The Clatskanie Library has become well known for offering a robust pre-school Story Time program and annual Summer Reading Program for youth up to 12-years-old, according to Becky White with the Clatskanie Library District.
Three years ago, White, mentor of the book clubs for youth and teens at the library, decided that she needed to find ways to expand programming to reach more of the library district’s teens.
In 2018, White’s youth book club hosted a Summer Reading Program themed teen movie night, which grew into an outdoor movie and full moon campout in the library’s park in 2019. Although 2020 brought in-person gatherings to a halt, White was able to secure grant funding from the State Library of Oregon and the Columbia County Cultural Coalition, which was previously tagged for live performances, to host eight weeks of programming specifically for teenagers, in addition to its usual youth Summer Reading Program.
According to White, the momentum of teen programs has sometimes been surprisingly slow to build in an area that lacks a lot of activities for teenagers, but she said she has noticed more kids are beginning to take advantage of the library’s offerings and that “hands down, kids prefer hands-on activities.”
This year, after twelve months of online activities, White said she was determined to find safe ways to bring live activities back to the library.
“Because planning starts months in advance, we had to plan a mix of in-person and online activities that children could engage in safely with their own families throughout the week,” she said.
The library test drove the concept last spring by offering a Story Book Trail in the park and a program called “Clatskanie Reads!” in which different community members read children’s stories on the Library’s Facebook page.
“Engagement in activities that families could do together on their own time was high, and the Story Book Trail was such a hit that we hosted another during the Summer Reading Program,” White said.
But with summer grant funds once again focused on programming for younger kids, White said she needed to look for other ways to continue reaching teenagers. This spring she wrote and was awarded two different grants tagged specifically for teens.
With a Grant for “Distance Learning of Art & Culture” from the Columbia County Cultural Coalition, sponsored by the Friends of the Clatskanie Library, the library was able to offer a virtual painting party led by local artist Jessica Fentner.
Participants received a kit containing easels, paints, brushes, palettes, and books about acrylic painting, to keep. The party was hosted using Zoom. Fentner, who was visiting a Van Gogh exhibit in Las Vegas, taught from the Mandalay Bay Hotel using a design inspired by the impressionist exhibit and the hotel’s shark week display.
White said the public can see the work of Clatskanie’s talented teens by visiting the library where the work is on display through the first week of August.
White also wrote and was awarded by the State Library of Oregon, a $3,000 Teen Services Grant. The grant will be used to purchase enough book club books for 10-15 teens for twelve months and to form a Teen Advisory Group that will help to update the young adult collection and develop teen programming at the library.
Traditionally, the Friends of the Library purchase books that up to 20 book club members ranging from second to twelfth grade get to keep.
“Receiving this grant is very exciting because it will allow us to increase membership in both the elementary and middle-high school groups,” White said. “Our existing teen book club members have been meeting regularly this summer to help choose the reading list for 2021-22, but we definitely have room for more members!”
White said the teen advisory group is an amazing opportunity for youth to have a voice in the activities that they want to see at their library. Early brainstorming sessions have raised ideas about ways to connect teens to the library using social media, forming an Oregon Battle of the Books Team, field trips to Powell’s City of Books in Portland, inviting authors to talk at the library and more.
Youth in grades 7-12, including home school students, who are interested in becoming members of the advisory council can contact the library for more information.
The Clatskanie Library is located at 11 Lillich Street in Clatskanie. To reach the library, call 503-728-3732.