With cell phones, personal computers, and apps like Amazon Prime and Kindle, you don’t have to leave your home for information, research, or books. Public libraries have grown quieter with the increase in technology. According to Pew Research Center, in 2016 only 48 percent of Americans ages 16 and older visited their public library.
But libraries are a one stop shop to keep students learning during the summer.
Summer is the best time for students to read books that interest them, which can increase reading skills. At public libraries students can check out books and participate in summer programs.
I visited three public libraries in the Dallas area to learn more about the programs being offered this summer.
The city of University Park did not have an official public library until 5 years ago. Before the library was built, a group of community members collected books in the Chase Bank building on Hillcrest Ave and formed their own volunteer library. These volunteers collected donated books and funds until they had enough money to acquire paid staff and the space the University Park Public Library resides in now.
“We are truly a community centered library by the virtue of how we began,” Library Director Sharon Martin said.
University Park Public Library has a vibrant children’s area, a teen lounge, multiple public computers, and study rooms with whiteboards.
The University Park Public Library mostly caters to elementary students during the summer, but the library staff loves seeing older students utilizing the study rooms and computers, Martin said.
This summer the University Park Public Library is hosting “Blast Off with UP with Reading! Aim for the Stars” until July 29. Students register through an online database to log which books they read or how many hours they read, depending on the age of the reader. Through the site, the students create an avatar and can unlock games and interactive stories by logging hours. Students can also pick up prizes at the library every 10 hours of reading.
The library also hosts events every Wednesday afternoon at 3:00. Events include science programs, magicians, and puppet shows.
For college students living in Dallas over the summer, a University Park address is not required to get a library card, an SMU ID card will be accepted.
The Dallas Public Library has 29 locations throughout the Dallas area. Each branch hosts different events and holds different collections. I visited the Skillman Southwestern branch which offers a homework help database, a teen center, free wifi, large study rooms, and children’s storytimes.
All branches of the Dallas Public Library are participating in the Mayor’s Summer Reading Challenge from June 3 through August 12. Mayor Rawlings has challenged the children of Dallas to read or to be read to for at least 20 minutes every day. Kids ages 0-18 can participate in the challenge and will receive prizes every 10 consecutive days of reading. Kids who read at least 50 days will be entered into a grand prize drawing. Grand prizes include an SMU Women’s Basketball VIP game experience, a behind-the-scenes-tour of the penguin exhibit at the Dallas Zoo, a pancake breakfast with the mayor, and many more.
Mayor Rawlings and the Dallas Public Library have also asked adults to participate in the challenge because students learn by example. Each book an adult reads will earn him or her one entry into the grand prize drawings.
The Highland Park Texas Harvey R “Bum” Bright Library is a beautiful library with three fireplaces, comfortable seating arrangements, and rows of dark wooded shelves. Library card holders can also access a downloadable e-book collection online.
Sharon Beran at the Circulation Desk says mostly younger kids visit the Highland Park Library in the summertime.
“We have some that check out lots and lots of books and some that check out only a few at a time,” Beran said.
The library is hosting a “Build a Better World” summer reading club from June 2 to July 28. Students log the amount of books they read and the amount of creative challenges they complete. A creative challenge includes writing a poem, drawing a picture, or attending a program at the library. Programs include a visit from the Perot Museum Tech Truck, a visit from community members such as policemen and firemen, and a performance from The Dallas Children’s Theater. After reading five books students can go to the library to receive a prize. If a student reads 10 books and completes four creative challenges, a book will be donated in his or her honor to the Reach Out and Read early literacy program.
Beran says about 150 kids have already signed up for the program.