Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

2 Different Items About the Same Place

1) I stopped by the East Columbia Library tonight and saw a great crowd from the Howard Astronomical League joined by a number of library patrons enjoying tonight's clear sky and some great views of Saturn and the Moon. Check out their website to see when they meet (obviously it depends on weather). They are one of the great examples of fun local groups worth taking a break from the rush of our normal lives to enjoy.

2) While I was at the library it got me thinking about this story in the Sun on Sunday about a program for 10 to 14 year olds at East Columbia Library whose funds (all one time grants) are about to run out. Here is some background from the Sun article:

A highly praised after-school program at the east Columbia library has helped dozens of pupils from nearby Cradlerock School and reduced library disruptions, but officials have no money to keep it operating beyond June.

Teen Time organizer Contobia Adams created so much excitement over the program among middle school pupils that she has a waiting list for the free, four-afternoon-a-week sessions, and parents and local leaders love it.

But two grants that produce $33,500 for a small part-time staff, snacks and field trips for 35 children are due to run out after this school year, and library Director Valerie Gross said she has no firm financing for the fall.

"The kids would like it [to continue] through the summer, and parents want it to operate on Fridays, too," Gross said. "What we are hoping for is funding from some source."

Horizon Foundation provided a $15,000 grant, and the Friends of Howard County Library pitched in $18,500 on a one-time basis. The library contributes space, material and staff time.

The program "has been successful beyond our dreams," Gross said. "We're eaching the students to understand they are in control of their decisions, and every decision has a consequence. It was not working with them simply being in the library."

Adams, who started the program a year ago after creating a similar one for the Woodlawn library in Baltimore County, said her idea was to create a program designed to excite middle school pupils who otherwise might prefer to be unsupervised between 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., the hours of the program.

She enrolls every child who shows an interest, she said, and then, using an interview process every six weeks, weeds out those who are not as committed or willing to follow the rules.

During the year, some children leave, and others on the list are admitted.

But the effect of the interviews is to build a bit of exclusivity that makes the program more desirable to the 10- through 14-year-olds the program serves.

"I get them in to find out how fun and rewarding it is," Adams said. "Then we back off and find out the true soldiers who really want to be there. I'm a hard person. I'm not an easy person."

The Lazarus Foundation provided laptop computers to help with homework, and Cradlerock School has worked with the program to enrich it with books and staff support, said Principal Jason McCoy.

This program sounds like a great program that gets a big bang for its buck. I remember back to when they first built East Columbia library and there were a lot of complaints about middle school students hanging out in the library and disrupting other library users. Personally I thought it was great that middle school students were spending their time in the library and I am a strong advocate for allowing kids to have fun, but I also saw a couple occations when the students were disrupting other library users. This program sounds like a great solution and something society should want to invest in anyways: the teaching of the consequences of actions and the encouragement of critical thinking. I hope the money can be found for keeping this successful program going and hopefully expanding it to other libraries.


Anonymous Stephen Meskin said...

I was thinking about this library program while I watched the TC Board vote to increase its expense from $10,000 to $16,000 for window treatments at Oakland. The expense may be justified in some metaphysical sense but the juxtaposition jolted me.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Evan said...

Yes, considering the small cost of the program at the library you would think we could find the money for it, especially if we have our priorities right. I am a strong advocate in maintaining our community buildings like Oakland, but I think we can find something else in the budget to cut or we could choose that the money is worth the investment by the community. I mean what is government if not the community coming together to pool their resources so that they can look out for the needs of the community in a way that is cheaper to do together than as indiviuals.

1:23 AM  
Anonymous Regina said...

I agree that we should invest more money in our Libraries. Libraries are one of my favorite places. I can borrow books or movies, instead of buying them. I can read the newspapers and magazines there, so I don't have to get them delivered to my house. There are maps, phone books, and very helpful staff at the library

Libraries are wonderful places where they have a whole range of activities for a whole range of people. I am always so pleased when I see children at the library doing their homework. Not all families can afford to buy all of the latest and greatest encyclopedias, computers or other items needed to help the children with research projects. Libraries play an important role in the betterment our future leaders.

Window treatments may be nice, but do they actually help a child learn something, or become inspired to become a scientist or mathematician?

6:24 PM  

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