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Buncombe County Library Asheville NC

Asheville, N.C. is a big music town that offers arts of all kinds. It’s no surprise the Buncombe County Library offers many different music programs. I was greeted by Jen W. and she was happy to show me around the library and explain how they are helping their community.

Across from the library are two 20 story buildings that mainly serve seniors. Buncombe offers programs for the elderly, involving jazz hours and bingo night, which are both a huge hit. The staff was very eager to get these programs restarted and provide a place for the residents to gather. Throughout the pandemic Buncombe has provided deliveries to both buildings but Jen expressed that she’s glad that seniors are beginning to feel a little more comfortable with coming out to socialize. The library has also been providing online storytimes for kids and parents.

Since reopening, Buncombe County Library has seen a resurgence of the teens in the community. Many teens have found interest in finding a safe place as pandemic restrictions are gradually lifting. They have been making their way in to read in book clubs as well as enjoying other programs that the library offers them.

Downstairs there was an area dedicated to local history and a corner arranged for referential research. Buncombe County Library made the decision to change their cataloging from the Dewey system to a category based system. A librarian named Catherine shared with me that a local artist was asked to help with the new look of this section. They brightened up the area, added a historical timeline of their community, and also added in their own record listening area.

The listening area contained different albums from local artists. Playing into the double entendre of records, there were also old local family records within this section that you could listen to.

It was nice to see how Buncombe was looking to give back to their community, especially with populations of people who use it as a safe place to hang out with friends or a place to socialize and get out.

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The Prose of a Traveling Man: Richland Library Main Branch Columbia, SC

As I drove down Assembly Street in Columbia South Carolina I saw that the rain did not turn away the eager children excited and ready for the neighborhood’s Richland Library “Halloween Stroll.” Making my way into the building I was greeted by Ronisha Jones, a member of the tech department. She was more than happy to give me a tour of their beautiful library that gave this rainy day a nice boost in positive vibes.

The main branch of Richland Library is made up of 4 floors and Ronisha and I made our way up to the 2nd floor where I was introduced to Lucy who worked in the workshop department. We got a chance to check out the woodshop room which provided a 3-D printer as well as a Resin Printer. During the pandemic residents in the community have been submitting in different designs that can be printed from these printers. Lucy expressed that this is a trial and error type of experience but enjoyable nonetheless.

After looking around the workshop we made our way over to the recording studio right next door. In here, you could find a microphone booth along with ample space for instruments to be brought in. At the other end of the studio room was a computer with software such as Ableton or Pro Tools where people could edit their recordings in real time. Once the recording was complete there was another room with several computers where you could edit your recordings.

Another way in which Richland Library is working to help serve their community through the pandemic is a farmer’s market that provides various meats as well as desserts on Wednesdays from 10-1. There are outside storytimes weekly for kids and there is a bus delivery service that people can use to get books delivered to their residence.

Downstairs on the 1st floor there is a space for local artists. Currently hanging on the walls are pieces of abstract art from a local girl named Braelyn Byars. She had a series of acrylics on canvas created between the Fall of 2020 and Summer of 2021. She used a variety of techniques: finger paintings, hand paintings, splattering, dripping and tape & peel in addition to paintbrushes and a palette knife.

Across the entire library I noticed many residents using the various resources and taking in the rainy day with a little bit of library time. It was nice to see people collaborating in office spaces, parents enjoying the “Halloween Stroll” with their children, or just sitting down relaxing and diving into a book.

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The Prose of a Traveling Man: Charlotte Mecklenburg – South County Regional Library, NC

The COVID  pandemic has had an impact everywhere and Southern County North Carolina is no different.  The library began renovations at the end of 2019 just before the pandemic hit and was only completed and open to the public this February..  Laura H, manager of the library, said moving back into the building has been a work in progress, but the staff has been tremendous in rallying together for their community. 

The children’s section  of the renovated space offered up an activity called the “Book Walk.”  Children and their parents have an opportunity to choose a book for their book walk, which are replaced each month. Of course this month is Halloween themed. There are suggested tips to help out with early childhood literacy skills such as asking questions, building vocabulary, and making connections to what children are reading with their own world.  This type of activity allows for children to interact with texts on their level while keeping a safe distance from others.  Laura also informed me of a program giving kids the opportunity to write letters and participate in  a reward system where children can earn a book of their own.  

Due to Covid, there are still restrictions on the number of people allowed in the library at any given time. Southern County Regional Library has been offering storytime outside of the library in a cozy corner of the property in a hilly, natural seating.  Laura explained that this is popular with the community and it’s nice to have a natural amphitheater type of space for children to enjoy storytime.  The library also provides storytime at a local park one day per week.  

