Library System Headquarters

Book on health care is springboard for discussion in midstate libraries

Public libraries in nine midstate counties are partnering with Aligning Forces for Quality - South Central PA and WITF to encourage residents to discuss health care in their communities and generate ideas for improvement.


To help jump-start the conversation, the public is being asked to participate in “A Summer Reid,” a special program that invites residents to visit local libraries to borrow “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care,” by New York Times bestselling author T. R. Reid.


Readers are invited to hold discussions on the book with their book clubs, friends, family members and co-workers.


In the book, Reid explains the handling of health care in other countries, including France, Britain, Germany and Japan, and shares the details of his tour of universal health care systems.


Those who read the book have the chance to win a copy of it, attend a private book signing with Reid and enjoy a dinner where he will be speaking on Sept. 11.


Readers are asked to complete a survey on the book by Aug. 30, from which 30 winners will be chosen. The reader’s guide and survey are available online here.


“Libraries are very well equipped to help our communities improve health literacy and the quality of health care. We are delighted to be part of this partnership,” said Trish Calvani, president of York County Library System.


“The Healing of America” is available for loan at libraries in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York counties.


Mysterious potatoes and ailing flowers

Puzzled by the fruit growing on the leafy stalks of his potato plants this year, Alvin Stake came to a free plant clinic at Shippensburg Public Library Monday evening looking for an explanation.


Stake says he’s planted and raised potatoes for years and is accustomed to reaping a harvest when he “raises” the crop each year. He says he’s never seen fruit on potato stalks above the soil.

The plant clinic advisors were unfamiliar with the phenomena, too.


Even as Penn State Master Gardeners, Ginny Mowery and Bonnie Gardner have not seen it all – and probably never will when it comes to shrubs, flowers and vegetables – but the two volunteers got a good look at a variety of planting problems on the minds of Shippensburg residents Monday evening.


Alvin Stake’s unusual potatoes were one example.


Growing on the healthy stalks were clumps on small green fruit that look somewhat like tiny green cherry tomatoes, When cut, Stake, said the fruit smell like potatoes.


“I have three-and-a-half rows 75-feet-long planted, so I’d like to find out what’s going on,” Stake said.


Gardner promised to look into the situation further and get back to Stake with some explanation or contact information for a better source of information.


Stake’s dilemma was just one of many questions raised Monday. Among the concerns were a wilting pacman broccoli, unwelcome moss, roses with holes in leaves, a moldy evergreen and several questions about the best landscaping choices.


“Last year, everyone had problems with tomato blight,” said Gardner. “In weather like we’re having this year, a lot of the problems are about fungus. But there’s no typical problem.”


Monday was the third plant clinic of the year at the library parking lot. Questions change as the days click away, Gardner says.


“In May, people had starter questions, what kind of plants to use and went to plant,” she said. “Those change as summer progresses.”


Gardner and Mowery suggested to several people that soil; testing is a valuable tool in planning a flower or vegetable garden, since different plants have different needs.


Stacey Higgins hauled a leafy 4-foot plant with roots trailing from her car and toted he specimen across the parking lot to Mowery. She wanted to know “is it a flower or a weed that people think I’m stupid for having in my yard?”


Mowery was a little uncertain, but Gardner called out, “I know what is I have it my yard.”


Higgins was relieved, then pleased, to discover her mystery plant was a plume poppy – a robust plant with scalloped dinner-plate-sized leaves that sport creamy white spires called plumes.


“It’s really easy to pull out, so I let it grow wherever it looks good,” Gardner told Higgins, “and pull it out where I don’t like it.”


Scarlett Stevens arrived with a scrawny-looking uprooted pacman broccoli she pulled from her vegetable patch when it faltered shortly after she sowed it as a live plant.


“I had the same thing last year and it was beautiful,” she told Mowery. “This year it grow for a while, then died.”


A close inspection of the plant’s tightly-wound circular rootball prompted Gardner to surmise the plant choked itself.


“You have to pull the roots apart a little before planting,” Gardner suggested, “so they grow out in different directions. These roots grew around each other and choked the plant.”


Barb Hubert brought black-eyed Susans infested with tiny bugs. The Master Gardeners suggested she start with soap and water and, if that didn’t work, progress to Neem oil or another insecticide oil that will remain on the leaves.


Kathy Bierbower brought a bit of everything from her yard – an evergreen, an azalea, rose leaves, an ailing yew and a shedding houseplant.


She said her houseplant – a Gold Capella – was swarmed by tiny black bugs when she put the plant outdoors for some sunlight and fresh air. She killed the bugs with a commercial spray, but wondered if she killed the plant in the process.


“Now it’s dropping leaves and stems all over the place,” Bierbower told Gardner, who advised that insuring a healthy plant is a “whole investigative process” that includes, soil type, fertilizer, air, light, moisture and temperature.


With a queue of gardeners with questions, Mowery and Gardner were happily busy.


Gardner urges more questioners to come for the next – and final – session Aug. 12 at 6:30 p.m.


