It’s often said that libraries are not buildings with books, but resource centers for communities. Buncombe County Libraries have always been perceptive to their neighborhoods’ needs, and when students pivoted to virtual learning our librarians saw a need. In collaboration with Asheville City and Buncombe County schools, Weaverville Librarian Jesse Figuera says librarians from across the County decided to distribute crafting kits, journals, and books. “These materials are key elements of pre-reading and writing readiness,” explains Jesse. “Creative play is so beneficial, rewarding, and such a huge part of development and learning for children of all ages. We wanted children to have the tools they need to read, write, and create something every single day.”
In all, some 5,000 crafting and journaling resource kits were distributed along with more than 7,000 books countywide. Enka-Candler Library Specialist Theresa Wallace was instrumental in coordinating the packaging and distribution of the materials. Librarians from across the County created journals and craft boxes using a wide variety of resources from their homes and offices. And even though resources could be scarce, Theresa says the team always found workarounds. “It was great to see how staff members found multiple ways to overcome obstacles, and the many different types of crafts put together by the library staff shows the level of creativity of these folks,” she says.
The craft kits had a variety of materials such as glue, scissors, stickers, crayons, and other essentials for making puppets and other art. The journal kits were mostly handmade by librarians, and Fairview Library Specialist Jennifer Prince says the time and dedication of the County’s Librarians shows in the final product. “The journals are works of art and tangible expressions of how much County Librarians love the kids and teens they serve,” says Jennifer. “Some journals have hand-sewn bindings, some have pristine bindings made of patterned paper, and some have envelope pockets inside so kids could hide stickers and notes.”
This project shows the innovation and adaptive nature of Buncombe County librarians while leaving a positive impression on thousands of kids by providing resources during uncertain times. “We want children and families to know that we are thinking of them, and that their friends at the library miss them,” says Jesse. “This is who we are. I see these kits as another opportunity for the library to empower our youngest book lovers and support our families and caregivers during this difficult time.” Theresa says she’s ecstatic to have been a part of this project and notes it’s inherent to her job as a public servant. “It’s great to serve and provide items for children and I hope it provided encouragement to parents. It lets them know we missed them in the Buncombe County Library and are thinking of our patrons.” Ultimately, Jennifer says this group effort highlights the library system’s ability to identify a need, pool resources from across the County, and execute it. “I love the idea that with these resource kits, we made a scary time a little less scary for kids and teens.”
Thank you Jesse, Theresa, Jennifer, and all the other Buncombe County library staff and partners that helped make this initiative a reality.