While making our way through different sections of the library, it was easy to see how welcoming the staff was.  Laura expressed how much the staff  support each other  and work together, relying on each other’s skills and expertise.  We met with Barbara who is an experienced reference librarian. She shared with me a resource that is used in libraries across the county called “Freegal Music.  Eric is a program director in charge of collaborating with community members interested in  creating   new programs.  

As we exited the building  there was  an alluring piece of interactive sculpture made by local artist Jim Gallucci.  The colorful piece is a stainless steel, powder coated sculpture called “Open Book, Open Mind.”  A favorite amongst the kids, this sculpture acts as a tunnel that you can walk through to enter the library.  As you gaze up at the canopy, you’ll notice titles of books written by famous authors such as Ray Bradbury and Ralph Ellison. There are benches inside the tunnel for sitting and contemplating.  At certain points of the day  the sun casts silhouetted shadows of the authors and titles across the sidewalk 

Laura was a great host and it was my pleasure meeting the amazing staff at the Southern Country Regional Library.  It’s heartwarming to see that through tough times, the library and its librarians continue to create a space for imagination, knowledge, and growth.

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The Prose of a Traveling Man: Libbie Mill Library, Henrico County, VA

As I made my way into the Libbie Mill Library in Henrico County Virginia, I was greeted by Bethany, a librarian, and Kristyn Saroff, the assistant manager of the library.

The library’s digital media lab was a popular venue. It offered internet access and other media resources. Adults use the space for job interviews and meetings. teens use it for various projects. The room also has a green screen.

I also met Chris and Megan, two librarians in charge of the children’s section of the library. Chris shared a couple of programs with me that the children have worked on as well as a read aloud activity that is interactive with puppets from the famous author Ashley Bryan.

One recent activity for children ages 5-10 was the “Star Jar” project. The kids created constellation models with mason jars , colored light bulbs and tinfoil. The kids used different texts to help with this project.

The teen section of the library offered a music program. Teenagers could practice on keyboards that offer a Midi setup which allows users to connect to Garageband software. Libbie Mill is offering programs that provide education on music as well as technology to help with creating and editing your own music.

The library recently completed an African American genealogy program that generated great interest. They had professional genealogists come in and work with 40 African American Henrico County residents to help them discover their family history and roots in the state of Virginia.

It was wonderful getting a chance to speak with employees of the Libbie Mill Library, and hearing about some of the great programs they offer for all ages!

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The Prose of a Traveling Man: Fairfield Library Henrico County, VA

Pulling up to Fairfield Library, I couldn’t help but appreciate this new building which was constructed 3 years ago. It’s a beautiful piece of architecture that sits on N. Laburnum Ave. along with a brand new athletic facility and social services building. The idea for the structure of the building was inspired by the philosophies of W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. Du Bois championed academic learning and Washington emphasized training of life skills and trades. Public libraries are places where both academic and life-skills learning can be supported. The building has a perpendicular design to represent the basis of these two philosophies. Speaking with Sharon Crenshaw, the assistant manager, expressed that this 3 year old building was an amazing addition to the community.

With this new facility, it was wonderful to see the types of services and strides in technology that Fairfield offered. One of the most popular rooms, called the “One Button Press Room,” allowed members of the library with a USB, to record video and audio in a state-of-the-art recording booth for a variety of programs and activities such as interviewing for a job via Skype, as well as recording your own podcast or music. Afterwards, you can take your USB that downloaded the whole recording and edit it in another room using Adobe. I was amazed that a library provided this type of service.

As Sharon and I made our way up to the second floor she showed me the children and teen centers of the library.

The children’s section was a large open space where kids had an opportunity to explore all the different texts which were broken up into different “neighborhoods” (categories for different types of genres of picture books.) There was a beautiful section with sliding glass doors that opened up into a multipurpose room for read-alouds and arts and crafts activities. Fairfield Library also provides nooks within this area where parents can apply for jobs online while keeping an eye on their children.

Moving over to the teen section, it was nice to see a “tween” area where you could find texts and an area for children transitioning from childhood into their teenage years. Making our way further in, sat rows of texts pertaining to teenage oriented genres and a cozy gaming area. To the left were study rooms that looked out over the adult section of the library.

Making our way into the STEAM room Sharon showed me a banner that had an array of portraits and other paintings that were done by a father and son duo named Jerome and Jeromyah Jones. The paintings were done by these two over the span of the last 30 to 40 years celebrating African American heritage. They recently had an exhibit called, “The African American Journey in America” commemorating the experience of African Americans over the past 400 years (1619-2019) through art. I was lucky enough to meet these two men on my visit and had a chance to talk to them about their moving work!

