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Valley libraries offer more than just books

| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, 9:00 p.m.
Susie Torbar of Monessen gets help with a computer from Monessen Public Library circulation clerk Dorothy Sadler. Torbar comes to the library at least twice a week to use the computers. She doesn't have one at home, so she thinks it's great that the library offers this service. Jim Ference | The Valley Independent

Libraries are more than a place where books live.

They are also a place where you can read in a relaxed environment, learn hands-on technical and job-seeking skills, participate in library activities and events, and meet other book lovers.

The Mid-Mon Valley has many libraries that welcome patrons to visit, join and take advantage of all they have to offer.

Rostraver Public Library

At Rostraver Public Library, about 20 women meet on Wednesdays to knit hats and sweaters for needy children.

Director Fran Rendulic says women need only bring a No. 8 knitting needle to the afternoon and evening sessions to learn to knit the articles for a worthy cause. The yarn is free for making the charity outerwear.

“The knitting group is really, really taking off,“ Rendulic says. “A woman has been coming here from Finleyville about two years now. We're also thinking about starting a crocheting group.”

Relocating to 700 Plaza Drive about six years ago, the library holds an annual wine-tasting fundraiser, sponsors book signings for area writers and has hosted the Mon Valley Garden Club's annual exhibit on two occasions.

Each year, it welcomes Rostraver Police Lt. John Christner, who talks about drug and alcohol abuse, and the library sponsors financial seminars for parents and college-age students.

Rendulic says a new “Sweet Pea” project for parents whose infants have died meets at the library to work through the healing process by making hats for premature infants.

Story times for 3- to 5-year-olds are held for 12 to 14 weeks in the spring and fall and a summer reading program for 3- to 12-year-olds runs 12 weeks, with a different theme each week.

Volunteers from AARP are available from January to April to help prepare income tax returns.

Township residents are welcome to use the eight adult and two children's computers on site.

“We're a pretty friendly library here, and we have very good attendance,” Rendulic says.

The library is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

Monessen Public Library

At the Monessen Public Library and Cultural Center, children's director Jill Godlewski is looking to engage teens and older patrons in popular and perennial favorite board games two Saturdays a month.

“We're hoping to target all age groups here,“ Godlewski says. “We have story times for small children and crafts for middle school students, and we need something for the older grades and population. You can come play board games such as Scrabble or Settlers of Catan, which is a hugely popular game.”

Godlewski says story times for preschoolers are at 2:30 p.m. Mondays and again at 6 p.m. for entire families. She says members of the community serve as guest readers for story hour the last Monday of the month, with Monessen Mayor Mary Jo Smith as its next scheduled reader.

Wednesdays are “Crafternoons” from 5 to 6:30 p.m., where youngsters in grades 4 and up make craft projects using duct tape, pompons and other supplies. “At some point, we're going to bring in crocheting and get into some long-term, more-complex projects,” Godlewski says.

Godlewski says the children's area recently acquired a large-screen television that will feature holiday movies through Dec. 19. The feature films will alternate classics, comedies and cartoons.

The annual Christmas party with Santa is 5 p.m. Dec. 17.

The library also hosts special programs such as speakers from PA CleanWays and the Westmoreland Bar Association and presentations by the Westmoreland Symphony Quartet.

Library hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays; and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays.

California Public Library

Coined the “Information Station“ because of its train station location, the California Public Library is slowly refurbishing its facility, recently installing a terra cotta roof, renovating the lobby and is in the progress of refurbishing the children's room.

Amelia Mitchell, board treasurer, says the library offers monthly Saturday reading programs for kids and monthly craft times in conjunction with the California Borough Recreation Authority. She says the craft sessions are usually theme-related and are designed for children age 2 through grades 4 or 5.

“We also have two e-book (readers) that patrons can check out and a laptop and projector that they can rent in case they have a family reunion and want to project a PowerPoint show,” Mitchell says.

“If we don't have the books patrons are looking for, they can do an interlibrary loan,” Mitchell says. “And, if they have a favorite book they want to read and we get a lot of requests for it, then we'll just buy the book.”

Computer classes on how to use email, do web searches and interact on Facebook, etc., were offered this past year, as well as Excel and Microsoft Office instructions.

A month-long summer reading program is held each year, with this year's theme “Digging Into Reading.”

Library hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

Monongahela Area Public Library

One-on-one computer instruction is offered at Monongahela Area Public Library afternoons in December and at various times in the summer. College students volunteer to help patrons with specific computer skills.

“This is for people who may know how to get on to the Internet, but may need specific help with creating or adding an email address or applying for jobs online,” says director Elina Filander. “They teach you the skills specific to what you need.“

The computer classes are available 1 to 5 p.m. by appointment.

Story hour is led by Rebecca Budzik starting at 11 a.m. Wednesdays. They are designed for children 30 months to age 5. Craft and game programs are scheduled at various times throughout the year.

A Coupon Club meets at the library the second and last Tuesday of each month. “They exchange coupons and offer some programs and sites on more complex couponing,” Filander says.

The Mon Valley Writers Group meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at the library. Filander says these writers share new ideas, exchange their personal literary writings and critique each other's work.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The library will not open until 4 p.m. on Dec. 11 to 13.

John K. Tener Library, Charleroi

Children's coordinator Heather Wollett offers a unique interactive Baby Lapsit story time for infants and toddlers under 24 months of age at John K. Tener Public Library in Charleroi.

“These usually include parents and kids up to age 18 months,” says director Toni Zbyl. “They do story time with songs and a lot of finger play, rhyme time and tickle time. It's really very cute.”

Also for youngsters, the library offers a weekly “Make it and Take It” craft project at its large craft station.

“It's open all week long and kids can come in any time and make a fresh new craft each week and take it home with them,” Zbyl says.

The children's programs also include regular monthly story times for preschoolers, movie times and special events.

The director says the library now has larger dedicated story time and craft areas located in the lower level, as well as a Teen and Young Adult Room for monthly book club meetings. An Adult Book Club also meets there monthly.

E-books and audio books are available for free checkout, and personalized assistance is offered for resume writing, with resumé faxing and printing free of charge.

The library offers one-one-one computer classes to “walk you through the basics.”

Zbyl says the library holds an annual wine-tasting event and bingo nights twice a year. The annual book sale is held in June.

The library is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

Other libraries around the Mid-Mon Valley include the Smithton Public Library, the Bentleyville Public Library and the Carnegie Library of McKeesport located in Elizabeth Township.

Colleen Pollock is a freelance writer.

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