By Michelle Li
Toast for New Lives:
Every Friday morning at 10:15 a.m., when visitors walk into the children’s department into the Eugene Public Library, they hear people singing, “big toe, tall toe, middle toe strong, funny toes, little toe, Bongity, bong, BONG.” In a room full of colorful posters and puppets, around 50 babies have an interactive learning time with their parents. The high pitches of parents’ voices make them giggle. When the teacher takes out a “Puppet Mr. Frog” with a big smile, they clap and swing their bodies.
The children’s department in the Eugene Public Library has served the community for several decades. It is a place for children and young adults to start a life-long love of learning. The department incorporates Kids section and Teens section, and the storytelling time is specially designed for children in different age group. The half hour of “Baby Storytime” includes a combination of songs, dances, and telling stories.
Hadley Brown is a librarian assistant responsible for the babies’ story times. She holds a little yellow duck puppet, sings “Celebrate Name Song” and welcomes all the babies in class today. Then, she changes the puppet to a baby-figure-like toy and guides parents how to move the babies’ legs and arms to match with the rhyme of the song. Each song has certain body movements and gestures so that babies and their parents can have more physical interaction. Brown says this is because the touching brings more familiarity and closeness between the kids and their parents.
Brown also explains why the babies’ songs combine pitch of the sounds that varies from low to high. “It provides important sound texture that help babies as they process all of this and create the next steps towards verbalizing, even in a very young age,” she says.
In addition, embracing diversity in babies’ literacy and knowledge, the storytelling also includes Spanish songs and reading. Brown guides babies and parents to count 1 to 10, and speaks “Hello” in Spanish with rotating gestures between jumping, clapping and sitting.
Shifting libraries: Technological and digitalized playtime
Just as the development of information and technology nationwide grows in the library system, the Eugene Public Library also goes through a range of changes to facilitate the digitization of resources. According to the website, the children’s department provides an increasing amount of videos, online database for research, homework helping websites, and downloadable books for children and teenagers to get information faster and more easily.
Gregorio Rodriguez, the youth services manager, says the teenagers’ resources are more versatile, especially those programs that help them with school work. The brochure of the children’s department lists all kinds of programs, including online research databases to get tutor services such as Learning Express Exams, the second languages learning systems such as Mango Language, the downloading websites for novels and fictions like Teen Ink., and connections to other electronic website such as Library2Go.
“Information is all about sharing, and libraries exist to make sharing easier.” Rodriguez says. He remarks that the majority of the online programs for children and teenagers are research tools like CQ researcher, tutor resources like Live Homework Help, and e-books category resources. A large percent of these programs were sponsored by the Eugene Public Library Foundation, which subscribed and paid for these programs.
Librarians in the children’s department say that as long as each of the children and young adults has a library card, they can get access to these websites whenever they can use Internet. “For people who do not want to go down there, they can get books and information at their own house,” Rodriguez says.
“It is not only books on the shelves; it is also programs and services you can get online.” Cherry Le, a student at Lane Community College, says that she often went to the library to use the online resources before she brought her own laptop.
Learning a second Language? Absolutely!
Jessie Huang and Sheena Huang are sisters from Taiwan. Five years ago, they came to Eugene with their parents. Every Sunday afternoon, after attending the church ceremony, their mother brings the sisters to the children’s department to have a little of what they called “learning language time.” Even though the sisters were born in Taiwan, English has already become their first choice when speaking.
The younger Jessie, a 7-year old 1st grader, holding a “Berry Bunny Adventures” DVDs, says, “I love searching for my favorite cartoons in there, and that why I come here every week.”
After finding the DVDs they want, the two sisters sit down in a quiet corner and start reading “Journey to the West”, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese Literature.
Fang Ling Zhang, the sisters’ mother, explains that she is happy her children still get the chance to read Chinese books because they have little chance to use their native language in schools. “It is ironic for them to study Chinese as their second language, but at least the library provides a substantial amount of Chinese literature here.” Zhang says.
The place where the Chinese books deposit is called “Language Center.” The 5 rows of shelves include more than ten languages including French, Arabic, Germany, Korean, Chinese, etc.
Librarian Brown suggests that because of the growing demanding for Spanish literature and textbooks, the children’s department provides a large capacity for the Spanish books.
Rodriguez says, starting from May 3rd, the children’s department shared Spanish children’s books by collaborating with four other community partners to make these resources more easily available to local Latino families and teachers with bilingual students.
“What happened is we have a very good collection of Spanish books, but we are out of room,” Rodriguez explains, “so we want to share these resources with people who cannot get to the downtown and bring a little bit ‘library’ to them.”
The books will be rotated between communities includes Centro LatinoAmericano, the Family Resource Centers of César E. Chavez, River Road/El Camino del Río, and Malabon elementary schools.
Rodriguez also mentions that the department choose these places because they have been serving a large amount of Latino families and Spanish-speaking population. This one-year pilot program will place 50 to 100 Spanish books at each place for one time, and will rotate them among these four community locations.
