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The Little Library That Could

“The library is the heart and the barometer of the health of the city,” says Rayel Starling, Globe Public Library Director. 

The Globe Public Library closed to in-person use in March 2020, following CDC guidelines. The services continued. The staff never stopped answering the phones. 

“The next day we started doing lunches for the school kids,” says Rayel. “Curbside services started the following week.”  

For the next year, Rayel and her staff adapted long-running programs to the new restrictions. Couch Potato to 5K went virtual, as did Summer Reading, now running in hybrid form with paper and online reading logs and age-appropriate prizes. Teen participation has been six times higher than before. Family Storytime continued via Facebook Live and “Grab and Go” kits provided theme-related activities that families could do at home.  

“It’s not just about instilling in kids the love of reading,” says Robin Wurst, a retired early education specialist and Storytime volunteer since 2012, “We try to teach the parents how to support early literacy development.” 

Robin is also President of Friends of the Library (FOL), a local non-profit organization that exists to support the library where city and county budgets fall short. FOL receives grants through the Globe-Miami United Fund which fund the “lion’s share” of library programming. The group is l.

Within our community there are so many resources waiting to be tapped,” says Robin. “My priority is to discover and coordinate people and their ideas, expertise, generosity and energy.”

FOL has collaborated with the Humane Society and Cobre Valley Youth Club to create Shelter Buddies. A brainstorm by Thea Wilshire, the new program involves local youth reading aloud to homeless dogs at the animal shelter. FOL has purchased books and will train volunteers to assess. 

“The purpose is to make children more comfortable with reading,” says Rayel. 

Shelter Buddies was funded through a $10K United Fund “Year of Yes” grant that encourages nonprofits to work together. Implementation of the program has been delayed by Covid and then the fires, and since the inception of the idea, all three organizations have new directors.   

“All are super enthusiastic about continuing,” says Rayel, “so that made me feel great.”

 

A Place to Meet and Learn

 

“A library offers more than books,” Rayel says. “It offers lifelong learning experiences and helps people find jobs.” 

Rayel was born in Miami, grew up in Globe and earned an MA in Information Resources & Library Science from the University of Arizona. As a child she participated in the Summer Reading program at Globe Public Library and the Old Dominion Library before it burnt to the ground in 1981. The current building was adopted as the library in 1986.  

“I would love to see a new library built while I’m director,” says Rayel.

Kerrie Graham mural artist. Photo by Patti Daley

A larger modern facility for the library is the singular goal of the library’s 5-year strategic plan, approved in June 2018. Rayel doesn’t expect it in the next two years. Police and fire come first.

“The safety of the citizenry should be our top priority,” she says, “but eventually the library will get attention.”

As part of their annual membership and fundraising drive, Friends of the Library (FOL) are putting attention on the library’s outdoor space, currently a few shaded picnic tables enclosed by a chain link fence installed by the city to prevent vandalism.   

“I love the outdoor space,” says Rayel. “I wish it were more usable.”

To that end, Robin and FOL have enlisted the help of Rachel Hansen of Tallyho Engineering. With input from the Library Director and FOL Membership committee, has produced initial renderings of a new vision for the outdoor space. It includes more shade, plant life, flexible seating for reading and fundraising pavers.

“ I value the library and it is my way of contributing,” says Rachel.  

She’s also working with artist Kerrie Graham on a colorful mural for the library’s west wall. Originally proposed as an Eagle Scout project by Bradley Pollock in November 2019. With financial support from FOL, the project was prepped in early 2020. Then the primer peeled, Covid hit, the project was put on hold and Bradley left on a mission in Slovenia. His Aunt Kerrie agreed to carry the idea forward. The bookshelf design will include classic literature, works from local authors and an image of the Old Dominion Library. Hundreds of volunteer hours will go into the final product.  Kerrie painted her first mural in high school and stays inspired by her grandmother’s last words to her:“Keep painting. Let it bring joy to others.”

Grand Re-Opening

In May, all restrictions for in-person use of the library were lifted. Patrons are asked to respect social distancing and optional mask-wearing.

On August 6, the library will host a grand re-opening to celebrate. Friends of the Library will share the vision for the outdoor space and provide light refreshments. There will be a scavenger hunt for the kids. 

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