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Who knew how amazing the library is?

Updated: Jun 24

Nokomis Library is more than just a place to borrow books; it's a vibrant community hub where children’s imaginations come to life, especially during the summer. This year, the library’s dynamic Youth Services Librarian, Lisa Stuart, is on a mission to make summer reading an unforgettable adventure for school-age kids. With her infectious enthusiasm, Stuart crafted a three-point plan focused on engaging young readers through free book giveaways, interactive reading clubs, and strategic partnerships. Last summer, the library distributed 400 books, and this year, Stuart aims to surpass that milestone, ensuring every child finds something that sparks their interest.

Stuart shows one of the books for the children's book club.

“Summer at the library, we really focus on school-age kids because we know how important it is to do your own reading and learning based on your interests,” said Stuart, a wide grin spreading across her face as she displayed the books she ordered for this summer. “Every time kids come in, they can get a free book.” The themes ranged from unicorns to nonfiction. The crisp new books looked ready to be devoured by small hands. Stuart ensures the books are from diverse authors, aiming to make all children feel welcomed. She also lined up stickers, pencils, and activity books.

Toys are available for children to play with and change monthly.

This year they’re revamping their reading clubs, tailored by age. My First Book Club for kindergarten to first grade meets every few weeks to read a book and do a related activity, such as reading “The Wonderful Towers of Watts” by Patricia Zelver, then creating mosaics and putting them on display at the front of the library. When showing me the book, she automatically held it up the way a school teacher would where we could both read and look at the pages. It was clear that she’s a natural.

There is a special library section that caters to teens.

The second book club, for second and third graders, features themes like magical creatures and robots, with activities such as creating robots from various materials.

The third club, for grades 4-6, focuses on genres. The first meeting is for science fiction, the second is for mystery, and the children will vote on the third meeting’s theme. Allowing children to choose their books gives them the chance to explore new genres while letting them feel included and learning in the way they learn best. “Kids that love to read graphic novels will read graphic novels in that genre; kids that love thick books will read those,” Stuart explained, emphasizing inclusion and diverse learning styles. “All of the book clubs are either Friday or Saturday, so more working parents can bring their families. … I used to avoid Saturdays, because so many families go up north, but now I want to provide something for the families who don’t or can’t go up north.” This considerate scheduling maximizes opportunities for children to participate and benefit from the library's programs.

You can even get seeds for gardening at the library! ...only after returning your books to the monster though.

The third prong of her approach is partnerships. Nokomis Library is collaborating with Minneapolis Kids and Rec Plus, summer camps offered through the public school system and parks department. Both groups will visit the library twice a month. “Let’s maximize our impact with the people who work with the kids the most,” Stuart said. These collaborations not only enrich the library's offerings but also strengthen ties within the community, ensuring that children have access to engaging educational experiences beyond the classroom.

The library features sections for children and teenagers. One section offers toys that change monthly, like garden tools and playhouses, while the teen section has lounge chairs and pamphlets on where to find books that cover topics that teens may be uncomfortable asking about.

On top of an amazing physical set-up, and a new summer plan, Stuart also planned one-time events this summer:

• June 20, 6:30 p.m.: Meet the Author Drew Brockington, author and illustrator of "Catstronauts"

• June 27, 2-3 p.m.: Discover Chemistry in Color workshop (grades 3-5)

• July 13, 2-2:45 p.m.: Lalo’s Lunchbox: Stone Soup Saturday, a family-friendly show

• June 18, 6:30 p.m.: Build a Fairy House (grades 1-5)

• July 19: Slime Table Fun (grades 2-5)

Monthly meetups include:

• 1st Saturdays, 2:30-4:30: Lego Lab

• 3rd Saturdays, 2:30-4:30: Read with an Animal

Weekly meetups include:

• Thursdays, 4-6 p.m.: Nature Trading Place

• Thursdays, 4-6 p.m.: Chess Club

The library is one of the only public places that I know of where people can go and not be expected to spend money. This gives patrons the power to come as they are without having to worry about outside influences. Adding to the feeling of inclusion, Stuart emphasized that to get a library card, people only need to show proof of address. If they would like a different name on their library card than any previous form of ID, the name can be changed – no questions asked. The library also stopped charging late fees to encourage more patrons to check out books. It’s a space that provides so much to the community.

In a world where so many services come with a price tag, Nokomis Library stands as a beacon of accessibility and inclusivity. It's a testament to the power of public resources to bring people together. Its robust children's programming serves as a testament to its dedication to nurturing young minds and fostering a love of learning in all.


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