The little library that could
The Farnam Public Library adds children’s programming to gain interest
Once upon a time, in the small rural Nebraska community of Farnam, stood a quaint public library. Established in the 1940s thanks to the help of long-time resident, Hulda E. (Ruthstrom) Enevoldsen, the library held an assortment of books, magazines, VHS tapes and DVDs donated by the locals. Although the library held several modern accommodations, like a computer and copier, it needed something more.
In October 2016, the Farnam Public Library Board of Directors hired Kaylin Craig as its director. Since her start date, Craig has hit the ground running and has no plans to stop.
“This library is like putty, and we have the opportunity to mold it into whatever we want it to be to fit the needs of our community,” Craig said. “I have dreams for this library and our community.”
Craig’s vision started with her children; Tag, 4, and Rosalie, 2.
“In a small town, there are not very many activities for kids, especially those under the ages of three and four,” she said. “I wanted the library to help fill that void.”
“I don’t feel that a library always has to be a quiet place,” she said. “It should be a space to explore books, be creative and have hands-on sensory activities. I don’t want a young family to feel like they can’t take their children here because they’ll be too loud.”
To make the library more kid-friendly, Craig has added children’s programming and changed several areas within the library. The changes are paying off. In May 2017, nearly 100 people visited the library compared to 45 in 2016.
The Early Childhood Story Hour with Craft and Sensory Fun is held the first Wednesday and Friday of the month beginning at 10:00 a.m. In May, the story revolved around a pond and the animals that lived within it. The 12 children in attendance between the two days listened to the story and then dove into their own “pond” – a small plastic children’s pool filled with water beads, sticks, rocks and moss.
“The kids loved exploring the different textures,” Craig said.
June’s story hour focused on camping. More than 15 children participated. They decorated their own lanterns by using Mod Podge to adhere tissue paper to clear plastic cups. The cups were transformed into lanterns with a battery-operated tea light and pipe cleaner handle. As the cups dried, the kids listened to Craig read a story about camping. The story hour ended with a s’mores snack and playtime in a tent staked out in the front lawn.
Future story hour themes include Independence Day in July and individuality in August.
The library is also participating in the Nebraska 4-H summer reading program. Open to all youth from 2nd to 6th grade, the program will be held every 1st and 3rd Saturday in June and July.
The library’s renovations continue to chug along. The walls are covered in fresh green paint, a giant homemade “Lite Brite” board now covers a section of the wall and the children’s bookshelves have moved from the traditional book spine facing outward to the books on display “because young readers look at the cover first.”
Craig is also in the process of removing books that have lost popularity and adding new titles monthly.
“I prefer quality over quantity,” she said.
With all of the changes to the library, Craig is the first to admit that it hasn’t been without hard work. Her assistant librarian, Edna Lungrin, helps keep the library open during the week. Her father, Mike Russman, and her husband, Will, have built new bookshelves and the giant “Lite Brite.” Other family members and friends have pitched in, too, from painting and pulling weeds to story hour.
“I wouldn’t be this far without everyone’s help, especially my dad,” Craig said.
Craig also works for the family trucking business and has a degree in business and a background in animal science.
“When I first started, I read everything I could get my hands on to learn more about public libraries and early childhood education programs involving STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and sensory activities.”
The Farnam Public Library is a nonprofit organization accredited by the State of Nebraska. Although the library receives state funding and a stipend from the village of Farnam, its funds tend to cover the basics with minimal income left over for the children’s programming. Craig’s future plans include local fundraising and applying for grants.
“Community support is everything; a grant can only take us so far,” Craig said.