The Victoria Public Library fosters fun and a love of literacy for children while connecting adults through creative programming. The building is a light and airy hub for families, especially during the summer months. As the pandemic recedes, the library is offering a series of in-person, free events each week for both children and adults called Library Fun Fest.

“Library Fun Fest coincides with our summer reading challenge, and helps alleviate the summer slide when kids are out of school,” said Katie Talhelm, program services lead for children and teens at the library. “They have a tendency to lose what they learn and this helps alleviate the slide back. Hopefully it helps them retain what they learned in school.”

The library’s programming for children touches on a wide variety of subjects ranging from literature and art to math and science.

“It runs the whole gamut of program opportunities that cover a wide range of interests,” Talhelm said. “There’s something for everybody.”

With regular events like Family Story Time every Wednesday and Thursday, children, especially those under age 5, can associate reading with singing and dancing. Bilingual Story Time Live offers an opportunity for children to learn basic vocabulary, numbers, letters, colors and more. Family Fort Night sounds like a blast. Teams build forts and then read books or do puzzles in them, among other activities. Crafternoon is hosted every other week, and gives children the chance to practice their artistic abilities.

Canvas Kids is the most popular program currently, Talhelm said. It’s an art program that uses more than just a canvas. Bags, T-shirts, paper and rocks also have been used. And paintbrushes are also not always the vehicle for applying paint. Think water guns.

“We like to think outside the box in how we approach painting. It’s not necessarily an easel with a paintbrush and palette,” Talhelm said.

Opportunities to do art and make crafts are popular with adults, too, said Brianna Valenzuela, public services librarian in charge of adult programming at the library. Recently, a collage night and pour painting class were well attended. In July, the library will offer paw print art that incorporates the use of people’s pets. Also popular are the True Crime and Killers Book Club, which includes game nights, and VPL Jams, which features the music of local musicians in hour-long concerts inside the library. Manga Madness, a program that focuses on Japanese comics, is a favorite among teenagers.

“With being stuck inside last year, it’s nice to have someplace to get out and have fun,” Valenzuela said. “We wanted to focus on providing a fun place to meet new, like-minded people. We want to build that community togetherness.”

Over the last 20 years, libraries as a whole have shifted from places used explicitly for research and checking out books to hubs for communities, Talhelm said.

“There has been an increase in digital reading of books, but libraries have stayed relevant in society,” Talhelm said. “We have not seen a drop in people checking out physical items. It’s not just a place to read, it’s a place to learn new skills, watch a movie and do fun activities.”

The great thing about the library is that it offers all of these activities at no cost for all members of the community. A library card is not needed to participate in the activities, and for those who want a card to check out books, that’s free, too.

Talhelm, Valenzuela and other employees of the Victoria Public Library have done a great job of creating interesting programming for the community, and we encourage them to keep up the good work.

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This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

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