No additional money for libraries but a few bright spots

At a glance: Public libraries will receive $53.5 million in state funding under Gov. Tom Corbett's 2013-14 budget.


What it means: Consider it deja vu: The $53.5 million state subsidy to public libraries remains unchanged from that of the last couple of years.


State funding to libraries has not seen peak levels of $75 million approved under the Ridge Administration for years. Budget cuts to libraries that began under the Rendell Administration have continued under Corbett, chipping away at operating budgets even as demand for services and resources continue to increase.


“We’re grateful that Governor Corbett has not reduced funding and support particularly as use of libraries is only going up and people are wanting more types of things like e-books in addition to the things we’ve been providing,” said Jonelle Darr, executive director of the Cumberland County Public Library System.


One bright spot in library funding: the small increases earmarked for a statewide initiative for database research. A near $250,000 infusion to this line item means public libraries will benefit from purchases made at the state level on their behalf.


"You try to provide as many services and improve what you have but it’s getting more and more challenging." - Jonelle Darr

“Those databases are really provide wealth of resources for us,” Darr said. “It used to be that if you used to do research you would need to visit a library to look at the journals and magazines, you don’t have to do that anymore. That can be accomplished online.”


Funding for services to the disabled and visually impaired also remains flat at last year’s level of $2.5 million.


The State Library, which has reduced hours and staffing to contend with budgetary shortfalls, will receive an $11,000 increase in its $1.9 million subsidy.


Verdict: This is a hard to call but it feels like a draw.


Reduction in state support in recent years has forced libraries to close branches, slash hours and leave open positions vacant. On the other hand, the new budget calls for no new cuts while increasing funding to a few statewide initiatives.


“For Cumberland County itself, I’d say it was a draw, but probably on the negative side,” Darr said. “It’s difficult in difficult economic times...this hurts us even more. You try to provide as many services and improve what you have but it’s getting more and more challenging.”


Cumberland County libraries struggle

With the Cumberland County Library System putting more emphasis on attracting teens, area libraries hope to provide that age group the kind of programs and activities that could catch their eyes.


Jeffrey Swope, the incoming director of Bosler Memorial Library, said the library is currently in a transitional phase while it considers how to attract young adults. The library celebrated its grand reopening on June 2 after an expansion project was completed. The project cost $6.5 million and took five years to complete. A part of the expansion was a dedicated teen space.


“That’s the good news, because the services and the opportunities to engage teens and young adults in our communities is really a large focus for us,” Swope said. While the opportunities are there, what the space will be used for is still in the planning phases. “That’s all in development. We’re not really there yet.”


The library has a strong collection for teens, which include graphic novels, science fiction and fantasy works. The target audience is more broad than simply identifying them as “young adults,” Swope said. While the group initially meant ages 12 to 17, he said it now typically refers to those in the 12 to 26 age bracket.


Other local libraries use a variety of activities to attract the younger audience through their front doors. Linda Wilson, the assistant director at the Joseph T. Simpson Library, said the library has a summer reading program for teens, along with video game and movie nights. One of the more popular events, she said, was a mystery dinner. Staff members of the library act out a mystery play while teens are served dinner courses and are given the opportunity to solve the mystery.


Wilson, who is also the teen-services librarian, said the number of participants at events varies from 3 to 15. Fourteen students recently participate in the video game night, which she said was a good turnout. For the mystery dinner, she said as many as 20 or more usually attend.


Young adults, however, use the library for some of its more practical reasons as well.


“We have a good many that come in to use the Internet or do homework assignments.” Wilson said.


Special classes are also sometimes given, including a manga drawing class.


Emma Crawford, 13, and Jennifer Gentry, 17, both of Mechanicsburg were among the seven participants at the May drawing class.


It was Gentry’s first exposure to the art style, but she said she thought the class was fun. Crawford, however, has been drawing manga since she was 10 years old. She has already drawn a volume of her own manga and used the class as a way to gauge how her art has evolved. Both Crawford and Gentry said they would surely attend future manga classes, as well as other programs that the library offers.


Teens have a direct say in what happens at the Cleve J. Fredricksen Library. Christine Davies, teen services director, said the library has a teen advisory group. The group consists of middle and high school students, and Davies referred to it as a “good social club” for teens to belong to. Students in the group hold fundraisers to buy decorations for the teen space and to contribute to the teen collections in the library.


“For the teens, that’s books, magazines and our video game collection,” Davies said.


Some of the library’s events are a big draw for young adults. Davies said some events will draw as many as 40 kids for movie nights and 75 for the tie-die program. In total, she said there are 32 programs over the eight weeks of summer. Some of the programs include an entrepreneurship class and a speculative fiction class.


Katie Barr, 17, of Mechanicsburg, has been on the library’s teen advisory board for about five years. Since she was in the the seventh grade, she has been on the board that helps the library develop programs catered toward teenagers.


“We meet together, and we try to come up with teen programs for the library,” Barr said. Some of those programs include nights devoted to board games, video games and movies. Other events are catered toward reading, such as reading-discussion groups.


She said the involvement gives teenagers a voice in the decision-making process.


