Youth services librarian lays out plans for children’s programs
The youth services librarian job is a dream come true for Herweg-Samuels, a mother of three children.
“It’s the best job in town,” she said. “It’s my big passion — books and kids.”
Britta Herweg-Samuels developed her love of books growing up in her native Germany, and spent many happy hours in her neighborhood public library. She plans to re-create that sense of coziness and comfort here in Socorro.
“When things were rough at home, I went to the library,” she said. “It was a live saver.”
Herweg-Samuels hopes two new after-school programs will lure more older youth into the library, and plans to start a teen advisory group.
Books ‘n More
The library’s current summer reading program is very popular with readers ages 7 to 11, she said, but until now, that has been the only organized reading activity for this age group.
“I don’t see the point of having a big summer reading effort, and then nothing in the winter break or the rest of the year,” she said. “Kids are coming in (after school starts) and they’re poised to read, and then it dies down during the year.”
Herweg-Samuels started an afternoon reading “and something more” program in November. Children are invited to the library on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. for reading and a short activity. What the children read and do depends on who shows up, she said. She plans to present a new book or an oral reading of a story, and then a mix of buddy reading or book clubs, followed by an activity, such as an art or science project, board games, or chess.
“I don’t know if it will be mostly younger or older readers, so I have to be flexible,” she said.
On Nov. 26, the Books n’ More topic was Tom Angleberger’s “Origami Yoda” books, popular with middle schoolers. After listening to a book talk, the children made origami Yodas and other Star Wars characters.
Herweg-Samuels will offer Books ‘n More sessions more afternoons during winter break.
“During the winter break, come to the library in the afternoon — cozy up and read. Come in to read fairy tales or other genres,” she said. “Instead of just Tuesday and Wednesday, maybe every day. Check the calendar.”
The library posts a youth activities calendar monthly on the library’s website www.adobelibrary.org. It can also be picked up at the library.
Teen visitation at the library is currently low, Herweg-Samuels said. To attract youth ages 12 and up, she is offering a weekly Friday teen book club from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. starting Dec. 13. The topic of the first Teen Book Café is the popular young adult series “Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant” by Veroica Roth. Teens are also encouraged to join the library’s Teen Advisory Group.
“I don’t want to be the only one figuring out what teens want,” she said. “Are they not coming in because they don’t read, or the library is not interesting or inviting?” she said. Teens interested in the book club or the advisory group can email firstname.lastname@example.org or drop in at one of the Friday meetings.
She also wants to shelve all the young adult books together for easier browsing. Right now, the young adult literature is mixed in with the adult books in the main part of the library.
Herweg-Samuels will continue the popular pre-school story time and craft sessions on Wednesday and Thursday mornings from 10:30 to 11:15 as well as the Reading Is Fundamental book ownership program. The federal RIF program distributes books free of charge three times a year to all preschool through third-grade children in Socorro. It is supported by the Friends of Socorro Library and corporate sponsors.
After meeting with school district administrators, Herweg-Samuels started weekly emails to teachers highlighting library events and news, such as writing contests sponsored by New Mexico’s state public library and the U. S. Library of Congress. But the library doesn’t try to teach reading.
“We’re not trying to duplicate anything the schools are doing, just complement,” she said.
Even though readers are accessing more information online, Herweg-Samuels is positive a public library has an important role to play in the community.
“It has to be more than a brick and mortar storage area for books,” she said, pointing to the services she offers to children, such as help finding both print and online information for science fair projects and homework assignments.
For young children and their parents, she believes e-books are no substitute for quality picture books, and borrowing these expensive books from the library makes financial sense for families.
“Especially in early reading, kids can sit on your lap, and touch the book,” she said. “Personally I believe paper books are still really important. I recommend beautiful picture books for early reading.”
She advises parents to take home several picture books at a time, and then purchase the child’s favorites for the home library.
“I as a mother went through them constantly,” she said. “To get your kid a new book every week, or 10 picture books a year, that’s a lot of money.”