Pictured above: a Pottsboro librarian demonstrates their new “pedal library,” which brings books to city residents who may not make it to the library.
Libraries are one of our society’s truly magical spaces. Everyone is welcome, no matter their social status or wealth, and all the wonder, excitement, help, and comfort one can gain from books, music, film, access to the internet, and more is there—free and ready for the borrowing. Libraries also play an important part in their communities, beyond making books and media accessible, by providing community programs and resources that meet their patrons’ unique needs.
Supporting and promoting Texas libraries has been part of our mission since the Texas Book Festival’s founding, and we’d like to proudly highlight some of the libraries we’ve worked with across our great state, like the Pottsboro Library in the north Texas town of Pottsboro. Like many libraries, the Pottsboro Library isn’t only focused on helping patrons figure out what to read next. The library hosts multiple events per month—from fundraising trivia nights to “Sensory Play Days” for kids, even how-to classes for things like learning to sew or getting the most out of your mobile phone device—and has several ongoing programs dedicated to supporting their community of just over 2,000 residents.
These programs include a one-acre community garden, which comprises 100 individual gardening beds, a rainwater-harvesting pavilion, charity food beds, and a nature-play area for children. Along with this garden, the library offers growing materials, tools, and seeds for participants, as well as using the space for gardening education and community gatherings. Library director Dianne Connery said one of the library patrons who joined the program credited the garden with her 90 pound weight loss, saying the garden gave her access to fresh food when she had none before.
The library crew has a new growing project in the works, too: a prairie restoration garden, with the aim to teach residents about water conservation.
“We live in a lake community that is the biggest economic driver for our area—recreation, tourism, nature, and drinking water,” Connery said. “We want to empower residents to protect our most important resource, and we are working with the Texoma Council of Governments and Lake Texoma Association to move this forward.”
Connery shared a story of another successful program the library launched in 2017, “a Library of Things to circulate non-traditional items such as pressure washers, ukulele, canning supplies, tables, chairs, outdoor games, tools, camping equipment, bicycles, ice cream maker, punch bowls, sewing machines, educational games, and a carpet cleaner.” She said one library patron had told her getting to borrow the carpet cleaner saved her marriage.
“Her husband had spilled something on their new carpet, and using our carpet cleaner to remove the stain meant that she would keep him.”
Pottsboro also has very limited public transportation, and the library’s lendable cargo bicycles give people a way to access fresh food at the grocery store rather than having to shop at a convenience store or dollar store that may be in walking distance.
Connery said their “‘cooking on a budget’ classes with accompanying cookbooks, in conjunction with the cargo bicycles, meant a local mom with two young sons could prepare bean burritos for their after-school snack instead of the bag of marshmallows she had been providing. Can you imagine having to do ALL of your grocery shopping at the dollar store? That’s what was happening for Pottsboro residents who had no transportation.”
Connery says one of the most exciting things happening at the Pottsboro is a program inspired by participating in the ALA/YALSA Future Ready with the Library cohort, with the goal to work with local middle schoolers to help them be successful after high school.
“We are designing an e-sports (the competitive wing of multiplayer gaming) program. Rather than try to get kids interested in something we want to teach them, we are using their interests to create connected learning.”
Noting that the Pew Institute reports that rural youth often fall behind urban and suburban contemporaries in their technological preparedness, Connery says they hope to use the e-sports program to help middle and high schoolers develop their technological literacy.
“The highlight of my job is having the freedom to be creative and developing programs that change people’s lives,” Connery says. “Our city officials are supportive and allow us to experiment. Thank you, Kevin Farley, city manager! Our budget increases every year. The library board has us all moving in the same direction, and we have fun doing it.”
We’re so grateful to see the work the dedicated librarians in Texas cities like Pottsboro, and proud to work with libraries like these through our Texas Library Grants program.