Eufaula GEAR UP seventh grade boys tour area public libraries

Forty-three Eufaula 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 in McAlester touring the large library. Ellen Barlow, Branch Manager, greeted students and led them through the building to showcase the various sections and how items are organized. Students were surprised to learn the various types of media available to patrons. There are video games for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, audiobooks, magazines, DVDs, graphic novels and numerous books that can all be checked out for free. Barlow was great to highlight the areas teens are most interested such as the video game section and graphic novels. Students went to the third floor and saw the Teen Room. This is a space specifically designated for teens. There is a Nintendo Switch, art supplies, free Wi-Fi, board games and more. There is never a charge to hang out at the library and it’s a safe space for teens who want a positive atmosphere.

Next, students gathered in the White Acre Room where McAlester Public Library’s Youth Services Coordinator Yuliya Zhugina spoke more about summer and after-school programs the library offers. The programs offered are educational, social, fun, and FREE. Zhugina is excellent at planning activities that teens are interested in and eager to participate. She creates a monthly calendar with activities for all age groups. Some of the activities include video gaming competitions, nail art, a monthly book club, wall art and Community Action Teens (CATS). CATS is a unique program where teens help with work and setup for library events. This is a wonderful opportunity for students to contribute to the community through volunteering. All supplies are provided by the library and food is usually included for those who participate.

Students also met McAlester’s Information Resources Librarian Chris Elliott. Elliott was a wealth of knowledge and shared information about free online resources available through The librarians set up computers for students to follow along as library specialists led 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, eBooks, magazines, 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.

After lunch, students traveled back to Eufaula to visit the Eufaula Memorial Library. Kim Patterson, Library Assistant, welcomed students to The Charles L. Follansbee Room to show them the 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 similar but different resources to fit students’ needs. 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. She showed students on a large screen how to navigate through the library website They were excited and surprised to learn that they can check out Chromebooks for eight days at a time which would allow students to work on homework and projects outside of school and the public library.

Patterson also spoke about the teen programs offered at Eufaula Memorial Library. Currently they are offering guitar lessons for all levels. Students can even use a loaner guitar if they don’t have their own. Participants work with a local musician to advance their skills and present a concert when lessons wrap up. Patterson is also excited to begin a “teen tech week” in March to teach skills such as coding, photography, videography and animation. 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 put so much effort into customizing programs for students to be successful, said Rachael Ranallo, GEAR UP Education Coordinator. “I hope they take advantage of these wonderful resources.”

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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