Something for everyone

Local libraries provide an array of programs and services for all ages

Previous Next

A 2012 Pew Research Center library services survey said this is what Americans do when they visit their local library:

o 73 percent visit to browse the shelves for books or media.

o 54 percent research topics of interest.

o 50 percent get help from a librarian.

o 41 percent bring a younger person to a class, program or event designed for children or teens.

o 23 percent attend a meeting of a group they belong to.

o 21 percent visit to attend a class, program or lecture for adults.

For more information about Camas Public Library programs, visit www.camaslibrary.org.

For information about the Washougal Community Library, which is part of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library system, visit www.fvrl.org.

A 2012 Pew Research Center library services survey said this is what Americans do when they visit their local library:

o 73 percent visit to browse the shelves for books or media.

o 54 percent research topics of interest.

o 50 percent get help from a librarian.

o 41 percent bring a younger person to a class, program or event designed for children or teens.

o 23 percent attend a meeting of a group they belong to.

o 21 percent visit to attend a class, program or lecture for adults.

For more information about Camas Public Library programs, visit www.camaslibrary.org.

For information about the Washougal Community Library, which is part of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library system, visit www.fvrl.org.

Library offerings have come a long way in the past two decades.

Most people old enough to remember the Dewey Decimal System can recall going to the library for help with a research paper, reference question or to find a certain book. Libraries also typically offered children’s storytimes, summer reading programs and book discussion groups.

Nowadays, one can walk into the library and may see an artist’s reception, listen to live music, make crafts, attend an herb seminar, learn more about brain health, sharpen their job skills, attend a tea party, learn how to self-publish a book or enjoy classic movies. Some services don’t even require setting foot in the library, such as checking out books, magazines or participating in an online book club.

“We are trying to maintain our traditional services, but we are adding new programs as well,” said Linda Swenton, assistant director for the Camas Public Library. “We formed a programs’ team to work on adult services. Our children’s program is dynamic, but we didn’t have an adult equivalent.”

Librarians Judy Wile and Karen Nicholson have been leading the charge.

Wile heads up the popular craft-o-rama program, an adult book discussion group and an upcoming “story slam,” where participants will be able to get feedback on their writing.

“We have a very close-knit crafting group and a lot of the participants have formed friendships,” noted Wile. “They are making connections and it is nice to see lifelong learning going on.”

The Friends and Foundation of the Camas Library provide much of the funding for the programs, which are free to the community.

Swenton pointed out that the mission of librarians is to empower. Offering a variety of activities helps meet that goal.

“It is about education and entertainment,” she said. “The people who work here get a sense of the community’s needs and interests. They still want to check out books and have reference questions answered, but they also want more.”

Prior to working at the Camas Library, Nicholson served as a librarian for several years at Camas High School. This gives her a link to the high school and young adult population, which are sometimes scarce at libraries.

To encourage more to come, she quizzed a younger library volunteer and students. As a result, two new programs began. Trivia Night is held at Mill City Brew Werks every other month. Screen Reads, where participants read the book, then watch the movie, takes place at the library. Nicholson describes that group as “mostly 20-somethings.”

“We don’t typically see 20-somethings at the library, so you have to get them where you can,” she said. “And even if they can’t come in person, they can still download items for free onto their e-readers.”

Nicholson added that trivia nights have become fairly popular, with 35 people attending the last event.

“We give out prizes and have a lot of fun,” she said.

Swenton added that there is a bonus to partnering with a local business.

“We would really like to do more of it,” she said. “It’s not just about having people come to this building. It’s about getting out and letting the community know about it.”

All three of the librarians credited technology for the increased services.

“Google has had a huge influence,” noted Swenton. “It makes things more accessible for people and they want their libraries to offer more.”

Not all of the events had big attendance, but library staff continue to brainstorm ideas.

“I have a lot of praise for our director (David Zavortink) because he is really open to trying different things and experimenting,” said Swenton. “We are open to experimentation and ideas from the community, too. There is something for everyone here, and it can be whatever you want it to be.”

Changes in Washougal

Chris Hughey, Washougal community librarian, remembers the days when staff spent much of their time filing cards in books.

After the Fort Vancouver Regional Library System became automated in 1992, it “changed the way we served people,” she said.

“Automation freed us up for other things,” she said. “Public computers were the next big change. It really leveled the playing field for people who couldn’t afford home computers. Now, the way we deliver books has changed, too. They can be downloaded anywhere.”

In-library services included databases with a wealth of information on many different topics, and software programs people may not be able to afford at home.

“You can figure out how to fix your car, write a resume, practice for the GED or other tests. We have become more of a community resource than in the past and often partner with other organizations.”

Huey noted that a recent teen night event was held at Echo Donut Lounge in downtown Washougal.

“They played music for the kids and everyone had a good time,” she said. “Community partnerships are good for the library and for local businesses.”

Other upcoming events include computer classes for senior citizens, which will begin later this year, and a program for the business community.

“If someone wants to start a business, we have a database that will give them all the information they need, and it is free,” she said. “They can find out if there is a nearby competing business, customer demographics and more.”

The library has also started a Lego after-school program for elementary school children, on selected early-release Wednesdays each month.

“It is hard to serve everyone with such a small staff, but we try to hit each age group monthly,” Hughey said. “We are trying to provide a variety of activities for people so that income is not a barrier.”

Please review our community guidelines