“I think the teens are sometimes overlooked,” Barr said.



Cumberland County libraries seek to attract teenagers

Reaching and holding the interest of children who are turning into teens and moving on from high school is a prime target of the Cumberland County Library System.


Providing services and educational opportunities that appeal to both children and parents hasn’t been a problem for the county’s eight libraries, but “having the support of teens and families is very important” to the system’s success, said Jonelle Darr, the Cumberland County Library System’s executive director.


Reaching those teenagers is also something people want, Darr said, based on survey results from the community. While children’s services have always been strong, the surveys revealed that teen services required some attention as an “emerging need,” she said.


Teen program statistics were first collected in 2007, but the numbers gathered have largely remained stagnant or fallen since then. There were 203 teen-related programs in 2007, attended by 4,925 teenagers. Last year there were only 3,958 teens attending when 212 programs were available.


Darr said a factor in the lower attendance rate in 2012 is Bosler Memorial Library’s renovation project in Carlisle.


Teen materials, meanwhile, showed a dramatic increase over the last 10 years. Statistics from 2003 indicate 34,750 items were circulated from teen collections. Since then, the number has jumped to 87,976.


“That’s a 153 percent increase in the number of items borrowed from the teen collections,” Darr said.


Keeping interest

Since teens seem to be a tough crowd to attract or keep, Darr said the library provides spaces for them to hang out, use technology and borrow resources for free.


Darr said some libraries are able to have staff members devoted to teens, while others are not large enough to accommodate that need.


Local libraries, regardless of size, have a common goal to attract young adults to the library. Darr called the programs “essential,” and said she firmly believed such programs — which she termed enjoyable — worked to keep teens coming back to the library.


“They (teens) wouldn’t show up if they didn’t enjoy them,” Darr said.


Then there’s the challenge of keeping them interested and keeping them coming back.


“I think one of the challenges is that our young adults ... they’re at a different point in their life,” said Jeffrey Swope, incoming director at Bosler. He said they are typically going to school, beginning work or starting families. Once they have children of their own, Swope said families tend to return when they want to introduce their own children to the library. However, they often do not see the library as “relevant” until then, he said.


Linda Wilson, assistant director and teen-services librarian at the Joseph T. Simpson Public Library in Mechanicsburg, noticed a similar trend.


“We have such a strong children’s programming, and it seems like they kind of fade out in the middle years,” she said.


Christine Davies, teen services coordinator at Camp Hill’s Cleve J. Fredricksen Library said keeping programs and materials relevant is essential to keep teens coming through the doors. “We have to sell ourselves to them,” she said.


Davies, who has been working with teens in the library for 15 years, said it is not necessarily more difficult to attract them today. Letting them know that the library has books, movies and video games to lend for free, she said, will bring them in the front door.


Wilson said competing with other activities and working to keep up with technology also provides challenges in keeping young adults coming back. “We don’t like to turn kids away,” she said. “We want them to be there,” she said.



There’s always the challenge of adequate funding for libraries throughout the county.


Darr said funding has been cut by 41 percent by the state in the last couple years, and 37 percent in 2004. She said the cuts begin to add up “when you lose half a million dollars a year and start adding that up over the last three years.”


Swope praised the Cumberland County Commissioners for the board’s “incredible” support with funding. He said the library uses a budget that supports what they do, and that libraries tend to be good at working with what they have. While that funding might be tight, Wilson said that “for our library, we’re doing okay,” adding that the library has “a wonderful friends organization that does a lot of fundraising and gets a lot of local support for us.”


“Libraries are always going to need more money, it’s just a fact,” Davies said.


Justifying the need for further funding helps, especially when libraries can prove attendance is increasing across all age levels, librarians agree.


Currently, young adults are the “smallest group of borrowers” at Fredricksen, Davies said. Although their numbers taper off as they get out of high school, she was confident that would change.


Social scene

Davies said it was important to create a “community” atmosphere in the library, and not be a place to simply do homework. She said the library should become a social place. “I think (the number of teens) could definitely increase,” she said. “We have to look at what they’re wanting from us.”


Swope said the best way to attract new users was to go to where they are and engage them. Once that relationship is created, he said it would become easier to keep students in the library.


“Are we going to struggle to now get that connection and engage that section of the community? Yeah,” Swope said.


He said he was confident the library would maintain those connections as long as library remained committed to them. He stressed, however, that the library is not reliant on strictly the younger audience.


“Everyone should have a public library card in their wallet,” he said.


Wilson linked the library’s future success at keeping younger adults to the need for space. She also referred to the library as an “extension” of the schools’ libraries where work can be completed. The key for success, she said, was catering to the educational and social needs of the young adults.


Darr called the future for libraries “a moving target.” She said they are becoming a third place away from work or school that people can come to enjoy without spending money.


She also stressed the need for libraries to overcome the typical library “stigma” with teenagers — that they are quiet places with an abundance of rules. Darr said libraries are turning into more social places, and that teen collections have more content that reflects events in teens’ lives.


“Just like society, libraries are changing,” Darr said.



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