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Column: Learning Matters: Local library seeing new life with recent renovations

“The library is booming,” said city librarian Cindy Cleary to board members of the Glendale Library Foundation during a meeting last month.

“We’re seeing more and more young people,” she added with a smile.

I’ve seen them, too, settled into the new seating areas upstairs and down, iPads or laptops in front of them, headsets plugged in.

The remodeled, “re-imagined” library is experiencing new life and a new sense of purpose and hope as a center of civic life.

“Downtown Central” is representative of a shift in how libraries are seen and used.

With a recording studio available by appointment for musicians or “story corps” historians, and a Maker Space furnished with 3-D printers and sewing machines, the library is inviting the public to engage more fully in the creative process.

Cultural and historic exhibits artfully curated in the new Reflect Space encourage community members to expand their awareness of local and world history. Computer stations and meeting rooms abound.

But for me, as a still fairly new grandparent of two, it’s the traditional aspect of the library that holds the most excitement.

The Glendale Central Library’s children’s area — with its own special observation window overlooking the downstairs reading room — shines as a safe place where children can begin to explore on their own, where they can discover the world’s mysteries and magic and begin to understand the grown-ups in their lives.

It’s where past and future come together in stories shared across generations.

I’ve found I’m not alone in this somewhat sentimental feeling about libraries and the relationships they foster both with books and people.

I emailed a number of my grandma friends asking for their special experiences as children, parents or grandparents, in or out of libraries, and I received a treasure trove of responses, only some of which I can share here now.

Shirley Croft, whose daughter taught in Glendale before moving to Chicago with her family, reflected on her book-rich childhood and how it shaped her experience as a parent and grandparent.

“Children’s books are my greatest joy,” she wrote. “I was blessed to have a mother who loved to read stories, so I was read to on a daily basis as a child. Therefore, it seemed the most natural thing for me to read to my own children. Hence, many trips to the library for plenty of material.”

Now, she reads to her young grandson via Skype and looks forward to initiating the practice with his baby brother.

Katherine Yamada, my Glendale News-Press columnist colleague and longtime Friend of the Library, was quick to reminisce about her childhood trips to the Carnegie Library in the Central Valley town of Dinuba, near the farm where she grew up.

“It was a rare treat when my mom took me along to town… She dropped me off at the library… set high up off the ground with lots of steps leading to the front door. Once inside, I browsed to my heart’s content,” she wrote.

After she checked out her selections, “I’d go outside and sit on the steps... to read while waiting for my mother,” learning about the world beyond the farm, she added.

Hoover High grad Patti Strout, whose children grew up alongside ours in church and Scouts and choir, now lives in Santa Barbara, a comfortably drivable distance from their two sets of grandchildren.

She emailed me from New York, where she and her husband, Alan, have been spending time in a small-town library, researching Alan’s family history.

“We have multi-generational library experience,” she wrote, praising the library resources that included old volumes of city history, computer access to ancestry.com and librarians willing to phone “old-timers who might remember family names.”

With regard to the newest generation in their family, Patti wrote about recent visits with her granddaughter to the branch library near their daughter’s home.

One day, the two of them watched a Disney movie about oceans in the company of 10 or so other families with strollers and young children.

The next day, they came back to see a magician perform for “close to 75 people… 50 of them kids.”

“The real magic,” Patti wrote, “was that he kept all of us, young and old alike, spellbound for an hour.”

Then her granddaughter insisted on checking out one of the books the magician shared, “so her daddy could read it to her that night.”

Glendale has a variety of summer, as well as year-round, library opportunities for children and their families, including the “Reading by Design” summer reading program, arts and crafts, board game days, magic, marionettes and movies.

With or without our grandchildren, I think I’ll go see “Moana” when it comes to the Library Connection@Adams Square.

JOYLENE WAGNER is a past member of the Glendale Unified school board, from 2005 to 2013, and currently serves on the boards of Glendale Educational Foundation and other nonprofit organizations. Email her at jkate4400@aol.com.


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