Twenty-nine GEAR UP students recently visited area public libraries to learn about resources and programs available within the different library systems of Oklahoma. Students began the morning by visiting the McAlester Public Library. Yuliya Zhugina, McAlester Public Library’s Youth Services Coordinator, talked with students about summer and after-school programs the library offers free of charge. The programs offered are educational, social, fun, and FREE. Zhugina is excellent at planning activities that teens are interested in and eager to participate. There is a monthly schedule with activities for all age groups. On the third floor there is a room designated for teen activities where teens can hang out socialize with peers. Some of the activities include video gaming, nail art, a monthly book club, board games, wall art and Community Action Teens (CATS). CATS is a unique program where teens help with work and setup for library events. All supplies are provided by the library and food is usually included for those who participate. The McAlester Library now has a Nintendo Switch for teens to use when they visit the library.
Next, Chris Elliott, the Information Resources Librarian, provided information about free online resources available through www.oklibrary.net. Students accessed computers and followed along as library specialists lead them through each step on the big screen. Students researched online resources for homework help, practice driver tests/guides, citation sources, how to access reference materials, webinars teaching different languages and even a guide for various types of auto repairs. Students learned about free downloadable media like movies, music, audiobooks and more. Even without a library card, there are numerous resources people can access. If they have a library card, they have access to everything on the site.
Before leaving McAlester, students toured the large library. The library is divided into easy to find sections for all materials. Heath Standfield, a Senior Library Assistant, led students through the building and explained how items are organized. Students were very excited to learn that you can check out video games, audiobooks, magazines, DVDs, graphic novels and numerous books. Standfield explained the evolution of the public library system from when it began to present day. One example of this is the newer section of comic books and graphic novels. Most recently, they added a genre called manga. These are generally read in the reverse order of their American cousin comics. Rather than reading these stories from left to right, they are read right to left. This is a bit tricky on the eyes, but a fun challenge many youth seems to enjoy.
After lunch, students traveled to the Eufaula Memorial Library. Library Assistant Kim Patterson welcomed students to The Charles L. Follansbee Room and showed them online resources available through the Eastern Oklahoma District Library System. Both libraries are within 30 miles of each other but are in different Oklahoma library districts and can offer different resources. Patterson showed students how to login with a library card and access account information like re-checking out materials without having to drive to the library. They were also surprised to learn about Freegal Music, an app through the library’s website where patrons with a library card can download up to 5 songs a week to your computer or smart device free. They can then transfer it to a mp3 player. Patterson is also working on the teen programs offered at the Eufaula Memorial Library. The library is looking to start a monthly art contest where students of all ages can participate and there are prizes to be won. There is no limit to the type of art they create but contestants will be voted on through visitors of the library and through social media. The art is going to be showcased at the library and hopefully at various businesses in the area.
Students took a quick tour through the library to learn how materials are organized before heading back to school. Prior to the field trip, students had the opportunity to apply for a library card at both library systems. Students that had one or both of the library card applications complete picked up their library cards during the field trip.
“The libraries have both worked hard to ensure there are activities that include all ages and walks of life,” said Rachael Ranallo, GEAR UP Education Coordinator. “There really is something for everyone.”
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.