Thursday, September 20, 2012

Church sponsors children's library outreach

 Last month I wrote a post on Little Free Libraries as unique concept that could be adapted to congregations as an outreach tool (Libraries outside of Churches?)  In Springfield IL, Third Presbyterian Church has taken on a much larger undertaking in the creation of Northside Community Children's Library as an outreach to meet the needs of their community.

The public library in the area had been closed for years when,  in 2011,  church member Bonnie Douglas and others from the congregation and community partnered together with the goal of opening a volunteer-run children's community library in the church facilities.Although Third Presbyterian Church provides the space and the Presbytery of Great Rivers donated the initial grant money to start the library, NCCL is not a church library.
“It’s a public library,” Douglas said in a newspaper interview. “It’s not a library just for a church. It’s going to have books just like you would find in a public library.”  Sandi Woodard, Third Presbyterian’s director of music and adult ministries noted "We don’t want people to feel that we’re against the city library, because we’re not, but they closed branches. We saw this as a need and a way that we could fulfill that need and be a presence in the neighborhood.”

Funding and support for the volunteer-run library comes from neighbourhood associations, the Presbytery of Great Rivers, other community organizations and Third's congregation.  Schools and school districts donated materials and the local Barnes and Noble bookstore donated proceeds from a special sales event in support of the project.

When it opened in October of 2011 over 6000 books were on the shelves catering to kids up to age 14. Four computer workstations, two iPads and space for events are all housed in the library. Librarian Rachel Kocis hopes the library will be a community haven, but stresses that anyone can check out a book, regardless of where they live.
“We won’t deny somebody a library card based on where they live,” she said. “It’s open to any child, even if they’re visiting a parent or grandparents, or if they’re at the Ronald McDonald House. They can come to this library and leave with a book.”
By April of this year the library was recognized as a "safe haven" for children. A news report mentioned 10-15 volunteers working providing 9 hours of service per week.
“This library presents a chance for kids to get off the streets and work with active, caring volunteers who want to give the kids as much one-on-one time as possible,” says Rachel Kocis, the coordinator of the library.  “It’s natural that over time this space has in some ways developed into a community center.”
Read more
Newspaper articles:  here here  & here here
Church newsleter PDF 

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