In the past nine months at Gum Spring Library, we have hosted numerous programs, welcomed dozens of authors and presenters, discussed books, watched movies, made crafts, and so much more. We believe we have successfully figured out what our teens enjoy, and what they find less than thrilling. And throughout it all, we’ve continued to take the time to evaluate, assess, and reflect.
Loudon County Public Library recently concluded their 8th annual Teen Film Competition which drew in 29 film submissions. Gum Spring Library branch hosted the film festival, but the program was open to all teen residents of the United States. Teen services librarian April Layne Shroeder shares how her library expanded its program participation
You’re in a room with 65 teen volunteers waiting to be trained on the Summer Reading Program. You thought of the perfect icebreaker for the group: “What is your favorite memory of the summer reading program?” Crickets… And then it hits you. They don’t have any favorite memories of a summer reading program. They don’t even know what a summer reading program is, save the fact that it’s a volunteer opportunity. Why? Because they’ve never participated in a Summer Reading Program (SRP).
No matter how many school classrooms I visit, tours I lead, or new patrons I welcome into the library, I cannot help but stare in shock every time I am asked, “What is the cost of a membership?” Once I realize they aren’t asking me a reference question (the local Costco fee is $55 per household, and the nearest gym charges $83 per month) I respond, “Unless you drop a book in the bath tub or return something past its due date we will never charge you for anything—ever—at this library.”
Opening Day of Loudon County Library’s newest facility, Gum Spring Library, has come and gone. More than 6,500 people checked out 14,000 materials in just under five and a half hours, and we issued over 1,100 library cards. And those are just the tangible statistics! Teens finally found a place in their community to call their own! Caretakers can now stop driving 25 minutes to the nearest storytime! An entire region of northern Virginia learned what it feels like to have free resources available to them in their own backyard. The looks of amazement and happiness that I saw on Opening Day filled me with amazement and happiness. The Gum Spring Library has arrived, and we’re open for business!
As this article goes live, we are three—count ‘em!— three days away from opening the new Gum Spring Library. I’ve been here since mid-January, and I’m just beginning to realize that the expectations I had in my head were way off base. Between preparing volunteers, planning opening day activities, and training pages, few things have gone exactly as planned. Yet despite the many changes we’ve made in our schedule, our confidence grows as we learn what must be done now and what can wait.
My father is a Marine, so by the time I was eight I was quite adept at packing up my things. I vividly remember when we moved to Beaufort, SC. It was 1996, and it was the ﬁrst time I ever took advantage of a move. Instead of trashing my old clothes and childish toys, I ﬁxed up parts of my personality that needed improvement and tried out some new traits. I asked people to call me “Al”, giving the role of tomboy a spin. I also spoke up a little more and put myself in more social situations. I used this experience to invent a whole new me.
Volunteers are a critical component of the public library organization. At my branch, nearly 20 percent of the shelving is completed by adult and teen volunteers. Each month teens log an average of 125 volunteer hours, which is comparable to having an additional staff member. We have volunteers at work nearly every open hour during the summer, and on evenings and weekends during the school year. Their dedication is tireless. Their value? Priceless.
How do you plan a party for someone you have never met? It’s stressful enough planning a party for someone you know very well—you already know what foods to cook, what music to play, and who to invite. But planning a party for a complete stranger—or a whole group of them —with no inkling of their interests? That is downright terrifying. Nevertheless, it is what I have spent the past couple months doing.
Part of the fun of opening a new library is getting to tell people about it, and seeing their reactions. Myself and some coworkers have recently attended farmer’s markets and back-to-school nights in the Gum Sping area, talking to residents about the new library and answering their questions about resources and programs. We have encountered excited citizens whose enthusiasm is palpable. But we have also met hesitant residents who have never experienced a public library who are unsure of its purpose, and fearful of its unfamiliarity. While we appreciate the former group, the latter group is what drives me to outreach events, in hopes of educating them on the benefits of the library so that when we open they are educated as to our mission and seek to learn more about us.
The public library is an information center providing resources that the community needs and wants. To know exactly what the community needs and wants the library relies on comment cards, conducts online surveys, and closely follows local issues and trends. But what if there are no customers to poll, no users for librarians to have a discussion with? This is exactly the situation that my library system is currently facing, because we are building a library where there has never been one (for many, many miles) and therefore there are no statistics, surveys, or discussions to base our collection, preliminary programming, or resource needs.
There’s a new column coming to SLJTeen – Fresh Paint: Notes from a Public Library. We’ll hear from April Pavis, teen services librarian, as she prepares to move into the eighth library branch in Loudoun County, Virginia, the Gum Spring Library which will deliver 40,000 square feet of space for materials, programs, education, and entertainment to an area of the county that has never had a library.