Kittanning library turning page to 90 years

Shaun Dowd reads and plays with his 2-year-old son, Dawson Dowd, at the Kittanning Public Library. The library will hold an open house on Thursday, April 18, 2013, to celebrate its longevity and unique programs.
Shaun Dowd reads and plays with his 2-year-old son, Dawson Dowd, at the Kittanning Public Library. The library will hold an open house on Thursday, April 18, 2013, to celebrate its longevity and unique programs.
| Sunday, April 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Logos, Legos and lattes are all happening at 280 N. Jefferson St, Kittanning. The address is home to a 90-year-old who shows no signs of slowing down.

The caretakers of this nonagenarian, the directors and staff of the Kittanning Public Library, invite residents to join them at an open house from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday to kick off a year of special events to celebrate this milestone.

Founded in 1922 and open for business in 1923, the Kittanning Public Library became reality with the help of many dedicated residents and businesses. However, two local women, Mrs. J.R. Einstein and Mrs. Neal Heilman, are considered to be the driving force behind it.

Although some things remain the same, it takes only a quick glance around the current facility to realize this is not your great-grandmother's library.

Beth Milanak, library director, has been instrumental in recent changes, especially in a redesign of the library's physical space. Patrons can enjoy a café-like area with comfortable seating and small tables that are conducive to relaxing alone or in small groups. Add to this the Wi-Fi capability, gourmet coffee-maker and abundance of natural light, and it becomes an inviting area for all to use.

“We want everyone to feel welcome in our library,” Milanak said. “I consider this to be a family-friendly community center.”

Books can still be found on the shelves, but the library also is home to electronic reading devices. Personal computers are available for public use while in the building, and PC-compatible stories, music and movies are on loan for use at home.

Some library services can even be accessed without leaving the comfort of home. General library information can be obtained from the library website,, where members also can request and renew materials, research information through library-sponsored data bases and download electronic books.

The library's staff is well-versed in the diverse multi-media collection, which has grown exponentially since the original 1923 collection of approximately 300 books. And, if what you are looking for can not be found in the library's current collection of more than 35,000 works, then the staff will go to great lengths to find it elsewhere.

According to Linda Cunningham, interlibrary loan librarian, “The PA Access system is a resource available to anyone with a library card. If we don't own it, we can borrow it from a lending library across the state, be it a public library, university or school system.”

The staff also conducts programs for all ages. The long-standing favorite, story hour, has helped to foster a love of books for generations of Kittanning residents.

Assistant librarian Christina Adams currently coordinates the group, open to preschoolers, which meets for an hour on Fridays.

“Story hour is an easy way for the kids to interact with one another, be kids and learn while having fun,” she says. “Meanwhile, the parents can relax and also make friends themselves.”

Adams also oversees a new program, Lego night, which has been well-received by the elementary-school crowd. The library provides space, supervision and building materials; participants are asked to bring their imagination.

This same age group (kindergarten through sixth grade), can explore the artiste' within during Saturday craft sessions, led by assistant librarian Sarah Kirkwood.

Music for Preschoolers, conducted by member volunteer Claire Osborne, allows young participants the chance to perform with enthusiasm for an hour each Tuesday, using simple musical instruments that are conveniently left at the library at each session's end.

Anime, a group of creative teens, meets at the library, as well. Regularly scheduled adult programs, such as the book discussion group and Tech Tuesdays, are proving popular.

Bob and Becky McAfoose recently commented on Bob's participation in Tech Tuesdays, where computer basics are introduced in a small group setting. “I can at least turn on the computer now,” Bob said, “And I'm starting to know where to go from there.”

McAfoose said he received individual attention in each hour-long session. His wife added, ”He had nothing to lose in trying. It was a positive experience.”

The Concordia Speakers' Bureau will be presenting monthly lectures on healthy living topics, such as Tai-Chi and caregiver stress reduction.

Like most of their contemporaries, the library staff members strongly rely on community support. There are many ways for individuals and groups to donate. Monetary gifts for memorials and other library needs as well as donations of time and expertise are accepted.

The Friends of the Kittanning Public Library coordinates its efforts to raise funds, too. As part of the 90th anniversary celebration, they are hosting a soup and salad luncheon on May 8, with reservations recommended. Spring basket raffle ticket sales are ongoing until then.

The annual used book sale, the library's largest fundraising event, begins on April 18, with a preview sale for those who wish to pay $5 for a chance to shop early (from 6 to 8 p.m.). The sale, held at St John's Lutheran Church, which is adjacent to the library, continues on Friday (9 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and Saturday (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Admission is free on these two days. Books are sold at various prices, but can be purchased for $3 a box on Saturday.

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