so well used and so highly valued.
With the “Building for Young Minds” project in the forefront, the library’s remarkable volunteers on our campaign committee, friends group board and foundation board will be working to raise the needed funds by the end of the year. Meanwhile, librarians are busy planning for a bustling fall in our existing space, starting with our annual Toddler Fair this Wednesday from 9:30 to noon. Parents and caregivers can stop by the library auditorium to get information and speak with representatives from 19 local agencies, organizations or businesses that serve families and young children. The event is co-sponsored by Mercy Regional Health Center. Door prizes of toys, books and gift certificates from the participating groups will be given away throughout the morning.
Our fall session of weekly storytimes begins Monday, with Baby Rhyme Time and Toddler Time options for the youngest crowd, and Move and Groove storytimes for preschoolers with lots of energy. Reading Round-Up on Wednesday afternoons will include activities aimed at helping children get ready for kindergarten. Along with our regular storytimes, we will again have a Spanish bilingual storytime the second Friday and Saturday of each month, presented by Marisol Teran-Apodaca, director of the BEBE Language Academy. On September 14 and 15, stories about bedtime will be read in both English and Spanish. Another entertaining monthly storytime is ZOOfari Tails, presented by Sunset Zoo staff and docents on the last Friday of the month. They will be bringing a bearded dragon with them to the library on September 28th.
Older children love to participate in our R.E.A.D. with Dogs sessions on Sunday afternoons, which start up again today from 2:00-4:00. Trained dog handlers volunteer their time by bringing in their therapy dogs to listen to children reading. The nationwide R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) program gives kids the opportunity to practice and enjoy reading aloud without any pressure to read perfectly or perform in front of peers. Children can sign up for a 15-20 minute reading slot and choose whatever books they want to read. Some of the therapy dogs who come to our library are golden retrievers, corgis, greyhounds, bichons, and several others.
We have included two new programs for the school age crowd this fall. Homeschool Afternoons will focus on library resources and booklists that may be useful to families involved in home education, along with a craft, activity or assignment. The first session is September 19 at 2:30 with an “autumn exploration” theme, and we will meet once a month through December. Another exciting activity is our Spanish Conversation Center, which will be set up in our storytime room every Tuesday from 4:30-5:30, September 18 through November 13. K-State students led by Dr. Laura Kanost will provide a fun environment for school age children to learn or practice speaking Spanish, using bilingual picture books to engage children in conversations. Children do not need to know any Spanish to participate and can come and go during the hour. This will be a great learning situation for the elementary students who participate and the college students who run the center.
In addition to these great ongoing programs, check in with library staff or on our website to find out about book parties, movies, gaming days, teen after hours events, craft days, holiday celebrations and more.