Library shares plans with Upshur County Commissioners

Photo courtesy of James W. Curry Public Library One of the adult programs at the library is quilting. Pictured are patrons working on a recent quilt project.

BROOKS HILL — What’s happening at Brooks Hill?

It’s a question librarian Judith Williams wants people to ask more and more when it comes to the James W. Curry Public Library and Park. She updated the Upshur County Commission Thursday on what happened in 2018 and plans for 2019.

The James W. Curry Park and Library was made possible in 1980 by Curry, a former educator.

“Mr. Curry believed the library was a smart investment with power to transform lives and communities and create lifelong learners,” Williams said. “Libraries transform because transformation is essential to the communities we serve. In addition to developing the collection in 2018, we worked on transformation.”

There were 1,666 items catalogued this year and 258 were placed in a special Curry legacy collection.

“One area we are looking to transform is income and equality — an area that has been growing markedly in the past 30 years,” she said. “One way to transform this issue is by including digital literacy. Future well-paying jobs will belong to those who are adept at coding – that computer language used to develop websites, apps and software. [Last year] saw us undertake efforts to bring coding education to the Curry library, making it available to interested individuals from toddlers to seniors.

“To do this, in addition to improved internet access and connectivity which we have now, we need to provide the technology infrastructure to make coding programs possible. That involves tablets, laptops, computers, software and charging stations which would run around $5,000.”

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Dominion Energy awarded the library a $2,000 grant for the program.

“We are pursuing additional funding needed to make this a reality in a timely fashion,” she said.

Library usage went down slightly in 2018 with the exception of wifi usage.

“We have been considering why and it appears to be a quality over quantity paradigm,” the librarian said. “2018 saw us lose a number of families who were regular users who moved out of the area because of job opportunities. Some of our regular users experience ongoing transportation which limits our access because we are a little logistically challenged where we are.

“The shifting demographics of the library users are reflected in aging out of different programs and a decreased use due to extracurricular activities and increased school demands like homework. Overall, we have seen an uptick in communication and appreciation from regular usage. This is an intangible that is not reflected by the numbers but speaks to an increased awareness, personal involvement and perceived value in libraries and those services.”

Williams said that a well-developed collection remains a gift to the community it serves.

“We continue to pursue the goal of the best collection we can have to meet as many needs as possible with resources that we have. Donations again contributed significantly to the freshness of our collection, particularly with regard to DVDs.”

There were 501 books and 63 DVDs added to the collection this year.

“Today’s libraries are more than a collection of books,” Williams added. “Although many of us can point to a book or author who had a transforming affect on our lives, programming remains at the heart of libraries’ transformation toolbox. The Title 1 beginning links program, a partnership we began in 2016, and our own grassroots Little Learners program sought to transform toddlers into ready-for-school kindergarteners. Together, seven programs serve 28 children and 16 adults.”

The library also hosts a family story time weekly.

“One of the library’s greatest transformations occurs on Tuesday evenings,” she said. “If you are looking for a quiet peaceful place for a good read or some internet research, you won’t find it at the library on Tuesday evenings during our family story time.”

From kid-family themes to subjects that appeal to their parents such as beekeeping, quilts, Chinese New Year and more, there are activities, crafts and a story to complete the evening.

“Each year, summer sees us transform the library for our summer reading program,” she said. “In 2018, we rocked around the world exploring sound, music, stories, instruments and art from six continents.” Twenty-one children signed up for that program that was done in collaboration with Rock Cave Elementary School. Twelve successfully completed the program and 659 books were read.

“Overall, we had 58 children’s programs that served 421 children, 291 adults or 712 people all together,” she said.

Adult programming was not as strong in 2018.

“In addition to busy lives and family obligations, the drawback to an effective, successful adult programming remains safe reliable child care,” Williams said. ” The current layout and available space in the library hinder participation for some of our regular users who don’t have access to child care. We have applied for the Small Libraries Create Smart Spaces grant to help in that transformation.”

The grounds of the park and library are also being improved.

“The Story Trail which we installed in 2016 remains a popular attraction particularly for families,” Williams said. “It’s getting a facelift this winter with new paint, Velcro and posts to prepare it for an opening in March weather permitting. It’s popularity has led us to consider developing additional trails for walking or biking in the recently logged areas on the Curry property.”

Other upcoming projects include remarking the Curry property line, renovating the restrooms to mitigate the flood damage and building a space capsule for the summer reading program.

The library also serves as an office for the campground and property.

“We issued 42 hunting permits this year and that’s showing a downward trend over the past three years,” she said. “Fewer people are seeking permits to hunt. Most of our hunters are coming from Fairmont area.”

Buckhannon has the second highest number of hunters.

Despite a wet summer, 49 campers spent 135 nights at the campground.

“Most of our campers are from Buckhannon with Grantsville and Grafton following in second and third,” she said.

In 2016, the park raised campground fees.

“It seems to be holding its own and continuing with fewer issues and decreased vandalism than we experienced back in 2015,” she said. “I frequently hear compliments regarding the manner of upkeep and the condition of the grounds and how good everything looks out there,” she said. “We have Jonathan Freeman’s diligence and hard work to thank for that.”

Wanting to entice campers inside the library to check out the offerings has led them to purchase a Roku TV.

“Hopefully people will come up, enjoy the air conditioning and spend some time in the library,” Williams said.

The James W. Curry Public Library has expanded its community presence through collaborations.

“We sought to transform our role and presence in the community through outreach,” Williams said.

To this end, Williams has collaborated with Rock Cave Elementary for a field trip, the Selbyville Volunteer Fire Department for a “Harry Potter” event, had a presence at the bluegrass festival and annual Brooks Hill Community Fair, handed out treats and books for Trick-or-Treat and had a table at the West Virginia Strawberry Festival in Buckhannon.

All of the children’s programming takes funding and the James W. Curry Public Library and Park advisory board created a fundraising committee in 2018 that is chaired by county administrator Carrie Wallace.

So far, two raffles were held including a Library Lovers quilt and a Lego white board. The committee is also exploring more grant opportunities.

“For a small rural, logistically challenged library we are holding our own,” she said. “We are rather like a chrysalis about to transform into a beautiful butterfly. We are thinking forward and looking for ways to turn Curry library into a focal point for the community with a well-groomed collection, a vigorous program schedule facilities for creative learning and technologically on par with other libraries in West Virginia.”

Commissioner Terry Cutright told Williams, “You said you had a great community up there. I’m sure they agree that they have a great community with a great librarian. You have done a great job.”

Commission president Sam Nolte added, “Your creativity on your programming and all the events you have made available for all ages is very impressive. You do a terrific job.”

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