By Dr. Ginger Gabriel
Special to The Alpine Mountaineer
The several million-dollar Crestline branch San Bernardino County library is probably the most spectacular building in the area.
If you haven’t been in a library lately, you must visit the Crestline branch library (closed Sunday and Friday). You can’t miss it: It’s next to Goodwin’s Market on the north shore of Lake Gregory.
Warning: If you haven’t been in a public library for a while, plan on being shocked, as I was on my first visit to this library on opening day, Oct. 30, 2010.
In the early 2000s, as archives and information shifted online, we read doomsday reports of imminent death to public libraries. It was said that libraries filled with books were obsolete. It was hard to comprehend how much had to happen to make the bold move to digitize universal access to information. Libraries digitized whole book collections and networked their catalogues. E-books and e-readers were introduced. In spite of all the fears, libraries not only survived, they adapted and thrived.
This is what had shocked me when I walked into the new 2010 library. I asked, “Where are the books? Where are the rows of books we had in the old library? What did you do with ‘my’ books?”
Instead of rows of books, there were lots of computers.
I have since joined the 21st century and realize that the installed computers are crucial to people who need access to the Internet but don’t have computers at home. And the library has free WiFi. Twenty computers are available for the general public. Your library card is your password.
In addition to offering new technologies and services, libraries still offer people a welcoming, safe space to gather without the pressure to spend money. You can read a newspaper, flip through a favorite magazine, complete a job application online, sit and enjoy the spectacular view of the lake and leave with several checked-out, promising books.
Over the years I have seen entrepreneurs use the library as a home office. They have been able to do research, make contacts, write reports and send them, scan things and make necessary copies. In the lobby of the library, I’ve seen home schooled kids meet with a teacher, a Spanish speaker learn a new language, as well as an English speaker learn Spanish.
The Crestline library features a delightful children’s section with small tables, small chairs, fluffy bean bags, shelves of kid books and child-sized computers with educational games installed. There is a teen center with teen books and teen-sized tables and stools and teen styled posters.
There is even a private study room with computers if you need even more quiet.
In this community hub, young mothers bring their children to storybook hour and end up making playdates with new friends. Sometimes lifelong friendships are formed. Few people leave without checking out a book or two for themselves and/or their child. Lifelong reading habits are formed.
In my research, I discovered that 23 percent of libraries in the United States offer fitness classes. The Crestline branch library offers a very popular adult yoga class on Wednesdays at noon.
We live in an age where communication technologies create efficiency. Those technologies can also create forms of isolation, so such spaces as a local library become socially important.
I came to the library on this day to do a follow-up story on a 5-year-old receiving his first library card. I noticed that tables with interesting experiments were set up in “our” yoga room. I asked the librarian working there if they were for a particular program. She smiled and handed me a brochure listing all the programs offered.
I read that this Crestline library has several programs for library beginners. I was especially interested in the one for Little Builders. It was a STEM Program for 3 to 5-year-olds. It said, “Join us for some awesome hands-on fun with our interactive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) program. Learn, build and create amazing projects!” The program takes place on Tuesdays at 11 a.m.
I stumbled upon the program that takes place on Wednesdays at 3 p.m. I was in the Kid Zone for 6 to 11-year-olds. The family I was meeting had four kids more or less in that age range and they joined in. First-hand, I watched the “Learnology Lab” in action. This also is a STEM program.
As a mountain resident, I want our mountain kids to have opportunities to explore career options as early as reasonable. I just read that STEM careers in the United States are growing twice as fast as other fields. One group projected that there may be as many as 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs in the U.S. To meet the rapidly growing demand for qualified STEM professionals, we need to consider helping students build the necessary competencies and skill sets to pursue and have access to these opportunities, as well as careers these kids themselves will invent.
These activities in our own branch library help kids foster the interest in and the ability to problem solve, to innovate, invent and work as a team while learning new skills. The Crestline branch library is a good place to start.
As Albert Einstein said, “The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.”
Students at the Crestline library in the STEM program Learnology Lab building bots. (Photos by Ginger Gabriel)
The new Crestline library opened in 2010.