Friday, January 20, 2012

10 years later, Churchville library still going strong

Debbie Sweeney (left) listens as Supervisor Tracy Pyles speaks at the 10th anniversary of the Churchville Library.

Editor's Note: Debbie Sweeney, assistant director of the Augusta County Libraries, addressed the crowd at Saturday's 10th anniversary celebration at the Churchville Library. Her remarks covered the past 10 years so well that I asked if she would share them, and she graciously agreed.

A little over 10 years ago I was privileged to be part of the creation of this wonderful facility. From electrical outlets to furniture, wall coverings to carpeting, all of us involved in the project strove to create a space that would be both practical and inviting; to craft a place of learning and a place to stretch one’s imagination.

We learned a lot about what it takes to convert the former wing of an elementary school into a branch library, especially the importance of community support. One of the things I learned about was the impressive durability of terrazzo flooring! Small construction bobcats ran all over that entry floor and all it took was sweeping, mopping, and a little floor wax to have it looking like new with nary a sign of wear and tear from the bobcat’s treads! If you have a high traffic area I highly recommend terrazzo flooring, but be careful in your choice of design because you will have to live with it for a long time!

With a soft opening on January 7, 2002, followed by a grand opening celebration on January 12, the branch’s three original staff included Steve Altis as our part-time staffer, Charlotte Stephenson as the children’s specialist, and me as branch manager.

We were committed to not only providing outstanding library service but to making a difference in the community. The community in turn not only welcomed us with open arms and generous donations but with that priceless resource known as volunteers!

Brownie Hanger “volunteered” to put in a reading garden at the building entrance to honor his wife Mildred; local Scouts and the Buffalo Gap High School wrestling team volunteered to help unpack our books for the opening; Jane Moriss, Tina Cleveland and others “volunteered” to manage all other landscaping projects, including the park near Rt. 250. Most recently the Woodmen of the World “volunteered” to put up a flagpole.

Volunteers donated their time, talents, and resources liberally in everything from new books to hand-crafted puppets, puppet stages and craft materials to yummy treats. We have also been very fortunate throughout our history to have Tina Cleveland offer her time and guidance in celebrating special occasions, such as the original opening and this 10th anniversary. Eileen and Lyal Hood have remained steadfast volunteers as well; helping out by shelving materials, running book bingos, shoveling sidewalks, and directing groups during class visits - among other tasks.

They and others have provided over 3500 hours of volunteer service during the past 10 years. That’s more than one hour each day that the branch has been open! They have truly helped keep the branch running, especially in recent years when budget shortfalls, illness, and vacations reduce staff numbers even as demand for services continues to increase.

Thank you, thank you for your support and service.

In the past 10 years the branch has provided over 480,000 books, audio books, and videos to nearly 400,000 patrons. Through ten Summer Reading Programs we’ve brought magic shows and medieval festivals, pets and pals and musical productions to Churchville-area residents of all ages (and even a few out-of-town visitors).

Through these programs and puppet shows, book clubs, and contests we’ve shown that not only is reading fundamental – it’s fun! To the question, “Do you know what time it is?” the Churchville youngsters happily reply, “It’s storytime!” The hundreds of story times with “Ms. Charlotte” and her various helpers have not only given our youngest community members a head start on literacy and fostered social skills, they’ve encouraged countless youth and their parents to make learning a lifelong pursuit.

The past 10 years have also seen a tremendous change in traditional library services. No longer just a warehouse for books or other materials, the branch has stepped up to the demand for libraries to be bridges over the digital divide - providing equipment and access to the cyber super highway and instruction on how to navigate its countless resources. We’ve helped digital immigrants (like most of us here) not only keep up with digital natives, but have also shown them how to survive and thrive in a world with an ever more rapidly changing technological landscape. Look at cell phones, for instance. The phone my husband is using at the back of the room is more powerful than the first desktop computer we had, even more powerful than the computers used on the space shuttle!

In 2007, I turned over management of the branch to Jack Holt. While I very much enjoy being back at the main facility in Fishersville, a part of my heart will always reside in Churchville. I greatly miss the wonderful people and community here and take the opportunity to visit whenever I can, even if it’s midnight on a Monday night to install software!

I look forward to the updates on branch happenings that Jack shares with me, and take comfort in knowing that he and Ms. Charlotte are committed to continuing the tradition of providing outstanding library service. I also very much appreciate the opportunity to join with you today in celebrating the branch’s first decade, and I look forward to helping steer the branch through many more decades of service to the residents of Churchville and surrounding areas.

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