Wednesday, January 23, 2013
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Atlanta Public Library: Exciting times, growth in services

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[January 23, 2013]  ATLANTA -- Cruising through Atlanta, Ill., on Old Route 66, you will come to an unusual eight-sided building at the corner of SW Arch (Route 66) and SE Race streets. This architectural gem is the Atlanta Public Library, a historic building that was constructed in 1908 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Only one other example like this exists, the public library in El Paso, Ill.

Walk inside the building and you find the usual shelves of books, magazines and newspapers common to libraries. But dig a little deeper, and a person will find a growing list of exciting programs that are available to the community -- programs designed to encompass activities for preschoolers to senior citizens.

Cathy Maciariello was recently appointed director of community programs for the library in Atlanta and has been ramping up the program menu from a modest beginning in 2011 to a wide variety of offerings today, some of them unique to the library district, such as the Behind the Scenes programs.

One of the success stories is the children's programming, which began with an outdoor summer reading program on the library lawn. Other offerings during the year are a homework and reading lab, kids' crafts, a summer creative writing class, and preschool reading gatherings.

One measure of success is the number of area children participating, from an initial 12-15 to a count of almost 30 kids at a recent event.

The dramatic increase in participating children has created a happy problem for the library. Currently, one section of the octagonal building is dedicated to children's reading material and events. The small area is now at the maximum capacity, and more space is rapidly becoming a necessity.

Toward that end, plans are being made to convert the basement of the library into a new area for children's books and activities. The basement has at least double the space of the current area. After the relocation of the children's area to the basement, the upstairs space will be converted into an adult fiction area and reading room.

Initial plans are being developed to upgrade the infrastructure of the basement with a new ceiling, lighting, heating and a dehumidifier before the children's books and activities are relocated there.

As with all remodeling, the new children's area will require funding to proceed with these ambitious plans. Toward that end, the Atlanta Library will have a fundraiser on Feb. 16 called "Bowling for Books."

Bowling for Books will take place at the Red Wing Bowl, just across the railroad tracks from the library. Twenty-four teams of four bowlers each will compete for prizes, with bowling times at 3:30, 6:30 and 9 p.m. In addition to bowling, a Chinese auction will take place for items donated by area businesses.

The prime sponsor for Bowling for Books is Mattingly Automotive, with additional help from Kitty Cat Crafts. So far, response has been very positive, with many teams already signed up.

The library hopes to raise at least $4,000 to begin the basement renovation process.

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"The momentum of community involvement in the library is increasing," says Maciariello. "The fundraiser is providing an exciting way for members of the Atlanta community to participate in their library's improvement."

Sign-up forms for Bowling for Books are available at the library and on the library website.

Maciariello sees the library as a magnet for area residents to come together and participate in fascinating events, as well as use the traditional library services.

In addition to the Feb. 16 fundraiser, another important date for the library is rapidly approaching. Randy Brooks, president of the Atlanta Public Library District, announced that a referendum will appear on the April ballot, requesting an increase in the library district's assessment.

The assessment has not been changed in decades.

"We can't do 2013 work at the library with 1950s money," said Brooks.

He stressed that when the assessment was last changed, all the library had to offer was books. Now, in the digital age, libraries are called upon to offer many more services. In addition to checking out physical books, library patrons are requesting access to digital reading material that they can download to their iPads, Kindles and Nooks.

Money from an increased assessment will go directly into updating the services and programs the library can offer its patrons, as well as maintaining and updating the library's physical structure, a historic building that needs lots of care.

Brooks said: "I can't stress enough how important a modern library is to a thriving community like Atlanta, especially with the increase in tourists coming to town for the Route 66 experience. A modern library enriches the community."

Brooks and Maciariello are excited about the future of their town and the Atlanta Public Library, and their enthusiasm is shared by members of the Atlanta community.

For a complete list of the Atlanta Public Library programs and special events such as Bowling for Books, go to the library website or call the library.


Atlanta Public Library contact information


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