Forty-nine 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 day visiting the McAlester Public Library. McAlester’s Senior Library Assistant Heath Standfield welcomed students and explained the history of the public library system’s start and the evolution it has experienced over the years. As he guided students through the main floor of the library Standfield highlighted the library’s vast selection and organization of materials. There are print books as well as audiobooks, graphic novels, large print copies, books for sale and more. Standfield recommended reading an audiobook with the print copy to gain better understanding of the material one is reading. As the tour wound its way upstairs, students learned there is an entire section dedicated to Oklahoma history and information. The Oklahoma Heritage Room is located on the third floor and holds copies of books, maps and other publications that are loaned out to people all over the country. Patrons are not limited to the items on the shelves. The librarians want to help individuals get the items they need, even if it comes from another library.
After the tour students met in the White Acre Room on the main floor to learn about resources and other programs the library can offer. Chris Elliott, the Information Resources Librarian, gave students information about free online resources available through www.oklibrary.net. Librarians provided laptops and guided students through the site on the big screen. Students looked up online resources for tutoring, test prep, practice driver tests/guides, 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 eBooks, movies, magazines, music, audiobooks, maps and more.
Yuliya Zhugina, McAlester Public Library’s Youth Services Coordinator, talked with students about summer and after-school programs the library offers free of charge. Programs are designed to fit student interest. There is a monthly calendar for all activities for all ages and all free of charge. The library has a “teen room” on the third floor specifically designated for teen activities like video gaming, nail art, a monthly book club, board games, wall art and Community Action Teens (CATS) where students can volunteer at the library. The McAlester Library now has a Nintendo Switch for teens to use when they visit the library.
After lunch, students traveled to the Eufaula Memorial Library. Kim Patterson, Library Assistant, welcomed students to The Charles L. Follansbee Room to explain programs hosted at their hometown library. Current programs include cookie decorating, a monthly art contest, guitar lessons, a cooking competition similar to the hit TV show “Chopped,” and general hangout times with video games. Students completed a quick survey to help plan future programs for teens. Patterson logged onto the library website www.eodls.org to show them online resources available through the Eastern Oklahoma District Library System. With a library card patrons can look up materials at the library and online through the various apps like Hoopla Digital, which allows individuals to borrow movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics and TV shows to enjoy on a computer, tablet, phone—and even the TV! With no waiting, titles can be streamed immediately, or downloaded to phones or tablets for offline enjoyment later. There are hundreds of thousands of titles to choose from, with more being added daily.
Students took a quick tour through the library to learn how materials are organized before heading back to Eufaula Middle School. Prior to the field trip, students had the opportunity to apply for library cards 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.
“Students have numerous academic and entertainment resources available at their fingertips,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Rachael Ranallo. “I’m glad we could help the library showcase what is available and how to access what they need.”
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.