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Community members help bring festive look to library

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 9:00 p.m.
Because of the time and talents of a loyal patron, the Whitehall Public Library has another fantastic addition to its recently remodeled library lobby. This remarkable book Christmas tree is a perfect compliment to the library's welcoming entrance. Last year, when the library director saw a similar-looking tree posted online, she printed it out and showed it to a regular patron (who asked to remain anonymous), whom she knew to be a handyman and all-around great guy. He took the photo home and devised a plan to construct a tree for Whitehall. Submitted photo

Rows of hard-bound books, stacked and balanced on top of one another in the shape of a tree — laced with a string of decorative lights — help to bring holiday cheer to the newly renovated Whitehall Public Library lobby.

The “book tree” at the library's entrance is just one way that members of the Whitehall community are helping to lend a hand at the borough hub.

Youths volunteer to help at library programs, and regular library users have helped to create different centerpieces and accessories for the facility.

“I love being able to tap into local talent,” library director Paula Kelly said. “I try hard to keep it local. I think it's more personal that way.”

When Kelly saw a photo online last summer of a holiday tree, created merely of books stacked in a decorative fashion, she printed out the photo and showed it to a regular library patron, whom she knew to be good with handy projects.

“I thought it was so adorable,” she said. “I gave (the picture) to him and I said, ‘Wouldn't this be fun to do in the library?'”

The retired man, who visits the library about once a week, devised a plan to construct a tree for the Whitehall library, Kelly said.

Using donated books and out-of-date items from the library's collection, the man who asked to remain anonymous, spent less than a day putting together the “book tree,” Kelly said.

The tree has become a focal point in the lobby for the holidays. Patrons now are saying they, too, would like to build a similar tree at their homes, Kelly said.

Other regular library patrons, and community members who don't use the library all that often, too, in recent months, have been spending time to help the library.

Another library patron designed and upholstered a window seat-cushion for the lobby area, Kelly said.

Within the last three months, youths from the area have begun helping to organize and run children's programs at the library, said Denise Ignasky, children and youth services librarian.

Members of the library's “Teen Advisory Group,” who range from sixth to 12th grade and come from various schools in the area, volunteer their time to create displays for the library and assist with children's programs, Ignasky said.

Whitehall Library also has partnered with Baldwin High School FACS teacher and preschool director Virginia Pfatteicher to have students assist with library programs for community service hours.

“It's been wonderful,” said Ignasky, noting that as many as a dozen youths have volunteered to help during a single program at the library.

The most recent was Saturday's life-sized Candy Land game, where youths served as story characters and guides for the program geared for children ages 3 to 8 years old.

“They're taking an active role in helping to run the programs,” Ignasky said. “I really appreciate the enthusiasm that they have.”

The children in the programs also enjoy having the youths volunteer, seeing them as “role models,” Ignasky said. Finding enough youths to volunteer for each library program hasn't been a problem, either.

And they help with all aspects of the programs, from setups to cleanup — providing each child in attendance with more one-on-one attention, Ignasky said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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