We Want Both!
Three kids sit in front of the computers in the children’s department, playing “Reader Rabbit–Preschool Sparkle Star Rescue,” a what the librarian Traci Glass called “edutainment game that incorporates simple reading and spelling skills for preschool children.”
According to the American Library Association, the Columbus Metropolitan Library ” spent $40,000 on video-game equipment aimed at making teenagers feel more welcome in the library since 2006.” Despite how today many parents are concerned about the prevalence of video games among teenagers, more and more libraries introduce games activities for teenagers. According to the study of EU, children are “reading, using their head to make choices and honing their decision-making skills when playing games.”
Even though some people thought games in a library may seem like a paradox, Glass, the teen services librarian, says providing children with educational games on the computers fulfills the need for them to have fun. “We know that kids like to play games, and also they are learning at the same time,” she said.
Kimberley Ensign, an 8th grade regular library visitor, says “it seems contradictory that the teenagers are playing games all day in the library.” However, she also believes that computers give teenagers easier access to information. “I think it is good because some schools do not provide Internet and teenagers can use them in here,” Ensign says.
Librarians says a lot of teens are surprised to find illustrated graphic novels, Japanese comics and music magazines on the shelves. “It does increase literacy skills and bring teens into the library,” Barbara DeRovertis, a library assistant, explains how teenagers choose to go to the public library more often than compared to the past.
Glass believes that any type of gaming, or game activities in libraries will only bring in more teens. “By providing teens with a safe and welcoming environment now, we are ensuring that they will continue to come back as adults,” she adds.
Glass addresses the issue concerning how children’s department does not load games on the teens’ computers, and how it only provides educational games for the kids. “The teens can play Internet games because the library does not filter content on the computer, but that is really up to them,” Glass says.
Some parents still remain skeptical of the fact that libraries provide games and that will shift the emphasize from math or reading, but others think it is the parents’ responsibility to monitor what the children are doing on the computer. Elisabeth Gordon and her 7-year-old son Michael are regular visitors in the library. “My son plays half an hour of games after he reads. It is his treat,” Gordon says, “the library provided these facilities, and parents should do a good job keep an eye on their children.”
For the Next Generations
Brown has been doing baby story-telling for three months. She considers her job “lot of fun, puppets and laughs.” “The purpose of our story time is to teach the parents and let them help with their children,” Brown says, “We get the story time for babies for one hour, luckily one time a week, but parents have them all the time.”
At the end of the class, Brown teaches parents in engaging more physical interaction with their children. They sing some slow melodies like the “Soft Kitty,” aiming to teach babies how to be gentle by parents petting their hands like a cat. Listening to the whispering singing of “Little ball of fur, happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr, purr, purr,” babies gradually turn calm and quiet.
Q & A
With librarian assistant Hadley Brown
Q: Why encourages parents to participate in the reading programs?
A: Because our goal is to teach parents and let them help their children in early child literacy.
Q: Why the program includes many interaction between parents and children.
A: Physical touches are very important for children. When we do the storytelling, we move them around and let parents join in at certain parts. In this case, both parents and the kids are so very responsive to the stories.
Q: How long have you been doing the babies’ storytelling?
A: Three months. So this is new for me. We have librarians who have been doing the pre-school story for nearly 20 years. ‘
Q: Do you have certain kind of trainings?
A: Yes, we have training programs in the library, and also observe what components are there in the story time. I also went to a library school, and have a master of library science. So my education and library degree also help me in my job.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Help children find their books. They got so excited and that makes me happy.
History of the Eugene Public Library from “Eugene Public Library Fact Sheet”
1906 Eugene’s Carnegie Library, the first in Oregon, opens to the public in August 1906 at 11th and Willamette. Adelaide Lilley is the Library Director and serves 1906-33. Eugene’s population is 6,000.
1954 In November, the voters of Eugene approve a $700,000 bond issue to acquire property and construct a library building to replace the facility on Willamette Street.
1959 The new 37,000 square feet Eugene Public Library, located at 13th and Olive, is dedicated on June 7, 1959. Eugene’s population is 58,500.
1976 The Friends of the Eugene Public Library is formed as a support group to promote the library, sponsor programs, and raise funds for library improvements.
1979 The first library computerized catalog system is implemented.
1983 The Eugene Public Library Foundation is founded. A tax-deductible, nonprofit organization, it is dedicated to raising funds for major library projects such as a building fund or endowments.
1995 The Internet Public Access Center opens in May with equipment and network connections provided by grant funding. In 2002 the computers are replaced with new equipment provided by a grant from the Gates Foundation.
2000 The first Eugene branch libraries open: Bethel Branch and Sheldon Branch. A December groundbreaking ceremony marks the start of construction on the 127,000 square foot, 4-story library buildings.
2002 Voters renew the four-year local option levy to continue branches, to provide operations and staffing for the larger new downtown library, and to bring the library up to state standards in collection and hours open to the public.
2003 Grand Opening Celebration for the new Downtown Library is held on January 11, 2003.