With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, I couldn’t resist using the lyrics to one of my favorite musicals. And boy do they apply to Kansas Public Library (KPL)! I did some online recon before venturing to this remarkable little institution in the lush rolling hills of northeastern Oklahoma last October. It’s not often I laugh out loud at library posts, but these were funny and full of innovative happenings, so I had high expectations and was not disappointed.
The excitement actually started at midnight. I ignored the tornado warning that woke us, but driving to KPL we passed uprooted trees, downed power lines and massive damage from storms that sadly killed four people over several states.
Arriving at the library we were met by a wriggling dog who really wanted in. I inadvertently let the door shut on him and five minutes later heard another yip when my husband tried to slip in as the canny canine managed to sneak his paw in the opening.
Despite the cacophony, Peggy, Lydia and Sarah greeted us cheerfully. Manager Cherokee Lowe had given me permission to use my camera so I knew she wouldn’t be around, but they enthusiastically answered my questions.
A font of information, Lydia told me that conveniently, the K-12 contingent come across a field for the daily 3pm invasion. For a town of around 800, it’s not a small force – the 394 elementary, 186 middle and 330 high school students depend on KPL for entertainment as they are pretty much the only game in the town.
And the library rises to the challenge.
From catchy queries guaranteed to make tots giggle and gag to cozy circles around refreshments, there’s lots to please all ages.
I watched clips of plate spinning demonstrations and Jenga fun and regular shows by talented performers. I couldn’t stop chuckling as a local wit pointed his leaf blower at toilet paper rolls on a stick delighting onlookers as the masses of wafting tissue decorated the room. OKC Improv encourages audience participation and during STEM sessions static electricity makes paper imagos soar and straws become rocket launchers. A white cloaked mad scientist demonstrates chemical properties and helps little kids walk on eggs without breaking them.
I feel lucky to be here at a relatively quiet time so I can admire how comfortable they’ve made the small structure. Subdued lighting and plants make the magazine corner a peaceful spot. Grab a soda from the vending machine and perch on a bar stool for cards or a chess match on this multipurpose surface. The book sale table is a reminder to stop by the huge Friends maintained Book Barn across the lot.
Such a chock full schedule requires appropriate venues so this tier is a great fit and has space for displays and a scary spider. It’s perfect for visits from a coloring magician and unicyclists. Extreme Animals brought a real live diapered joey, a wombat, a skunk striped badger and a baby cayman for attendees to marvel at and I loved the shot of ten people holding a huge yellow python!
Though part of the 15 branch, six county Eastern Oklahoma District Library System (EODLS), KPL’s main web presence is their self controlled Facebook page. From word a day posts illustrated by amusing definitions, cartoons for bibliophiles and rave reviews to intriguing announcements and pictures of kids reading to dogs, making ice cream and at a unicorn tea party, it’s an engrossing and tantalizing advertisement for the library.
The well used meeting room has a popcorn maker and a big screen TV on wheels. Magnetic clothespin tie-dye butterflies adorn tall supply cabinets by an adjoining kitchen leading into a tidy office.
For the NASA moonwalk themed Summer Reading last year, a Poor Pluto costume gala ended the roster of movies and programs on the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Earth, the universe etcetera and a shutterbug put up lots of photos of children proudly showing off prizes and holding the stained glass UFOs and papier-mâché planets they’d created.
I spot originality everywhere, from goofy grinning jack-o’-lanterns and skeletons smiling at the window to a gourd painted as a rabbit and another Mr. Potato Head style pumpkin that could be a mouse or boar or pig? A raven joins the curiosities, bats swoop down from the ceiling and a haunted house floor mat welcomes you in.
Parents can grab a high sided yellow wagon to haul books or babies and by the Global Cinema section are Playaway launchpads for ages 8-10. Connect4, Bananagrams… pack a case and are available for loan. A glass unit locks so people can show off collections safely and Plexiglas pockets and red ledges accommodate recommendations on shelf ends and walls.
