By Joseph Robertia
With sheets of ice dominating the landscape in place of the usual snow for winter recreation, some outdoors enthusiasts are spending more time indoors, and local libraries have stepped up to fill the activity void.
“Our programming has definitely increased this winter,” said Veronica Croteau, adult program coordinator at the Kenai Community Library.
While there are year-round staples, such as author lectures and genealogy meetings, Croteau said that some of the new and more popular events at the library have been the ones focusing on things people can make or do at home.
“We started doing DIY, do it yourself programs a few months ago and a lot of people have been really interested in attending, to learn and try new things,” she said.
Simple cheese-making and cooking sourdough pancakes were popular events, and Croteau said that an upcoming activity Jan. 22 is expected to be well attended, too.
“It will be a natural oils/natural makeup workshop. People can come and learn how to make lip balm, hand lotion and body lotion with natural oil, and like all these programs they’ll take home the recipe and samples they make,” she said.
The other well-attended DIY programs have been those related to sewing and knitting, she said.
“The sewing workshops have been really, really popular. We are surprised by the numbers we have been getting. We have 15 people for each class and usually five to six on a waiting list,” she said.
Hosting these programs is about more than giving people something to do for an hour. Croteau said it also ties into having people use the library to further their knowledge and interests in learning.
“People aren’t just learning new things, they’re also able to check out books or use online resources to learn more about these interests, so it makes sense to use the library as a hub for all of this, she said.
And it’s not just adults they are trying to draw in. Several of the library’s programs also appeal to children.
“I think it is important to draw in families to spend time together. Our family concert series lets people come hear music, and we have a family game time each month where we put out a ton of games and families can come in and play together,” she said.
The Soldotna Public Library has also been experiencing an uptick in users, according to librarian Rachel Nash. Part of that is attributed to the library’s youth programming.
“Since we moved in the new building, we’ve been a happening place,” she said. “Especially our Toddler Story Time. It’s very well attended. The earlier you start them on books, the better they do in life. Wanting them to learn to love books, we have board books, picture books and chapter books.”
The Teens at the Library program is geared toward older kids, but still with an aim of learning. A “Let Them Eat Cake” event is planned for Jan. 21, the same day in history that Louis XVI was beheaded in France. It will delve into this decapitation-heavy period, and tie in French snacks to keep always-hungry teens focused.
“The middle and high schoolers made it clear they like doing stuff where food is involved, so we’ve tried to provide that with our programming,” she said.
KJ Hillgren, Soldotna’s youth librarian, said the library’s Lego Club also is heavily utilized by youngsters.
“We got a grant from the state Library Association that paid for a huge tub of Legos, and every week I come up with a challenge. Last week’s was the Space Needle, so we looked at pictures online and talked about it, drew it, then they built their own. Some kids make basic things and some get really elaborate in their designs. One kid even wired Wi-Fi into his,” she said.
Hillgren said the Lego building is about more than the children using their imagination, it’s also about them building relationships with their parents and peers.
“It’s really interactive,” she said. “Their parents are there helping them build, but they also sit and work together with other kids. It’s also great for gearing them toward STEM learning, STEM being Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.”
More information on both libraries’ upcoming programming can be found on their websites, and by stopping by the libraries for printed copies of monthly event calendars. Hillgren said they try to offer a little something for everyone, and encourage people to stop in and give something new a try.
“It can really help relieve some of those feelings of cabin fever,” she said.