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Children to get a room of their own at Saxonburg Area Library

| Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, 12:02 a.m.
Natalie Zolinas, 3, and her brother RJ Zolinas, 5, of Jefferson Towship, play in the future site of Cooper's Children's Area at the Saxonburg Area Library as director Erin Wincek sets up a computer station at the service desk, which is made of recycled books, on Thursday November 1, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch

Children in the Saxonburg area will have a special place at the library starting this month.

The Saxonburg Area Library will open its Cooper Children's Room on Nov. 17.

It's named after Reldon and Hattie Cooper, a Saxonburg couple who were involved in the community and provided the original donation used to build the meeting room that will house the children's room.

The library, which serves the communities of Saxonburg, Winfield and Clinton, has been working to raise money for the room for more than a year and brought in about $60,000.

“A lot of people have contributed over time,” library Director and Children's Librarian Erin Wincek said.

That includes a $2,500 state Preschool Connections grant.

Feeling like the children's section of the library was used the most but underserved, community members and library staff decided to convert the unused meeting room into the children's room.

“It was a very much in-demand need,” library Trustee Pam Stivason of Winfield said.

Work started on the room in September. It will house children's books, four touch-screen computers, a train table and a check-out desk made of recycled books — mostly out-of-date encyclopedias.

Wincek has been with the library for two years and, in that time, she's seen the library grow a lot.

In the last year, the library saw a 51 percent jump in the number of people registering for cards.

She said overall circulation has jumped 22 percent in the same amount of time.

More than that, though, Wincek says she feels like the library is more than just a quiet place to check out books.

“We've been trying to re-envision the library as a community gathering place,” she said.

The parking lot for the library was always full because there was a popular bar next door.

Now, she says, it's full because people are coming for the library, and she hopes it continues to be a hub for the community.

After the children's room is completed, the next task will be to build a teen center for the library, too.

“There's nothing for them right now,” Wincek said.

She said any money that's left over from the children's room will go toward that project and then the fundraising will continue again.

Sarah Kovash is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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