Canadian GEAR UP seventh graders tour area public libraries

Twenty-four Canadian GEAR UP students recently visited area public libraries to learn about resources and programs available within the different library systems of Oklahoma. Library cards are free to patrons and give free access to numerous research and entertainment options.

Students began the morning at the Eufaula Memorial Library. Library Assistant Kim Patterson welcomed students to The Charles L. Follansbee Room to guide them through the tools available online at From the website, students can find apps and resources that are geared for their age by clicking on the “teen” link. After linking to the teen options, they can receive homework help, search the catalog, download and stream, and check out suggested teen reads. Many people are not aware of the free “download and streaming option” available with a library card. Patterson explained how to stream music, movies, eBooks, audiobooks, magazines, and other media through apps linked to the library site. Her favorite app is Hoopla because it’s an unlimited resource. The Eufaula library even offers the option of checking out a Google Chromebook for eight days at a time, for free!

Students completed a survey to help Eufaula Memorial Library plan future after-school and summer programs. Patterson gave students a copy of the spring break activities for all age groups and encouraged them to participate. Other activities include a monthly art contest where students can enter various mediums of art and the community will vote for a top artist. Winners will receive art supplies. The library is also planning a Career Develop Day where individuals can get help with résumés, cover letters, and general employment guidance. Students viewed the online calendar for all 15 libraries in the Eastern Oklahoma District Library System.

After lunch, the seventh graders headed south to McAlester Public Library. Upon arrival, students were welcomed to the White Acre Room where Chris Elliott, the Information Resources Librarian, explained the online resources available in the Southeastern Oklahoma District Library System at Students used laptops to follow along as Elliott guided them on the big screen. “Learning Express” is a wonderful tool to help students with homework and practice for all subjects. There is even a 15-minute day practice option for a quick review. He also introduced them to an app called Pronunciator, which can help users learn up to 98 different foreign languages. This could be a great way to learn the basics before traveling or just study to speak another language.

Next, Yuliya Zhugina, McAlester Public Library’s Youth Services Coordinator, spoke with students about programs offered at the library’s location in McAlester. Students saw numerous prom dresses on display in the White Acre Room. One activity they are getting ready for is prom season. With the rising cost of prom attire, it’s difficult for some students to afford a dress. The library is taking donations and helping young women in the community alleviate the stress of purchasing a dress by giving them a prom dress. Teens can get involved in several scheduled activities throughout the month. There are art classes with nail decorating, soap carving, drawing, and painting. They host cooking classes. There is a teen book club every three weeks where students can keep the book. Another program is the CATs (Community Action Teens). CATs is a way for teens to volunteer and get involved in the community. There is always extra work to be done like setting up for events or organizing an area of the library.

Before venturing back to Canadian, students toured the library with Heath Stanfield, Senior Library Assistant. Stanfield has worked at this library for three years and was very knowledgeable of the McAlester Public Library and the history of the library systems. Students were excited to see various video games available for check out. As they wound around the non-fiction, audiobooks, new releases, comics, and Manga sections students learned how the library is organized. Manga is a new section at the library with the recently popular graphic novel created in Japan. The books are read right to left and are challenging for many readers. Students also saw the Oklahoma Heritage Room on the third floor where all materials are related to the history of Oklahoma or an accomplished Oklahoman. Students left with a better understanding and first-hand look at a free, safe, interesting place to go in the communities where they live.

“It’s interesting to see how involved the libraries are in the community,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Rachael Ranallo. “The free resources they can offer is truly amazing.”

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 recently received a $17 million federal GEAR UP grant and serves over 3,000 students in 39 area schools.

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