Fort Polk's Allen Memorial Library celebrates National Library Week
FORT POLK, La. - As the nation celebrates National Library Week, Allen Memorial Library has pulled out all the stops to highlight everything that it has to offer.
In today's world of visual stimulation, where the television lulls many people tired from a day's work into a state of passive contentment, the written word often falls by the wayside. Many people, without thinking, say about a book, "I'll wait until the movie comes out," forgetting that a book can immerse a reader into many different worlds.
While reading, the reader is not in the armchair, or on a bench in the park, or sitting at a table at the library: They are a part of the book's world, and the eyes cease to read word for word; instead, they absorb the meaning, and if the book is good, the reader becomes a character. "Harry Potter" readers have gone to Hogwarts. Detective fiction fans solve crimes along with the detectives. Their mysteries become the reader's mysteries, their lives, the reader's. When the book ends, there is a moment of loss. The reader comes back to the real world with a sudden start and everything, for a moment, looks new, different. That is what a good book can do.
Allen Memorial Library wants library patrons to enjoy this experience, and hosts a passel of events through tomorrow designed to bring new and seasoned readers to the library during National Library Week. It hosted a scavenger hunt April 11 and awarded prizes to the winners, then hosted Game Night, featuring games for people of all ages. The library celebrated a kick-off party April 12, serving refreshments and offering a door prize drawing featuring a Nook as the prize (the Nook is an electronic reader that can hold hundreds of books in its internal memory, much like the Kindle).
The motto for the library's reach-out to community members is "Stay Atop Your Game @ the Library," and with all the programs the library has to offer, it's easy to do so.
"Visit the library and interact with the friendly staff," said librarian Donna Maemori. "Let them see for themselves that there is nowhere else in our community where they can enjoy so many valuable resources for free." Besides the resources, says Maemori, it's important to remember that "books transmit our collective wisdom and insights; it is a very efficient way for people to share their knowledge and culture."
Librarian Mary L. Grange shares a similar philosophy. "Through an appreciation for books and the written word," she said, "people also gain an appreciation for the pursuit of knowledge. Knowledge is very powerful - and with knowledge comes wisdom. Books encourage lifelong learning."
In addition to self-guided library tours, book discussions, staff picks and teen reviews, a summer reading program and computer access, the library holds regular storytimes to encourage that lifelong learning in toddlers Tuesdays at 11 a.m. in the Kid's Room.
The Kid's Room is equipped with two computers, exclusively for use by children; it features stacks of books, both fiction and nonfiction, a comfy couch and loveseat for parents and children to read together and a display atop the stacks of all of the artwork and crafts children have created during various storytimes. Birds of various colors swing from limbs of a tree; boats are moored; Mardi Gras hats and masks sit on one stack, and on the walls is artwork and poetry written by the children who have attended in the past.
Kathy Wilson, a library technician who regularly runs Storytime, enthusiastically reads new selections each week; many of these books are tailored to the time of year, or to a special occasion. This week's readings featured Mr. Wiggle the bookworm, who waxed happily about the delights of reading. Afterwards, children crafted "smart hats," though, said Wilson, "you're all so smart already!"
"What you instill in them, they take to others," said Wilson of the storytimes. "Reading helps them to be aware of others and helps them adjust to school. It also helps them discover all they have inside of them."
"It's an incredibly rewarding experience," she added. "The children are the future. Whatever we invest in them benefits the post community and the world. Reading to them also allows a person to bring the child out in themselves. You bring out the best in the children and they bring out the best in you. To teach and to have fun - you couldn't ask for a better job."
During the library's storytime for the Child Development Center April 13, Col. Francis Burns, Fort Polk's garrison commander, read for a large group of energetic children. They sat in a circle around Burns, listening closely and asking numerous questions.
The story he read was entitled "Listen to the Wind," about children in Afghanistan; Burns asked the children, "Does the wind speak?" Some children answered "no," while others answered "yes" emphatically. "It whispers to us, doesn't it?" asked Burns. "Yes!" the children exclaimed.
Burns also believes in the power of the written word, he says.
"It's extremely important to read to kids and to have them see adults reading," said Burns. "They emulate that behavior, and as they read, they are thinking about what things mean, what happens next. It engages them, and us."