True fans of libraries know that books are just the beginning of all the wondrous things that these bastions of learning have to offer. And the new South Parkersburg Library is no exception. Not even open four months yet, the branch offers many exciting programs, and many more are in the works. Some feel like obvious fits for a library, while others may seem unusual until you hear the excitement in the voices of the staff members describing them, but all are aimed at transmitting the branch’s image. Rachel Hyde, library service coordinator, explains that their goal is to create an image of a place that is much larger than before but still small enough to be patron driven, emphasizing hands-on customer service. Toward that end, they are taking a three-pronged approach in which they hope to attract and empower teens, partner with community organizations, and foster adult literacy. This approach is emphasized by the library’s motto: “Community, literacy, and creativity grow here.”

In terms of empowering teens, the staff have various programs already running, with the hopes of adding more over the coming months. The most immediate is the PromPosal contest that’s going on right now. The lucky winner will receive a great prom package, including a gift card for dinner and flowers for that someone special. And, best of all, the library will help you make that perfect prom proposal. The deadline for to register is March 31.

Even more exciting is the Governor’s Grant they’ve received for a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) program. With this grant, the plan is to purchase Raspberry Pi’s, credit card-sized computers that allow students to do an almost unlimited number of things, starting with understanding exactly how computers work and how to program them. The grant requires that the library partner with local schools, something the staff are already coordinating, with plans to take the equipment to the schools as well as host activities for teachers and students at the branch.

Another initiative in which the staff plan to participate is Repack the Backpack, a program through which people help families who are struggling to buy school supplies for their children by packing a brand new backpack with all the school supplies necessary to start the school year. Then, throughout the year, events will be held at which donors will have the opportunity to refill the packs for the students. Hence the name.

But the community outreach isn’t limited to children and teens. The staff are working in conjunction with local master gardeners to beautify the outside of the library. The intention is to allow the public to participate in the project. The hope is to do more than simply make the exterior beautiful by creating an interactive destination that is a true extension of the library itself. They aren’t trying to replicate the arboretum at the Emerson Avenue branch, but instead hope to create an outdoor reading/study area as well as a place for outdoor events and meetings.

The library also promotes the arts. For example, they host author days in which the public gets to interact with local writers. They hear them read from their works, and have a chance to ask questions. I am proud to say that I was the first writer the library hosted and I cannot say enough about the hospitable welcome the staff members gave me. A second meet-the-author day is scheduled for April 2, featuring Mr. Joseph Duckworth, author of This May Not Be What You Think It Is. Along with authors, the staff hope to fill the walls and spaces of the library with work from local artists and also host demonstrations and workshops by local artisans.

Various one-time and series events are already happening too. Tapping into a popular pastime, the library hosts adult coloring days three days a week. A workshop on the blogging site WordPress is also coming up soon. Events such as this will be scheduled regularly.

To foster adult literacy, the staff plan to offer private tutoring for adults who struggle with reading. Because this is often a delicate subject for those who may be unable to read well enough to function in society as they wish to, they intend to work through counseling staff at local facilities to connect with the individuals who need this service. Sessions will be offered at the library, but branch manager Lindsay Place said they will go wherever the people need them to.

So it is obvious that the South Parkersburg Library is much more than just a better place to check out books or the occasional movie. The staff, led by branch manager Lindsay Place and services coordinator Rachel Hyde, are working tirelessly to make it a regular destination for the entire family. And they are doing a great job of achieving that goal. If you want more information on the South Parkersburg Library, all you need to do is go to their website, or give them a call at 304-428-7041. I promise you’ll be greeted by a cheerful voice and an enthusiastic, helpful person.