For more than 50 years, the Oakley Library has given its community something to crow about. Literally and figuratively. Built in 1972, it quickly established itself as a cornerstone of the Oakley and Shiloh neighborhoods. “So many of the folks who come in regularly say, ‘Oh, I live two streets over. It's amazing having a library in my backyard!’ You have families who walk or bike to the library for story time then spend their day afterward at the park,” says Librarian Grace Dow. “Patrons and staff alike also really enjoy the fact that our library is an unofficial wildlife observation station. With the large windows overlooking leafy treetops, we get a front-row seat to a great variety of furry and feathered guests including squirrels, cardinals, blue jays, hawks, and the occasional vulture. You might also hear the pitter-patter of feet overhead as crows run across our rooftop.”
Beyond being a wildlife way station, Oakley Library is also adjacent to Murphy-Oakley Park, a 7.7-acre recreation area with a playground, tennis/pickleball/basketball courts, a picnic shelter, and more. However, inside is where the real magic happens. “Oakley is a small branch, often described as cozy and homey with our houseplants and artwork atop the stacks, the latest Lego club creations on display, children’s book characters painted on the wall in the adult fiction section, and imaginative displays geared to adult and juvenile patrons,” explains Branch Manager Cheryl Middleton. “In this cozy and welcoming environment, we have a top-notch collection that is thoughtfully selected, maintained, and weeded on a regular basis so that it continues to be relevant to the community.”
The Oakley branch also specializes in dinosaurs. For many years there was a 6’x9’ Triceratops named Buttercup in the lobby who was a favorite of young patrons. Unfortunately, Buttercup retired in 2020 when the lobby became the branch’s curbside pickup location during the early days of Covid and staff miss hearing “There’s Buttercup” yelled out as kids open the front door. Librarian Ava Scales is helping keep the Jurassic tradition alive. “My favorite part of my job is making kids excited to see what dinosaur shirt I have on that day. They always get a kick out of it,” she exclaims. “A little boy who came in was so excited to see my Jurassic Park shirt. He then started telling me all he knew about T-Rexes. It really made my day to see him so excited.” And it’s that type of passionate and creative personalized service the Oakley staff loves to provide, so if you’re looking anything from computer help to book recommendations, they’ve got you covered. “We have resources like our picture-book binder that suggests books to kids based on topic of interest, or the read-alike board in our adult fiction section where you can look for your favorite author's name and find recommendations for other writers to try out,” notes Librarian Grace Dow. “And for any patrons on social media, you can follow our Facebook or Instagram accounts for updates about upcoming programs, staff book recommendations, highlights of recent book displays, and more.” In fact, when asked her favorite part of the job, Librarian Anne Norton answers, “Interacting with patrons and learning new things on a daily basis.”
And if crows, dinosaurs, and book suggestions galore aren’t enough, there’s a robust story time program for babies (registration is required), toddlers, and more that’s wildly popular. Or you can also browse the well-stocked children’s room with your little ones. “I love shelving in the children's room and hearing adult patrons reading aloud to children. My favorite moment is still when one child took over reading and finished the book themselves,” notes Librarian Laura Wilson. And for the older kids, Laura says they’ve got them covered, “We have a great juvenile graphic novel selection for younger readers where we face out the new books to help our patrons find something new and exciting to read!”
Maybe you’re looking for some more passive media, if so you’re in luck. “The Oakley branch has an excellently curated collection of digital media, especially our DVDs. My coworkers spend a lot of time making sure we have a diverse and excellent selection of TV shows and movies in our permanent collection,” explains Laura.
At the end of the day, whatever brings you to the Oakley Library will likely keep you coming back over the years and beyond. “Parents and children who were regulars at baby story time still check in, like the mom and 15-year-old daughter who recently stopped in, and I was able to share a photo taken at story time when she was six months old. Or the family who moved out of state and recently emailed to see if I was still working and wanted to visit on their next trip to Asheville,” recalls Cheryl. Come find out why the Oakley Library should be your family tradition, or take some time to revisit some old family traditions.
Oakley Library overview
Hours: Tuesday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Wednesday-Friday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Staff: Cheryl Middleton (Branch Manager), Grace Dow (Librarian-Youth Services), Anne Norton (Library Assistant), Ava Scales (Library Assistant), Laura Wilson (Library Assistant)
Resources, services, and offerings: Computer access, free Wi-Fi, park and playground nearby, printing and copying, research help, public transit access, hotspot lending, Teacher Subject requests
Unique services and hidden gems: Large juvenile and teen graphic novel collections, annual stuffed animal sleepover, ongoing used book sale, weekly baby and toddler story times, twice monthly Lego club, picture bookbinder for book recommendations, extensive large print book collection, large selection of DVDs of popular TV series, monthly Take-and-Make craft kits, YMCA Mobile Market, and one-on-one technology training by request.
Additional thoughts from staff:
- “I don’t like my job. I love my job, and I don’t even like calling it that, a job, because it has never felt that way to me. The connections I have made over the many years I’ve worked at Oakley, and the ones I still make every single day, mean the world to me. It’s a joy to see a child light up because you put that special book in their hands or you take the time to have a conversation with them, and to have a teenager sing a song you taught them in story time when they were little, and to hear the relief in an adult’s voice when you sit down with them at the computer to help sort out whatever problem they’re having. A patron apologized for lacking computer skills and for ‘taking me away from my work’ after I helped her set up a word document and gave some basic word processing training. I reassured her that helping patrons with whatever they need, whether book or computer related, is the most important work that I do.” – Cheryl
- “We’re in the middle of the Summer Reading Program which is a favorite time of the year. We all love that the kids get so excited to sign up, find out how they can earn a free book, and personalize an oak leaf to add to our “Mighty Oak” in the front window”. –Cheryl
- “Every day patrons come into our branch and use the public computers to print things or access the internet. Sometimes, our patrons have problems logging into things or getting something to work. Our branch is lucky enough to have several employees who know a lot about technology and can help with most problems, especially our manager Cheryl who has a history of IT” – Laura
- What makes your library special? “The great group of people that I get to work with every day. And that we are right next to a park, so many families come to our branch to utilize both.” – Ava
- “You expect to find stories within the spines of all the books on the shelves, but did you realize that most of the artwork around the library also has a story behind it? Whether it's the wooden sculptures and metal sunburst donated by patrons, the children's-book-themed mural painted by Warren Wilson College students, or the paintings up above the shelves that used to be a circulating part of the collection. Cheryl is a wealth of information about the history behind each item and will gladly tell you the stories if you want to know.” – Grace
- “We have been a part of the Oakley and Shiloh communities for over 50 years.” – Anne