SHAMOKIN — Author Ray Bradbury once famously said, “Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.”
The Shamokin-Coal Township Public Library is filled with 56,000 items. Walking through the door is like having a time machine to recount all of history, any place or time, Earth or outer space. And when the real world becomes too much, endless adventures await in the fiction section where readers can become the characters in the pages of the books.
In the days of Amazon and e-books, one may get the impression that libraries are becoming a thing of the past, utilized mostly by the older generation. To those people, librarian Victoria Ryan says that’s just not the case.
“I do think there is a misconception that everyone on the planet is going to go to e-books. The American Library Association just did an article fairly recently that e-books have gone kind of stagnant, that people that use the e-books like them, but it’s not a growing trend,” said Ryan.
Ryan spends part of her time researching different books to bring in a broad spectrum of readers. She uses Library Journal to help, but, ironically, what she really loves is reading book reviews on Amazon.
The number of booksshe purchases each month depends on the bargain hunting she can pull off. In December, she purchased 23 adult books and 32 young adult books. The budget for children and young adult is lower than adult books, but they tend to be cheaper, allowing her to expand the collection.
Since coming on board in April, Ryan has worked to update the library for modern society which included the installation of Wi-Fi. A steady stream of people use the library’s Wi-Fi daily, and the computers are the library’s largest circulation.
“Even in this day and age where you would think everyone has a computer, everyone has the internet, that is just not the case. It’s just a misconception,” Ryan said, explaining library staff offers a great deal of support to elderly people who don’t know how to use computers and provide assistance to those who need to print documents who don’t own a printer.
While earning her Master of Library Science at Kutztown University, Ryan recalled a professor expressing the need to stay current with society.
She said, “If we don’t evolve, then the library’s going to go away, and it’s a shame. The needs of the library are different now than what it usedto be.”
People are no longer looking to libraries for just books, but different resources like the computers, Wi-Fi and programs for children.
Children are the future of the library, so Ryan has made it a special priority to grow the children and young adult book section and create programs to keeps kids active within the library.
She continued the state’s summer reading program last year. The library is participating again this summer, however, the state has adjusted it to what they call “summer quest.”
Ryan explained in an effort to appeal to kids who aren’t that into reading, “summer quest” will focus more on learning and provide alternatives to reaching goals. For example, in lieu of reading for 20 minutes a night, they will have the option to perform an alternative activity like coloring a page, drawing a picture or writing a story.
The program changes focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, which Ryan is thrilled about.
Ryan also holds a bachelor’s degree in kindergarten throughsixth-gradee education and a general science certification for seventh through 12th grade.
Last summer, STEM kits were donated by the Commonwealth Libraries for preschoolers who attend a preschool story time and movement at 10 a.m. every Monday.
Alarge part of being a librarian is applying for grants to keep the library properly funded. Ryan said at the start of 2018, she is working hard writing grant applications, in an effort to receive funding to purchase STEM kits for older children.
The funding wound also provide homeschooled children the opportunity to take part in the STEM program. Ryan said the library hosts a homeschool meet-up group once a month and she’d love to have them be able to participate in STEM projects.
As a librarian, it’s important to keep children involved in programs, and since taking over the position, Ryan has seen picture book circulation increase from 30 to 40 a month to an average 100 books a month.
The popularity of young adult books is also on the rise, rising from 30 to 40 a month to about 80 to 90. Ryan hopes the number continues to grow with the introduction of a young adult chess club, beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 18.
Ryan continues to create new clubs and activities for youth in order to bring more foot traffic into the library. “When the older generation passes on, who’d going to continue coming to this establishment?” she asked.
“I think this library’s extremely important to the city of Shamokin,” Ryan exclaimed.