On my last post I shared some “Library Love” as well as fond childhood memories.
It was a post long overdue. Author, Rita Mae Brown, said it simply and best.
“Oh where, oh where will our libraries go? Oh where, oh where would we be? . . . “
I homeschool two little ones. Nursery rhyming is my tendency.
It makes the worries a bit less . . . worrisome . . . maybe.
The thought of so many library closures makes our horizon so dreary. Walking into a library and the sight of so many empty bookshelves, so many dusty aisles and so many eyes glued to computer screens. Often these libraries have the friendliest staff, but very few are full-time and even more elusive is the certified, educated librarian. Very disheartening.
Every time I move, the first two questions that need to be answered before settling is “Where is the post office? . . . and where is the public library?”
And you better believe it, those are my first stops to make!
Amazingly enough, all the communities we have visited here in Big Bend – desert, far west Texas – have public libraries that I boast about! I admit before I actually fell in love with the desert out here, my heart was won over by their libraries. Each so unique, as unique as each community that they represent and are maintained by very admirable, inspiring individuals: Alpine Public Library, City of Presidio Library, The Marfa Library, Jeff Davis County Library in Fort Davis.
In this first of this “Uniquely Big Bend” blog series, I am going to feature Alpine Public Library.
THE “OLD” ALPINE PUBLIC LIBRARY
My very first visit to the Alpine Public Library was in 2008, when I first moved to West Texas and it was the biggest library in an hour radius from where we moved. It was the biggest town with a population around 4,000 and had two full size grocery stores! My expectations were not too high, since moving from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but I was pleasantly surprised.
“That’s the library?!” I recall my initial reaction very clearly when we followed the familiar green and white library profile signs down a narrow side street, to what appeared to be a residential neighborhood of small, older homes. There was a rock path through a small garden with a large tree or two in the front yard. There were little signs to lead the way to the front door. “How cute is this?!” Inside the rooms were very cozy and some doorways required ducking. It was a bit of a maze, because rooms were added on and shelves were constructed in every corner possible. It was an eclectic blend of fixtures. Worn furniture thrown in for seating in quiet corners. A very unique and memorable experience for me.
Shortly afterwards I became a mother of two and the Alpine Public Library also experienced a dramatic transition. All new building, unique custom fixtures and decor, in an entirely new and prominent location! One that was nearly impossible to miss, unlike the previous one. At first I had reservations with all the newness, but I was quickly won over by the wave of community pride. There was great love for the previous location, but too many irreparable issues that made it unrealistic to continue there. The campaign for an entirely new library was an amazing achievement. In a span of only a few years it is truly incredible that the Alpine community went from making a decision of this magnitude to bringing it to reality.
The campaign details is a very interesting read. It outlines all the steps in their process and all the hands that were involved. So many considerate groups and all their efforts. Just puts me in awe.
The Grand Opening was in early 2011. By 2013, the Alpine Public Library achieved national recognition when the Library Journal honored them as one of the top three “Best Small Libraries in America.” Here are some captures to help you see what all the hoopla was about, as well as a snapshot of their Mission Statement – which I absolutely adore.
COVERED PATIO: OUTSIDE PLAY AREA
I have little ones and the library can often be a little trying for them. “We need to use our quiet voice.” The suppression of their expressiveness can be a ticking time bomb, so its really lovely that the library has a large covered patio equipped with seating and various toys to entertain little ones. There is also a handy child-size sink for hand washing purposes, since the bathrooms are located inside and past the Children’s reading area. On the whole a complete first for me – absolute genius.
PROGRAMS IN THE COMMUNITY ROOM
Alpine is a small town with a population of less than 6,000, so the library is where the community can gather. There are school age programs and outreach as well as adult education and community outreach. In the Community Room there are activities planned during the school year for specific age groups. Library Lizards is a reading and activity program for grades 1-3. A Science Club is for grades 4-6. Other theme gatherings are often scheduled.
It is also a room for Community Outreach Meetings and ESL programs. For recreation there are programs like Travel Talk where community members can share their travel experiences, Screenwriting Workshops, as well as opportunities to learn conversational Spanish! A variety of interests that lend to opportunities for community engagement.
THE RE-READS BOOKSTORE
We have a great love for physical books, which are especially essential in planting the reading interests of our little ones. Our remote ranch is over 3 hours away from Alpine, so we do not make the drive or flight regularly enough to use their loan system, but we do take advantage of their incredibly reasonable used book prices! Somehow we are often lucky to arrive when there are specials posts – “1/2 off books” or “Buy one get one free.” Below is a capture of their current price listings from their website. As you can see, it is extraordinarily reasonable.
What goes hand in hand with reading?
How about spelling?
The Alpine Public Library have collaborated with the successful Big Bend Brewing Co. to promote literacy and community with the Adult Spelling Bee for Labor Day weekend. Don’t know about you, but in my little world, this seriously equates to a really good time.
If I have piqued your interest on Alpine or public libraries, here are a few titles that I find interesting that are available at:
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