It was great to get a chance to talk with Sharon as well as Jerome and Jeromyah, to get a first hand perspective of how they are giving back to their local community.

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The Prose of a Traveling Man: Enoch-Pratt Free Library

The main branch of the Enoch-Pratt public library has a very distinguished interior. You know the minute you enter the building you have walked into a special place of knowledge and history .

Since the beginning of the 21st century Enoch-Pratt libraries have made technology a key part of the services and resources they provide. E-cards were introduced allowing users to check out e-Books, use databases for research, as well as access to streaming media. . As of August 2021 there are 27,000 users of e-cards.

The library has recently upgraded the services offered to children. “First Cards” were established for children receiving their first library card of the age 6 and under. All branches moved to a universal schedule which allows an increase of access to early learning and child caregiver programs.

Through the launch of the Pratt “Library of Things” teens have access to check out STEAM kits, sewing machines and musical instruments. A recent expansion of the Teen Center, offered upgrades to recording audio and video capabilities.

Since June, Pratt has opened up “Sidewalk Service”; a contactless pick-up service at all Pratt locations adhering to COVID-19 mandates. “Drive-In Wifi” has also been offered across the city, providing free internet access to the community at large.

The Enoch-Pratt library has continued to develop new programs and services in their mission to serve and enlighten their community.

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AACPL & Discoveries | Prose of a Traveling Man

As I drove into the parking lot of Anne Arundel Public Library (AACPL) I was impressed by the architecture as well as the EV charging stations for electric vehicles. The new building was completed last year and has a very modern design. Entering the library there lay a map of the Chesapeake Bay on the floor and a beautiful wooden plaque commemorating the donors who helped make this library possible. It’s a wide open space with smaller areas dedicated to all age groups from early childhood through adulthood. AACPL is celebrating 100 years of serving the community and what better way than with a brand new building and some amazing resources.

I was introduced to some of the staff by manager/s Gloria and Dianne. Gabby, a staff member, gave me a tour of an area of the library that allows space for different STEM activities. This area has state of the art resources including a 3-D printer, sewing machines, t-shirt presser, snap circuits (for kids to learn the basics of electric engineering) and ceramic resources for members in the community looking to try their hand at pottery. AACPL provides in-person classes as well as virtual classes for many of their services. The online pottery course has been a big hit and has over 20 people signed up. Gloria also shared a story about a proactive local eagle scout who came in to sew on his own eagle scout badge.

After the STEM area of the library, Gloria showed me the early childhood corner as a librarian was reading Storytime to several toddlers and their parents. This area seemed like a great resource for the children and had a colorful magnetic wall that had a presentation of the city of Annapolis as well as the Maryland library mascot “Sneeks”. The magnetic wall also provided letters along with visual cues on how to pronounce different sounds, giving kids a chance to spell their names and other words they were interested in

The teenage area of the library sat in the middle between the early childhood corner and adult section. The alcove was well equipped with computers, providing all the tools needed for research. There is also an ample amount of space for teens to socialize with comfortable seating for talking, games to play on systems like the Nintendo Switch, as well as a green screen for different types of presentations teens can use on various projects. AACPL also provides events such as movie nights for teens.

Finally, I made my way to the Annapolis Mall and stopped in at Discoveries. This is a branch of the library that sits in the corner of the mall. I was welcomed by Aurelia who explained that this branch provided a gamut of programs for all ages as well as a food pantry for those in need. Discoveries provides support for about 30-40 customers per week with essentials like diapers and women’s products. Like AACPL, this branch provides a space for young children as well as teens to gather and socialize in a safe place. Aurelia explained that they were setting up for a Mario Kart tournament and another employee, Peter said that this Saturday they will be hosting a Cat Castle “Caturday” where friends and families can partake in making their own cat home for their pets.

I was bound to the feeling of encouragement when I saw the various resources available for all ages at both of these sites. It was a pleasure to get a chance to see how the Anne Arundel Annapolis Public Library and Discoveries have their feet grounded in the past with a mindful idea of how to reach their community with modern advancements looking towards the future.

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The Prose of a Traveling Man: Middletown Township Public Library

From the modest beginnings of Dorothy Norton travelling miles to deliver books to her community, to today’s challenge of providing services during a pandemic, Middletown Township Public Library is celebrating their centennial anniversary this month and at the same time looking towards the future.

The Middletown Township Public Library is the first stop of this American tour!  I was welcomed by the director, Heather, who shared a fun time capsule which was buried  in the 1970’s and recently dug up. It contained some interesting items from that decade as well as some monthly magazines. 

Throughout the years Middletown Township Public Library has offered programs for all ages.  They have many different programs and services they provide for their community;  outreach services, literacy initiatives, employment and small business resources, expanding information services, computer training, internet access, and other means of community support and enrichment.  During last year’s school year, the library housed students who needed a place to learn virtually.  The library recently purchased lockers so that individuals can pick up and return books and other resources without going indoors.

