ROCKINGHAM — It is not your grandparents’ library — but they are still welcome.
Preschool to third-grade children find public library activities interesting and fun.
Later that interest decreases, said Debbie Knight of Leath Memorial Library in Rockingham.
“But, we’re doing our best trying to keep their interest alive,” she said Monday night, speaking during a meeting of the Richmond County Historical Society at Rockingham City Hall.
Libraries are now competing with an assortment of electronic gadgets for the attention of young people.
Leath Memorial is among libraries in the Sandhill Regional Library System which have introduced the electronics and programs for them to keep pace.
Knight has been spreading the word about what the library has to offer people of all ages, but said spreading the word has not met with the response yet desired.
People have commented there is “nothing to do” in the community, “but we have something going on every month at the library,” she said.
So, what do people want from a library?
Knight said 5,000 letters were mailed at random through out the community seeking input as to what residents wanted in a library, but only about 400 were returned.
Some 1,500 fliers about activities were distributed through schools. The library has an active Facebook page. Add to that, notices in the Richmond County Daily Journal and on radio stations.
GETTING THE WORD OUT
Knight has taken her message about library services to senior centers, nursing homes, schools, public housing and civic clubs. She would still like to see a greater response from such efforts.
“The community needs to know their library is vibrant,” she said.
This Easter when it rained, the library hid 400 eggs for 100 children throughout the library.
“The library is not always quiet now,” Knight said. “We don’t go around saying ‘shush’ anymore.” And, she said patrons in the library enjoyed watching the children search for eggs.
Activities for children range from potting plants to dancing in the large public room at Leath.
The Summer Reading Program in the county has grown so large it now has to be held at Cole Auditorium. Last year there were 975 children involved.
A problem was that at the Cole Auditorium there were no books to check out. Arrangements have been made this year for the Anson County Bookmobile to be there to make books available.
Prizes this year for the Summer Reading Program — thanks to Richmond Senior High School — will be footballs signed by the coaching staff and players. And, season tickets to Raiders athletic activities.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, some 100 to 125 children meet at the library for story time and other programs.
OPENING NEW DOORS
“When you see people sitting outside the library before and after opening hours, they are taking advantage of the WiFi services we offer,” Knight said. A library card and “Internet card” open new avenues for information.
There is an online catalog of all books, and such services as Oneclick, Zinio, Freading, eBooks, Open Library, Overdrive, NC Live and ABC Mouse. She advised older patrons to ask any child what the services are all about.
Monthly movies are scheduled to be shown at the library in lieu of a movie theater in Rockingham. The newest Star Wars movie was recently shown — free.
In addition to 15 computers for all ages, the library has recently installed four mini-computers in the section for children. Adults must accompany children in that section.
Using home electronics, patrons can email documents to the library which will print them out for 10 cents each for black and white and 50 cents for color. Plus, for $1 the library will fax information.
Dr. John Stevenson, president of the Historical Society, expressed his concern that young people are not reading as much as they should. He said too many children are not reading at the level needed for tomorrow’s jobs.
He said they will need all the basic skills they can get because many jobs available today may not exist by the time they are ready to enter the workforce.
“Reading is still a basic skill,” said Anne Thrower, retired librarian.
For more information on the Sandhill Regional Library System, visit www.srls.info.
Tom MacCallum is a member of the Richmond County Historical Society.