by HELEN KORNEFFEL
Tucked away in a cozy corner of Downtown Utica, not far from the bustling activity of Hall Road, the Utica Public Library’s inviting, quaint charm stands with its doors open, welcoming residents young and old.
“The library is really a lifeline for some people,” said Marsha Doege, Director of the Utica Public Library. “People come to this library when they need to find something out about our community; we really hold the knowledge and history of the city.”
The Utica Public Library was saved two years ago from having to shorten its hours and cut staffing because of a lack of funding. A millage was passed in 2016 that stopped this from occurring. Instead of shortening its hours to 25 hours a week, the library can thank the millage and those who voted for it for an increase in staff and activities.
“Two years ago we asked for a millage, and they approved it,” said Doege. “That was just enough money to hire someone part-time to take care of our children’s services and to start some more programs because we couldn’t afford any children’s programs before.”
Katherine Francis, Children’s Services Coordinator at the library, was hired after the millage was passed. Francis runs the Summer Reading Program and other children’s activities at the library. Francis is an avid supporter of reading and promotes the importance of having children read over the summer to keep the skills they learned over the school year sharp.
“If you’re not reading, you’re not able to function at your best,” said Francis. “Reading is very important, and it starts at a very young age. Even reading street signs and instructions for things are very important developmentally. ”
On Tuesday, July 10, Francis hosted one of the numerous kids craft events the library is hosting this summer. The event theme was “DIY Mini Fairy Garden.” Participants were given a kit of materials including river rocks, mini faux succulents, and flowers to use to make their very own fairy gardens.
“These free activities at the library really allow the people of Utica to come together as a community,” said Francis. “I like to put a little bit of teaching behind some of the programs as well, so it’s not only reading every time the kids come in.”
The Summer Reading Program at the library experienced a revamping over the past few years and members of the community are taking advantage of every event and fun activity the library has to offer. Utica resident Lori Kleckner was excited to be with her child at their first event at the library.
“My daughter is starting preschool next year, and I feel like this (summer reading program) will be a good tool for her,” said Kleckner.
Weekly summer events at the library include Storytime on Wednesday mornings and Paws for Reading on Thursday mornings. Upcoming events on July 16 include a Selfie Scavenger Hunt, Poetry Slam, and Poetry Creation Station. Visit the library on July 17 for CD Scratch Art, and Puzzle Day on July 23. Finishing out the program, there will be an End of Summer Reading Party on July 30 that will include pizza and a petting zoo.
Participants can register for Summer Reading any time during the six-week program. Registration prior to the events is recommended due to limited space. For more information about the Summer Reading Program and upcoming events at the Utica Public Library, call 586-731-4141 or visit uticalibrary.com.