Visiting the Middletown Township Public Library was a great beginning to my tour. It was eye opening  to know there are libraries in my own county providing necessary services and doing so much for their communities during these very challenging times.

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Introduction: The Prose of a Traveling Man

Hello everyone and welcome to the Prose of a Travelling Man!  This is the beginning of a long and winding road that hopefully you’ll tune in and think (no I don’t think dropping out is the best option). 

A little bit about myself.  My name is Brendan Coulson and I am a few things at this point in my life (College Graduate – University of Delaware, Teacher of Special Education for 7 years, and a very proud uncle of a niece and 3 nephews). Born and raised  in Monmouth County New Jersey. Have taught in several districts in Monmouth County, including Freehold Twp., Bradley Beach and Freehold Boro. 

Teaching opened me up to the concept that taking on a career/vocation like education serves a purpose beyond ourselves.  As an individual  each one of us has the potential to educate, enlighten, empathize and engage other individuals.  This is what drove me to be an educator.   Throughout my 7 years of teaching I found pride in a profession where I was giving back but always had my ears to the speaker. Finding comfort in a sense of purpose beyond myself was vital in my own development and I find myself continuing that journey through the vibrations of music.

                Welcome to the Journey,

Beginning my career in education began with the intention to make a difference in other individuals’ lives that could be of benefit to them no matter the circumstance.   I truly feel I did that to the best of my degree and am excited to take the next step on this journey.  I don’t say this lightly, every person on this planet has been affected/effected by the CoronaVirus Pandemic and like any world changing event, it will have its repercussions good/bad.  I believe that it is it important to extend yourself towards the best of a situation and to be aware of the risks as you do so. 

I was in my apartment alone on a daily basis during the beginning of the pandemic.   I rediscovered solace and creativity within myself during this time through music. 

Music has been a part of my life well… since I was born and I’m sure the rest of humanity could agree on that statement.  I have felt vibrations of pattern throughout my life since I was conceived and once again I don’t stand alone in this observation.  Throughout my life it has been the soundtrack towards good/bad (I can expand with more time). At 8 years old I took up playing the saxophone.  Through my continued love of music I also learned how to play guitar, bass, and drums.  I’m looking to play piano moving forward. I found myself through the pandemic time and time again coming back to what brought me home… music.

                Throughout my life I have seen and felt music change people’s lives whether through amazing moments like Woodstock or something smaller but no less significant like attending a high school concert with my brothers when I was in middle school and being blown away by the energy that music brought to the collective.  I was hooked and continued to discover how music was a force that could change lives all around the world.  It is something beyond language and older too.  People were making music before they could use words to communicate.  The rhythm of life through vibrations is essential to human understanding. For me, this is a purpose that is worth pursuing.

Music has been essential to communities and there has been no place that is a safer haven than a library to help with access to a resource like music.  On my adventure I am elated to get the opportunity to visit libraries across the country who have been a safe haven for communities.  Throughout our country libraries have been a backbone to help support people in ways that are ever changing, evolving with the intention to serve always serve their communities.  It’s a place where people can come together.  Having spent 7 years teaching children and being a part of wonderful programs that help with the growth of children (like sports i.e., wrestling and baseball, afterschool programs or extended school years.)  I’m excited to see how libraries are serving their communities and celebrating those accomplishments.  I’m looking forward to seeing different libraries and their service to their communities as well as how music effects/affects the lives of people across this country and engage within the craft.

Music has been a catalyst that has shown me humility and the beauty in learning.  Libraries are pillars that help communities to learn and grow.  I can’t wait to get a chance to share in this beauty of learning with you all!

Stay Tuned:

-Middletown Township Public Library

                Celebrating 100 Years

                Resource for virtual learning through pandemic

 The Prose of a Travelling Man

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SMART Trek: An American Library Tour

A celebration of American Libraries & Culture during the Pandemic

Over the past 20 years, public libraries have adapted their programs and services to become community hubs. As an active contributor in the Public Library sector, Comprise is committed to advancing the cause of “Library as Community”. In keeping with our commitment, we are pleased to participate in supporting the “SMART Trek”, a cross country journey by teacher/blogger Brendan Coulson to highlight some of the ways libraries play a role in the culture of their communities.

Follow Brendan’s journey on our website & our social media accounts.

Click here to read our blog.

About your tour guide: Brendan Coulson is an educator taking a year to travel America to discover and chronicle local culture, with a particular interest in how that culture is expressed through regional music and community events.

Will you join us as we give voice to this journey and read about libraries like yours?!