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Sunday, December 3, 2023


April 4, 2001– Because April 1-7 is National Library Week, the Friends of the Enid M. Baa Library group is putting together a program of activities for youngsters on Saturday in the Children's Reading Room.
The headline attraction is the reading aloud of favorite children's books by a variety of community volunteers. But attendees will also have an opportunity to learn how to look up book information in the library's computerized card catalog, make their own bookmarks, and apply for library cards if they don't already have them. And a few will get to take home books that have been donated by local vendors.
But that's just the beginning, according to Diane Moody, a member of the Friends program committee, which is organizing the effort.
"On the four Saturdays in May and the first three in June, we'll be doing the same thing," Moody said. "And we'll be keeping the numbers" – how many children attend each time, how many already have or then obtain library cards, how many use them, and how often.
Among those who've volunteered to read from story books this Saturday are talk-show host and former Tourism director Leona Bryant and freshman senator and former St. Thomas-St. John fire chief Carlton Dowe. When both asked Moody, who is the librarian for grades 6-12 at Antilles School, to provide books for them, she did some searching in her school's automated library program. For Dowe, "I pulled up 19 or 20 titles that have to do with firefighting and fire safety," she said. And for Bryant, "I got some books about Caribbean history and will also take some from my person collection that I know kids love."
The program is for children ages 2 to 12 – a considerable range in terms of reading and listening interests. "We have no idea how many youngsters will show up, or what their ages and reading levels will be," Moody said, "but we'll have a variety of books available."
Another imponderable is how many volunteers will be on hand to read. Others besides Bryant and Dowe who have committed to taking part are program committee member Nancy Christie, who is director of public school libraries for the St. Thomas-St. John district; and David Smith, librarian at Ulla Muller School. Moody and other committee members, including Ivy Branco, a Vitelco retiree, and Carol Lotz, a retired teacher, will be prepared to read if there's a need.
Moody and a Baa Library staff member will show youngsters how to look up information about books on the public-access computers in the Children's Room. Committee members will oversee coloring projects and the bookmark-making.
"We will have other community people and high school kids come in and read for the May and June programs," Moody said. "All of the district's public school librarians have been invited to take part." (Nothing further is being scheduled for April because of the crush of religious holidays and Carnival.)
The Friends group exists to support the institution, she emphasized: "Our role should be responsive," meaning the library — or the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums – "should develop the programs and ask us for assistance."
While motivating children to take advantage of the services available at the library is one purpose of the Saturday programs, she said, there is another that is even more important. "We want to demonstrate that we need a full-time librarian, that we need a children's librarian, and that Baa can be functional," she said.
Readership and usership, she said, are the only viable answers "when government authorities respond to proposals to build a new library by saying ‘Hey, we've got a library, nobody uses it; what do you want a new one for?'"
She noted that nationwide research has shown that the largest group of public library users today consists of mothers with preschool children, who visit during the day. In second place are elementary and high school students, who utilize the facilities after school, in the evening and on weekends to do homework.
Moody used to live in the middle-class Chicago suburb of Naperville, Ill. The public library there was ranked best in the nation for cities over 100,000 three years in a row, she said. But she can find inspiration a lot closer to home and a lot more current: "In Puerto Rico, Bayamon just built a new $10 million municipal library," she said. "Bayamon is not a wealthy community, but the government made children its priority and used public/private partnering to fund the effort. The Friends would love to invite the mayor of Bayamon to come to St. Thomas and talk about how they did it."
Saturday's program starts at 9 a.m. Saturday and is to run until noon. Young children must be accompanied by responsible adults. A parent or guardian must sign for a child to obtain a library card. For more information, call Moody during school hours at 776-1600, ext. 238, or Lotz at 777-3579.

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