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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sharing Stories at Richard Byrd

Intern Eleanor Lamb created
 a poster series for a
Library Stories gallery.
“I love visiting the library in the neighborhood with my kids and helping them pick out books. You see children’s eyes light up.”
     -Tim Kasik, Crestwood Elementary principal

“I consider the library a community center. As a volunteer and community leader, I use it for meeting space.” 
     -JB Young, local leader

Most library customers come to the library hoping to find a good story. They don’t expect to walk through the doors and find that they ARE the story. At the Richard Byrd branch this summer, users of the library have had the chance to add their experiences to the collective story of the library. Eleanor Lamb, a student intern from The College of William and Mary, has spent the summer gathering and sharing these stories for the Friends of the Richard Byrd Library. Visit Richard Byrd Library from August 18 to August 22 to tour a poster gallery featuring highlights of the Library Stories project. Tux, the Richard Byrd mascot, will make a special appearance from 1-3 pm on August 19th.

Friends President Christine Peterson identified the Library Stories project as a way to support both the library and the Springfield community during the Fairfax County Public Library’s 75th anniversary celebrations this year. After careful research and assistance from the American Library Association, the Friends successfully applied for a generous grant from the Exxon Mobile Corporation to support the project.

Janelle Cesari discusses her
childhood library experiences.
To capture the story of what the library meant to the people of the community, Lamb asked visitors a new question each week. The questions ranged from “What kind of library books do you like?” to “How has the library improved you as a person?” The answers reveal both the special place the library has in the hearts of users and the vital role the library plays in the community. The answers were not all complimentary, however. Lamb and Peterson chuckled over one little girl who commented that she didn’t like coming to the library, because it was too quiet for her.

Lamb found that libraries have had a profound impact on many users’ lives. Janelle Cesari, growing up in a small, blue-collar town in Pennsylvania, related that the library opened up the world to her. For some, getting their first library card was a significant milestone. Lamb said, “I talked to three kids who had just gotten their library cards that same day, and they were so excited. I got pictures of them with their cards, and they couldn't wait to get ready for school with them.” 
Lee District Supervisor Jeffrey McKay
speaks on his use of library meeting rooms.

For others, library services are critical to their daily life. Supervisor Jeffrey McKay not only takes his children to the library but also uses library meeting spaces professionally.  Yessy Vargas, an immigrant from Peru, brought her daughter to storytime even though she was initially hesitant to come to the library. “Because of storytime, my daughter loves to read and write,” Vargas said. Eleven-year-old Evelyn Fernandez comes to the library all the time with her mother and siblings. “I come here during school a lot. I read books and do my homework. I use the computer sometimes for science projects,” Fernandez said.

Robert Byrd Breyer, grandson of Richard
Byrd, comments on his library experience.
When asked if the Library Stories project held any surprises, Friends President Christine Peterson remarked, “Maybe just the sheer number of people who rely on the library so heavily.” Referring to the many programs and community services Richard Byrd offers to those who are new to America, Peterson said, “This is critical for our community. This makes Springfield better and makes those individuals better, and I hope that continues into the future.”

To see the range of stories the Friends have collected this summer, you can check out the Friends of the Richard Byrd Facebook page.  New stories will be added to the Facebook page through December. 

-Rebecca Wolff, Centreville Regional Library

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