Local libraries strive to be center of activity for all ages

LIBRARY STORY TIME
Children’s programmer Katharine Renshaw reads with Kailo Sanders, 2, on the left, and Tiernan Michleson, 4, on the right, during story time at Warrenton Scenic Regional Library Jan. 7. Library staff plan to develop more programs for children and teens. Adam Rollins photo.
By: 
Adam Rollins
Staff Writer

After more than a year in their new facilities, staff at two public libraries in Warren County say they’re looking for ways to grow their roles as centers for community activity.

It’s been about 20 months since construction of the Wright City branch of Scenic Regional Library,  and 15 months since the Warrenton branch reopened after major renovations. One of the major features of both libraries is a space for special activities and community programs.

“The expansion has been a very positive thing for our library,” said Warrenton branch manager Stephanie Hassler. “The renovation has helped us gain a bit of a bigger presence, with people hearing about the ‘new’ library and what we have to offer.”

Hassler said circulation, usage of study and reading space, and the number of people taking advantage of computers and wi-fi in the building have all gone up since the library expansion.

Beyond normal library services, the Scenic Regional branches offer a mix of weekly and one-time activities for all ages. Programs range from story time for children to do-it-yourself craft sessions for adults.

Warrenton adult programs coordinator Kerry Christian said increased activity space in the library has allowed more people than ever to participate in crafts, educational talks and social activities. 

“We’re trying to reach people, get people interested in something that maybe they weren’t interested in before,” Christian commented. She said  the programs have been a great way to help community members make new connections.

Although the programs are thriving, Christian said there are still ways to improve by broadening the program topics, and by adding more that appeal to men.

Hassler added that the area with the most potential for new growth is the library’s programs for teens.

“That’s our most challenging audience to provide programs for. We’re working toward trying to find more unique programs gravitated toward them,” Hassler commented. That includes an upcoming “Stranger Things” trivia night.

Just to the east, staff at the Wright City Scenic Regional Library have enjoyed the opposite success. With a facility built next door to Wright City West Elementary and Wright City Middle School, branch manager Renny McBride said they’ve had very good youth engagement. Their upcoming youth programs include “sensory” story times for children with sensory challenges or autism.

McBride said adult program attendance is where she hopes for improvement in Wright City. She said library staff will attend many local events this year to engage with residents. Some of the people they interact with haven’t been to a library in decades, and are surprised by the new technology and programs their community library offers.

“It’s fun to teach people who haven’t been here, or to a library in long time, to enjoy it again,” McBride said. “We’ve got something for everyone.”

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