Teens flock to Fairhope Public Library
March 17, 2023
What a page-turner!
By Jillian Surla, reporter
Fairhope, ALA.–The smell of books has never been more refreshing! To students, the Fairhope Public Library is typically known as a boring, dusty and old last-ditch effort to find a book that is nowhere to be found. However, the FHPL is much more than this because it offers students the opportunity to connect with their peers and community through programming and volunteering.
Being in the library and its programs has many benefits, and some have said that it gives them a nice, comfortable place to breathe and relax. FHPL teen services librarian Allyson Russell has had parents tell her that the programs help their children through stressful times. One teen was able to let her feelings out through a writing program and get through a bad patch.
“I recommend the library because it’s a nice place for quiet time. It gives your mind a break and is surprisingly fun,” said Trinity Lewis, a Fairhope Public Library teen volunteer.
FHPL has many programs available to both children and teens. It offers monthly activities on a schedule and every week has at least one thing to do.
Every Monday there is a program called Maker Monday. This program is dedicated to people ages 12 and up to do crafts. At the start of 2023, the attendees at Maker Monday made something called a happy jar.
“A happy jar is a mason jar that has all your happy memories of whatever year you made it. You write your memory on a piece of paper and you fold it and place it in the jar,” Lewis said.
Sometimes, there are huge programs that last all of the hours at the library. On March 4, there was a full-day program that was dedicated to Alice in Wonderland. There was a Harry Potter program on Feb. 2.
When Fairhope Public Library teen volunteer Ellie Boyer heard of the Harry Potter Book Night program, she
immediately knew she had to go. She spent days planning her Slytherin-themed outfit before settling. The program consisted of making quills and wands, playing fun games, watching movies and winning prizes.
“The Harry Potter program is my favorite program that we have done so far because I’m a Harry Potter geek, and it was just a fun environment with a lot of other Harry Potter geeks,” Boyer said.
Like Boyer, people would normally attend a program because they enjoyed what its purpose. But, Mrs. Allyson has a few attendees every once in a while who don’t know what the program is for.
One time, there was a boy who came to the bullet journaling program and didn’t know what a bullet journal was. So, even though he didn’t know what he was doing, Mrs. Allyson and the other attendees helped him get started on a bullet journal.
“If you come into a library program and you are just there and listen with your mouth hanging open, that’s perfectly fine for us because that means you came to the library,“ Mrs. Allyson said.
Some use FHPL as a place to rack up their volunteer hours for their school clubs. Service clubs often require semesterly hours, so students who spend a small amount of their time volunteering at the library are able to easily stay. According to Mrs. Allyson, affecting change in the community is something that volunteers are able to do, even if it’s in a small way.
Mrs. Allyson and the team at the FHPL want teens to enjoy their time in the library, so they make sure to have a lot of fun activities for them. She does this by letting the teen volunteers vote on what they want to do.
One of the teen services librarians commented that Mrs. Allyson was very democratic with the teen volunteers and that she lets them decide on most of what happens with the teen activities. Mrs. Allyson believes that letting the teens vote is like letting them have some control over something that affects their life in the community.
“It’s not a big thing—it’s just programming at the local library—but my hope is that by coming here and having this experience of working together and working with us at the library, they’ll understand how to do this in other parts of your life as you get older. Maybe in college or maybe in their future career,” Mrs. Allyson said.
Volunteer duties may be cleaning, working with kids in programs, shelving books or even crafting. As menial as these tasks may seem, volunteers actually find them quite rewarding.
Lewis loves shelving books as a volunteer. She especially enjoys shelving with her volunteer friends when they give out ‘rations’ of books to each other.
“‘Get your rations’ is a funny little inside joke with us volunteers on Tuesday where someone stands by the unshelved books and gives the others their ‘rations’ of books and the cycle keeps going until all the books are on the shelves,” Lewis said.
But, the universal favorite of all volunteers is crafting. When the librarians have a big program coming up, they sometimes need a few extra hands to make the bases for their crafts.
Throughout April, the library Maker Monday will be dedicated to decorating a fairy house. The fairy houses are made of
cardboard, hot glue and the creativity of volunteers.
“I can’t wait for the fairy houses in April. We worked hard for the children to have houses to decorate, but it was also super fun to just hang out with the other volunteers and work on houses together,” Boyer said.
As of right now, a major project is getting funded that would improve the teen’s time at the library immensely. Before the end of the year, the library might have a room dedicated just to the teens. There will be nice modular furniture to move around for whatever the teen wants, computer and study areas, tables for games and studying, and a centrally located tech tower with a lot of monitors on it.
“I’m really hoping that they give us some money to buy a couple of gaming consoles—like a Ps4 and an Xbox so that they can come to the desk and give me their ID or keys or something and I could give them the Ps4 and they can go over there and hook it up and play it,” Mrs. Allyson said.
The FHPL doesn’t mirror the misconception of a big, scary place with mean older ladies shushing at people for whispering. It’s a place that is trying its hardest to accommodate teens and their growing and ever-changing interests. The librarians want their patrons to go to the library and leave having gained something, and that’s exactly why teens should go.
“It’s not just about books, it’s about information. And for most of human history, information has been in books, but the definition of information is vast and varied and can be many different things. Maybe it’s a book. Maybe it’s a craft project. And maybe it’s just meeting a friend,” Mrs. Allyson said.