Where can you, on any given day, find everything from wolves, to turtles, to librarians dressed like Willy Wonka, Velma from “Scooby-Doo” and everything in between? Where can you dress up like your favorite fictional character and compete for generous prizes? Where can aspiring writers get a hand up from professional ones and aspiring painters get hands-on peer support? Where can kids and adults alike get to explore a panoply of niche avocations, from anime to crafting to knitting, and hear first-hand from experts in all sorts of special interests?
If your response was, “Why, Highland County District Library, of course!”, then you’d be right.
Through its multiple branches in Greenfield, Hillsboro, Leesburg, Lynchburg and at Rocky Fork Lake, the library administers a multitude of free community programs for its patrons of diverse interests and demographics that have steadily grown in popularity and scope, and listening to the public about what topics and activities they want to participate in is an important part of the planning process, according to Highland County District Library Circulation Manager Sarah Davidson.
Davidson, in conjunction with the children’s library manager, Gabrielle Pitzer, “collaborate together to come up with all ages’ activities,” according to Davidson, in addition to separately planning more targeted programming for teens and adults, and programs geared more toward children’s interests.
Davidson said the process by which special expert speakers are selected is, at times, guided serendipitously by patrons’ expressed interests. She said that, “a couple of years ago we had a patron ask for more information on bird-watching, so we organized a program with a naturalist who gave a presentation on the subject.”
The efforts to appeal to the community have not gone unnoticed, and members of the community are enthusiastic about their involvement. Local author Debbie Williams, whose latest book is “Hillsboro’s Mystery Child-The Story of Sarah Dorney Stroup”, said that she participates in several groups facilitated by the library, including Write-Away and BYO-Book Club, and that it is a great experience to interact with others who have similar interests. “The library has so many opportunities to learn and have fun and many people are not aware of all of the activities,” she said.
William Roller, a Greenfield-based artist, is one of many specialized professionals the library has invited to give presentations over the years. Roller fondly reflected upon his experiences presenting there, saying, “You always get great patrons.” Roller added, “There’s always that one kid or adult that’s just completely invested in what you’re presenting.” Roller summarized that the patrons’ fascination might stem from the presenters, “basically living out their dream” which he referred to as, “an extreme honor.” Roller concluded, “I was blessed with natural abilities and it’s always a pleasure to be able to showcase those with other like-minded people, and the library gives me that opportunity.”
Davidson said that one of the library’s recent activities she is proud of is the Banned Books Festival that was held this autumn in conjunction with Banned Books Week. Highland District Library was selected from libraries nationwide as one of only five to receive the noteworthy distinction of being the recipient of a grant from The Freedom To Read Foundation, according to Davidson. The theme was “Books Unite Us, Censorship Divides Us.”
“Saying I was thrilled to receive that grant would be a vast understatement,” Davidson said.
She reiterated the importance of the library’s programs being attuned to the diversified needs and interests of the community.
“We love being here for all of our patrons,” she said.
For more information about the various programs offered by Highland County District Library, check out their Facebook page or access their website at https://www.highlandco.org.