Canadian GEAR UP eighth graders tour area public libraries

Thirty-four GEAR UP students recently traveled to McAlester and Eufaula to learn more about resources available through the different public library systems. Students began the morning by visiting the McAlester Public Library. Heath Stanfield, Senior Library Assistant welcomed students to the library and led them through a tour of the facilities. Students began the tour looking at various video games patrons can check out with a library card. There was quite a selection with games to support Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3 and PS4. As the tour ventured past the DVDs and other video media, students moved into the print books Mr. Stanfield pointed out how the sections are organized by genre. He was very relatable to students and highlighted types of books they may enjoy reading. Since different students are interested in different genres, he had a recommendation.

“Anytime you don’t know what to read, go to the classic section, suggested Stanfield. ”If you haven’t read it yet, you should.”

As the tour moved upstairs to the third floor, students paused in the Oklahoma Heritage Room. Stanfield explained why this collection is so valuable to the history of our state. The Oklahoma Heritage Room is full of books that are directly related to the state or someone from the state. There is information about the OU Sooners, OKC Thunder, Reba McEntire and more. Some of the titles in this collection are one of a kind and people from all over the world request these items to learn more about Oklahoma. Students also saw inside the Teen Room where afterschool and summer programs take place.

After the tour, students gathered in the White Acre Room where Chris Elliott, the Information Resources Librarian, showed them how to navigate through the library’s website. There are hundreds of resources available through the website students can use for academics and entertainment. Students had laptops to follow along as Elliott led them through programs for test prep, practice driving guides/tests, eBooks, online movies, online maps, audiobooks and more. The website,, is a wonderful, free tool students can use for research, download media, academic tools and so much more.

Next, Youth Services Coordinator Yuliya Zhugina spoke with students about the free programs available at the library. The library has a monthly calendar, and they plan activities for all age groups daily. Zhugina highlighted the teen programs such as video gaming, nail art, cooking classes, book club and Community Action Teens (CATS). CATS is a wonderful program for teens to volunteer at the library. Students who participate in CATS help with special events and general organization at the library. They also get first dibs on materials they like when helping. Zhugina makes sure students are well fed and having fun while participating.

After lunch students headed north to the Eufaula Memorial Library. Library Assistant Kimberly Patterson welcomed students to The Charles L. Follansbee Room to look deeper into the resources available online through Since the Eufaula library is in a different library system than the McAlester library, Patterson was able to show them a few different resources accessible through the site. There are also afterschool and summer programs available through the Eufaula Memorial Library. They have hosted a cooking program similar to the hit TV show “Chopped.” Students had a bag or mystery ingredients and were given the task of creating an entree. It was a fun way for students to showcase their culinary skills. The library is also hosting a monthly art contest. Artists can choose any medium to present their artwork and it will be displayed in the library with voting from the community. There are prizes for the winners each month. After the information session, Paterson led students through the library for a quick tour.

The field trip was sponsored by Eastern Oklahoma State College GEAR UP. Participating schools take two field trips each academic year—one to tour a college or university and one that is cultural/educational in nature. In 2017, Eastern received a $17 million federal GEAR UP grant and will serve over 3,000 students in 39 area schools for seven years.

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