KPL has beading classes and game nights, and the system encourages streaming or downloading electronic books, music, magazines, and media. Or search a plethora of consumer, investment, statistical, literary, small business, job, tech, legal, language, DIY, tax, hobby, and homework databases. Take practice tests or ArtistWorks’ professional self-paced music and art lessons. Log into ABC Mouse for thousands of learning activities for young clients or Fold 3 for records and individual narratives from military veterans.
Peruse EODLS’s own digitized newspapers or regional and statewide ones. Oklahoma Digital Prairie accumulates images, poster, maps… to illuminate the past and there’s genealogy training plus two locations amass local documents and one has 3D printing that is great for archaeological purposes among other things.
Lydia, confirmed the 24/7 wifi promoted on the website. Those with outages at home can park near the premises day or night and surf or do research. When open, older folks have Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher and the internet on the six public stations while the juvenile department has two AWE terminals.
We chatted for a bit and she mentioned one of her goals for the year was to start this Instagram account. Though here for six years, she’s part time so to make a full time job, she also works in the closest EODLS facility. A few years ago a man managed to (accidentally) swerve around several cars and drive his truck through the front of the building startling the ten or so people inside. Thank goodness no one was hurt but KPL needed to close for three months. Users had to commute forty minutes round trip to Jay where they continued to receive Lydia’s ebullient assistance.
At the Circ Desk I found an EODLS brochure touting “One-on-One help for all services” and listing the branches. Many have proctoring and notaries and the system has so many functions to choose from. The crochet, Lego, quilting, home schooling, bible study, coding, reading, discussion and writing clubs, Weight Watchers, NAACP, Toastmasters, Girl Scouts and the humane society depend heavily on the meeting rooms.
EODLS has an interesting organizational model. More of a consortium than a single entity, the Board of Trustees has representation for all the communities involved. Decide where you pickup items and return to any site. Traditional materials checkout for three weeks and renew twice, up to three DVDs get three days and things like exercise equipment, sewing machines, fishing poles, guitars, batons and video games have a seven day loan period.
Adults and seniors have health care and insurance help, movement workshops, First Aid, computer, GED, ESL and literacy instruction, Tai Chi, dominoes, bingo, PS4 tournaments and lectures on dementia. Donate books or better yet make a monetary contribution and get a tax deduction, or join a Friends’ group or volunteer your time.
Stem and STEAM seminars teach kids and teens new concepts and YA’s have trivia contests, Zen Zone and learn about investigating crime scenes. Chili cookouts, escape rooms, family movies, murder mysteries and trick or treating are just a few of the options and all ages have anime and crafts.
It’s worth watching the video segments on KPL’s Facebook page for ideas. Performers, personnel and patrons participate so wholeheartedly! I really got a kick out of the musical interlude about stolen cookies and the three little pigs. Flashing strobes accompanying the wild spectacle of Hoopla Hoops and youngsters rock out to a monster truck band. To the strains of Men at Work’s “Down Under” a puppeteer’s instrument playing kangaroo, turtle and dinosaur serenade dancing toddlers. The library is not afraid of noise as the film of tykes pounding on upturned buckets during Drums!!! attests.
I applaud their sheer inventiveness – tinted rice makes a palette of sand for bulldozers and youths fashion creatures from clothes pins and popsicle sticks. I’m a sucker for neon and glowing objects so adored Juggle Whatever. How great to get to examine the vehicles the police and firemen brought in. The breadth and range of events is broader than I’ve seen at many big institutions.
Differently themed story times cover various ages levels. For early literacy there’s Baby Bookworms and Janet leads a series where pool noodles teach letters.
A wall in the children’s area has snaps of enterprising adolescents who have read 100, 200, 300… books. Four have managed to complete 1000 already.
Select from shelves or bins of board books and settle into tiny scarlet cushioned arm chairs or a mini bentwood rocker. When finished, simply plop the item into the wire rack arms of a smiling boy and girl. Hand made wooden puzzles, toys and stuffed animals round out the offerings.
The imagination, energy and commitment of the staff apparently knows no bounds and residents obviously know how fortunate they are to have such an amazing place!