A Lively Library

from Peeps to an anti-prom, Fall Creek library programs aim to engage

Zach Schultz, photos by Andrea Paulseth

ORANGE YOU GOING TO COLOR THAT PART? The Fall Creek Public Library may be relatively small, but its schedule features a host of creative programs for little readers.
ORANGE YOU GOING TO COLOR THAT PART? The Fall Creek Public Library may be relatively small, but its schedule features a host of creative programs for little readers.

Libraries pretty much rock, and I remember falling in love with them at a young age. Growing up in Elk Mound, we had to come all the way to Eau Claire for a library trip, so we made each library visit last as long as we could. Even now, the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library sticks with me every time I open a book and experience its rich bookish scent.

As a kid, though, I never realized just how influential a library can be in a kid’s life or how many people put their efforts into creating a space in the library for adults and young people to come together. At the Fall Creek Public Library, youth programs coordinator Jenna Gilles has been churning out some stellar programming for kids, including a live-action Angry Birds-style game called “Protect Your Peeps,” live-action board games, a drive-in movie night (where kids make their own vehicles, then watch a movie), and a MORP (anti-prom).

The library provides great opportunities for people “not just to get information but to share information as well,” says Gilles. For a smaller community like Fall Creek, the active library also offers a chance to “families who may not have the options to join Scouts or 4H or sports to still participate in their community,” she adds.

Gilles pretty much rocks as an example of community engagement. As a mom, a college student at UW-Eau Claire majoring in English and minoring in library science and women’s studies, and a passionate youth librarian, Gilles really has a heart for kids and a knack for getting them involved. “We’ve got some kids who come to the library almost every day because parents are working, or whatever their reasons,” she says. “I think it’s important to have that safe space for them to go to.”

Gilles joined Fall Creek Public Library in February 2009 and has drawn on a lot of experiences for her ideas. “One of the biggest things I love about working in the library is my colleagues are so generous with their own ideas. I can say, ‘I’ve got this idea; how do I expand it?’ I’ve definitely utilized their suggestions. Sometimes I’ll read a good book and think, ‘I’ve got to create something on this!’ ”

“Sometimes I’ll read a good book and think, ‘I’ve got to  create something on this!’ ” – Jenna Gilles, Fall Creek Public Library youth program coordinator,  on developing creative ideas for  children’s activities
“Sometimes I’ll read a good book and think, ‘I’ve got to create something on this!’”
– Jenna Gilles, Fall Creek Public Library youth program coordinator,
on developing creative ideas for children’s activities

Some ongoing programs at the library are storytime for kids, an art club, a Lego club, a homeschool club, and family storytime and crafts. Where these regular programs might bring in a consistent part of the community, the specialty programs help some families or kids come to the library for the first time. Gilles says that she tried “Protect Your Peeps” for the first time last year and hadn’t thought of it as an Angry Birds-style game until I mentioned it. “We made a huge mess, and it was awesome. The girls that came were a lot of fun.”

One thing Gilles laments is low attendance: “To be honest, not enough people come. I wish more people came. … It’s another way to get out of the house and hang out together and to experience the library. I’ve got some kids who come to the programs just for the snacks, which is OK.” Being a problem-solver, Gilles doesn’t let this get her down and instead focuses on engaging more of the community. “I’ve been really trying to incorporate computer-related stuff. I’ve had the idea of a tech club or program or something like that for a while now.” Her ideas include kids creating their own short films or commercials and posting them on YouTube or designing their own solar panels.

In addition to a clever and engaged library staff, Gilles says that “the Fall Creek community is just fantastic. I love going into the school to drop stuff off and hear, ‘That’s the library girl!’ or ‘I remember when we did this.’ Older people say, ‘I saw this in the newspaper; I wish I was 20 years younger and could do that.’ We also have a great library board and staff. People are really great about letting me try my ideas and see what works out.”

For children, becoming involved in a literacy center like a library helps develop their community engagement and passion for reading.
Swing on by the Fall Creek Public Library, 122 E. Lincoln Ave., with your family for a happenin’ time. For more information about library programs, visit fallcreekpubliclibrary.org.

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