Swanton Library wins creative learning funds

Membership grows with new programs

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By Matthew Preedom, St. Albans Messenger

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SWANTON – The Swanton Public Library has undergone a rapid facelift this summer. After opening its front doors, hiring new staff and expanding their children’s area, the library has received a  $7,500 grant to promote exploration and discovery for children ages six to 14.

Word of the grant comes as library officials say the community is expressing new interest in the facility with hundreds added to the membership roles.

“We are just so thrilled that the American Library Association for awarding this grant to us,” said Rebecca Rupp, chair of the library trustees. “There are just so many things that this award will allow us to do.”

Swanton Library was one of 79 libraries nationwide to receive the Curiosity Creates Grant; it is the only winner in Vermont. The grant was made possible by a donation of $800,000 to the Association for Library Services to Children by the Walt Disney Company (ALSC).

Swanton’s winning proposal was a collaborative effort written by Rupp and new, full-time director Michelle Beaulieu.

The library plans to engage young people by giving them hands-on activities that encourage learning through fun, exciting activities.

“We really told the ALSC that we wanted to use the money to design and create Investigation Stations that we’ll rotate weekly through the children’s area, a reader’s theatre, classes in art journaling, computer graphics and animation, game design and creative writing, among many other things,” Rupp said. “We want to make the library the center of our community, a place where people can come and learn and interact. This grant will allow us to create programs and activities that will draw more people to the building.”

The Investigation Stations will be cycled through on a weekly basis and will feature art supplies, construction toys, writing, drama and dance, and music related activities.

“We hope to partner with as many local groups as possible to create exciting programs,” Rupp said. “We’re planning to reach out to the Abenaki Tribal Council, the Swanton Arts Council, the Historical Society, and a few others to see what engaging activities we can put together.”

The Swanton Public Library has seen significant growth in patronage over the last year. In the spring of 2014, the library had 700 card-holding patrons. Now, the number is over 1,000, roughly one sixth of the town’s citizens.

“We’ve made great progress, but what that tells me is that there are 5,000 more people who we need to reach,” Rupp said. “There are so many wonderful things here for people of all ages.”

The library’s latest program is Casper’s Attic, an event to collect Halloween costumes and give them to children for free. This is the first year the library will be running this program which is modeled on Cailey’s Closet, an event meant to recycle prom dresses.”

“We’ll be collecting costumes throughout October and will be giving them out to kids who need them,” Rupp explained. “This is a great way to make sure costumes that are too small for your kids don’t go to waste and kids whose families may not be able to afford a costume can come pick one out.”

The library also has hired a new children’s librarian. Danielle Fabrizio has experience teaching pre-schoolers and she wowed the trustees after her interview.

“Danielle is great with children,” Rupp said. “When she finished her interview she stayed around to read animal books to the kids. We are very lucky to have someone who is so qualified and passionate on our staff.”

With the addition of new staff members and new programming, the Swanton Public Library is looking to make itself into the hub of the community, a place where people of all ages can learn, grow and have fun.