Library offers fun summer activities

Library  offers fun  summer  activitiesBy TIMMY NEIPP II

News Review Correspondent

Anyone who thinks that libraries are just a place to check out books may not have visited the Ridgecrest Branch Library very recently.

According to Charissa Wagner, library associate, the local community resource center is a place to promote imagination, creativity and new learning experiences.

Each year, the local library offers a summer reading program, typically accompanied by crafts and activities for youth of all ages. Wagner said that in keeping with this year’s theme, “Reading By Design,” each of those activities will be focused on sparking creativity in young people.

She said that whenever she gives a presentation or demonstration, she finds a way to engage children and see what they take away from it.

“It’s nice to see kids doing things. It’s always interesting to see what they come up with. Sometimes I put something out and I see it one way, and they see it totally differently.”

She declared that the role libraries play in communities is changing. Thus she looks specifically for ways to incorporate changes that reflect the needs of the community.

“In the past it was providing information to people.”

Wagner wants the Ridgecrest library to provide not only great reading material to its community but also to represent the public it serves. “As times have changed, we are trying to be more of a community hub,” she said.

“We are working on helping expand people’s perceptions about what a library offers.”

The library offers more access to technology than it has in the past. “Not everyone necessarily checks out books, maybe people use our WiFi. A lot of people come in and use our computers as well.”

Wagner likes to make sure that the library is an enjoyable place for everyone, but, “most of our programs are focused on young children.” However, many of the offerings are geared toward teens and young adults as well.

Summer activities have already caused attendance at the library to soar. “Last week when we had our kickoff for summer reading we had more than 400 people come through the door in one day,” said Wagner.

Wagner chooses activities that tie into the trends that come up in the community.

“We want to see what the community is interested in and see what we can provide with our limited resources.”

She said that she came across one of the local Facebook groups that promote rock-painting and-hiding and –seeking — a community now found under “Ridgecrest CA Rocks” — and decided to offer a rock-painting workshop.

“So we set aside one Saturday a month for that. Now it’s a bigger group. There are a lot more people who turn out,” she said.

The library provides the basic materials, and the activity “gives children a chance to be a part of the trend,” said Wagner.

Last year, when Pokemon Go was all the rage, she coordinated walking tours “since there are a lot of stops around here,” said Wagner.

Wagner said that the community is very supportive of the library. “We partner with a lot of community groups. Ridgecrest has always had a very vocal and active group of library supporters. Friends of the Library provides a lot of funding to our branch through book sales.

Most of the money comes directly back in the form of donations for new materials,” according to Wagner. The group even paid for WiFi until the county started providing the service.

“We have been doing a plants for kids activity with Home Depot around Earth Day. We’ve done it three times now. They bring in plants, terra cotta pots and paint and transplant into pots,” said Wagner.

The Alliance of Therapy Dogs also provides a fun experience for kids with the library. Wagner said, “Some of the animal programs have been very popular as well.”

She has also begun a STEM partnership with China Lake.

“Engineers and scientists will come over once a week in June for a hands-on workshop. And then we have a couple of stand-alone programs in July,” said Wagner.

The library also reaches out to people outside of Ridgecrest. “We do have a program at Inyokern Elementary again this summer. Kids must have a parent or guardian but it’s open to anyone who wants to attend.

“You have to be an Inyokern student to check out books and take them home. But you are allowed to come in for story time or crafts or to just sit and read while you are there at the library,” said Wagner.

Wagner also wants people to be aware of how important the various contributions to the library are and their corresponding donors.

“Every program we offer is free, but someone pays for the supplies or the performer to come in,” she said.

To contribute, patrons can donate through the county library system or to Friends of the Library.

For a complete list of library events visit kclevents.org/events/ category/ridgecrest.

Pictured: “Bubbleologist” Brandon Gray of Wild Child?Adventures gives a demonstration to children at the Ridgecrest Branch Library. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2017-06-16