New library computer big draw for young patrons

Sean C. Morgan

Thanks to a grant from the Sweet Home Community Foundation, the Sweet Home Public Library has added a new computer dedicated to after-school education, building on the “early literacy station” it already has in place.

It’s been a big hit, just in the first few days.

“We’ve already had a little girl who came in Friday. She was so excited that we got another computer for the older kids,” said Library Director Rose Peda, adding that the young patron was excited to find a typing game.

The girl had learned to tie her shoes at the early literacy station, Peda said. Heading to the library one day, “her mom said, ‘Let me help you tie your shoes.’ She said, “Nope, I learned at the library on the computer.”

The computer system cost $3,148. The Sweet Home Community Foundation provided a $2,000 grant to complete the project during its annual grant awards on March 19. Additional funding came from the library’s budget and the Friends of the Library.

In 2015, the foundation provided a grant to fund the early literacy station, Peda said. That computer is used by children through about kindergarten age, who entertain themselves with a variety of educational games.

“This computer is very popular, and frequently we will have three to four children huddled around listening, learning and playing on the computer,” Peda said. “Kids are very good at sharing the time.”

Since the early literacy computer purchase, many children have reached an age where it is not as challenging.

“The kids that play on it regularly have just outgrown it,” said librarian Joy Kistner. They’ve learned their shapes, colors and alphabet, and they needed something more challenging.

The new computer, “AfterSchool Edge,” is aimed at children ages 6 to 12. It contains more than 70 educational software titles, with more than 4,000 multi-curricular learning activities, ideal for all learning styles: auditory, visual, tactile and kinesthetic, Peda said. The content is aligned with current academic standards.

“I like that it’s touch screen,” said Haley Reynolds, 10, who is the same girl who learned to tie her shoes using the older computer. Using the computer, “I learned all about the human body.”

She likes that she can play games while learning, she said. Her favorite game on the new computer is “Cursive Writing Wizard.”

A couple of program highlights are “Return to Mechania,” in which children learn basic principles of mechanical engineering and “BBC Science Simulations 2,” in which they can conduct a series of virtual experiments in natural and physical sciences. On the early literacy station, children can put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

“The expected outcome is an increase in circulation of and use of juvenile nonfiction books,” Peda said. “We expect that as children discover topics on the computer, they will want to learn more and explore these topics further through the resources available at the library.”

The two computer stations are open to any children visiting the library, she said.

The computers are isolated, not connecting to the Internet, she said. “Parents can feel comfortable that anything on these computers is age-appropriate and educational.”

The computers are popular, Peda said. The amount of use varies, but she estimates some 15 to 20 children per day use them.

“During spring break, they were constantly busy,” she said. Parents would take their children to Sankey Park and then stop by the library for a break, and the children would use the computers.

Children are excited about the new computer, she said, especially the ones who “aged out” of the old one.

“We’re very appreciative of the Sweet Home Community Foundation for giving us the grant,” Peda said. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

The Sweet Home Public Library is a department of the City of Sweet Home. The library is budgeted to spend about $318,000 on operations in fiscal 2018-19. It is funded by a five-year local option property tax levy.

In other business, Kistner excitedly announced that the library received its first “Baby Blast” gift certificate.

Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital contacted the library last year about participating in Baby Blast, an open house the hospital hosts that provides information and supplies to new parents.

Organizations and agencies serving pregnant women and newborns through toddler-aged children come together in one place for the Baby Blast event, Kistner said. While there in 2018, library staff learned that Lebanon Public Library offered gift certificates through local pediatricians to encourage parents to take their children to the library and to buy books.

Sweet Home copied that idea and provided gift certificates to area pediatricians during Baby Blast in February, Kistner said, and Friday, the library got its first one back.

With the Baby Blast certificate, parents will receive a “board book,” books with thicker pages made resilient for use by babies; a Sweet Home Public Library bag; and information on books babies like.