It was more of an impromptu twirl than a pirouette, but no matter, Brie Ritchie of Cabot managed to express her delight with the children’s offerings at the Cabot Public Library through dance.
Her mother, Lori Ritchie of Cabot, interpreted Brie’s spin by saying, “She loves the library. She loves story time.”
The library’s Reading Program kicks off Monday, June 5, even more reason for the pre-schooler to celebrate.
Lori Ritchie said, “We bring her to the library because it gives her a chance to socialize, to listen to other adults’ voices and to learn to follow instructions.”
While Brie continued to dance her way through the children’s section of the Cabot Public Library, a staff member walked through the room with an armful of books. At the sight of the little girl, she just smiled and continued on her way.
Brie was there for the Thursday morning story time, along with her mother and father, Joseph Ritchie, and her younger sister, Isabella.
Joseph Ritchie said, “This library isn’t intimidating (like some) but it’s very comfortable. The staff is helpful and always willing to answer questions.”
PLENTY TO DO THIS SUMMER
A few minutes earlier, the girls had been playing on the library’s fixed iPad stations, and Lorie Ritchie said as Brie sat on her lap, “We feel very welcome here and come every other week.”
She said she is also considering involving her older children in a summer program or taking advantage of their free tutoring services..
Kathleen Frankl Ashmore, newly named Lonoke/Prairie County Library System interim assistant director and Cabot Public Library branch manager, said, “We want people to feel comfortable,” and as a matter of fact, she said, “Our heaviest participation is moms, dads and grandparents,” bringing in children.
So the Cabot branch, the newest in the Lonoke/Prairie County Library System, goes out of its way to cater to their needs, offering about 40 children’s program each month.
With summer vacation just around the corner, she said, it’s time for the library’s Summer Reading Program.
“Each year, the Summer Reading Program has a theme. This year’s theme is ‘Build a Better World,’” Ashmore said.
The program will offer classes on gardening, recycling, animal care, Lego Club, Toltec Mounds, Makerspace, 4-H and more.
For example, there will be programs about the importance of bees in the environment and in food production and a look at the Cabot Rock mystery. The decorated Cabot Rocks are found unexpectedly and might be found anywhere around the city, Ashmore said.
“They are little rocks that you can pick up and take home…They make people happy,” which fits in nicely with their summer reading theme.
“Whether literal or metaphorical, we hope that we inspire you to build a better world,” according to the library’s summer program brochure.
In addition, all the Lonoke/Prairie County Library System’s branches, including Cabot, Carlisle, England and Lonoke, are offering the Build a Better World program, with registration starting this Monday, May 15.
The summer reading program starts Monday, June 5.
More information about this program, go to your local library’s Facebook page.
MORE VISITORS, DIGITAL FOOTPRINT
In the main section of the nearly two-year-old Cabot library, people browsed the books while Shannon Lievsay, a construction worker who lives in Cabot, signed onto their free WiFi.
“I don’t have WiFi at home and this saves my (phone) data…The staff doesn’t mind, and they are great,” he said.
In fact, Deborah Moore, Lonoke/Prairie County Library System regional director, encourages library visitors to take advantage of the free WiFi, computer and online services.
“We want people to come in to use our Internet. We encourage it,” Moore said.
The library system has had public-use computers since 1996, but Moore said, “We don’t mind if you bring in your own device.”
Many of their users are high school and college students, who come in and spend the entire day working and researching information; others are looking for jobs — Moore said many big companies now insist that perspective employees fill out their employment applications online, and many are self-employed individuals who need to access the Internet.
“Some just want to check their Facebook page, and we’re OK with that,” Moore said.
User numbers are up at Cabot’s library. Last year, 107,078 visitors walked through its front doors and while the various adult, teen and children’s programs they offer totaled 478 last year, their online services and connection was a big part of their draw.
In addition to an extensive genealogy department, Cabot offers English as a Second Language and crafter classes, lectures, book signings, dance, just to name a few of their activities geared toward adults.
REINVENTING THE LIBRARY ’S PURPOSE
The Cabot library provides teens with their own space and they have their own Advisory Board, plus there are movie showings, a 3D printer, and there are clubs like Minecraft and Pokemon.
“We offer job prep and (employment) skill building to teens,” Moore said.
Ashmore said, “The teen room is usually packed. They use it to study, tutor each other, play video games on their devices. It’s a safe place for them, and it’s not intimidating.”
They encourage teens to explore the library this summer.
If the staff can get teens to use the library and its services then they’re more likely to come back when they have their own children or grandchildren.
Of course, they still have books, magazines and videos that can be checked out.
Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert said, when he took office in 2011, “it was bought to my attention by the library board that their stats had doubled over the last five years. That meant the library was in big demand.”
But he added, “They needed more space so we put forward a bond issue (in 2013 that extended the city’s one-cent sales tax) that would provide the funding to build a new library.”
The city put its money where it’s need was, and Cypert said, “If it was important to our residents, then it was important to the city.”
So the city built a 4,000-square-foot branch at 909 W. Main St. at a cost of $2.6 million, and it owns the building and land, and continues to financially support the library.
“It’s a good investment and it improves the quality of life in our town. Since then (when the new branch opened), they have only continued to grow.
Recent library system numbers support Cypert’s claims.
Across the Lonoke/Prairie County Library System, to which the Cabot Public Library belongs, Moore said, “Our numbers are up.”
Last year, the system’s total visitors count, including their branches at Cabot, Carlisle, England and Lonoke, totaled 173,195 and their programs totaled 619.
Across the system, their numbers were up in 2016 over 2015. Circulation was up 15 percent; registration was up 78.8 percent; computer usage was up 34 percent; reference usage was up 76.5 percent; and visits were up 19 percent.
This year’s numbers also seem to be on the rise, Moore said.
Cabot is the largest branch in the system and accounted for more than half of last year’s total visits and nearly four-fifths of its total programming.
Moore said the system attempts to stay in tune with the needs and desires of the general public, because, she said, “We want to be a vital part of the community…People want to better their lives, and we want to give them a chance to pursue that goal.”