Adventures at the Library

By Harriet Monzon-Aguirre
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Visit to the Palm Harbor Library

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I recently listened to WUSF’s Arts Axis Florida podcast “There’s No “I” In Art”. The interview with Palm Harbor Library Director Gene Coppola piqued my interest for two reasons.

The first reason was the creative space known as the Hazel L. Incantalupo MakerSpace or MakerSpace for short. When host Malaika Hollist and Gene described an area where parents are not allowed – and kids have free reign to create whatever they like – we eagerly went to check out the Palm Harbor Library.

Madeline and William were so excited to enter the children’s department of a different library. They whizzed around the shelves and bookcases before returning to my side at the children’s desk where they signed a form explaining the rules of Makerspace.

Passports and hour-long timers in hand, they crossed the barrier, closed the gate – and began to make.

They each had a table to work from and access to a plethora of art and craft supplies – paper, beads, glue, pasta, googly eyes, string, tape, paint, easels.

As the space was only available for children ages 5 and over, I took Thomas to the sea shack-themed reading area where we hunkered down and read a book or two or three or four. William sprayed quite a lot of water making a collage of different colored tissue paper while Madeline made her own stick man.

Unfortunately I did not get photos of their creations as we were busy taking advantage of the second reason I was interested in visiting the Palm Harbor Library – the opportunity to borrow a musical instrument. Madeline has been very eager to play the violin but we went with something a little easier to handle on our first rental and instead came home with a melody harp.

I am exceptionally grateful that my children have access to different forms of creativity – from visiting art galleries, attending art camps, to renting musical instruments. The more we explore the more we find. Funny how that works right?

As Gene Coppola expresses in the interview, access to art is essential for creating well-rounded citizens. Art gives quality of life to a community and plays as important a role as math and science. “I honestly believe that if you expose a child to the arts – dancing, painting, playing music, whatever it may be – I truly believe it enriches the child’s life and it gives them added value to life and eventually, hopefully added value to the community.”

The Palm Harbor library is more than just a library, it’s an art-centric center, actively promoting and supporting visual and performing arts and giving people of all ages the opportunity to embrace and be involved in the arts.

I recommend visiting, making, and renting an instrument or two.
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At the Palm Harbor Library,
kids and families can borrow

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– S.T.E.A.M. kits to explore science, technology, engineering art and math

– Themed books, toys, puzzles, DVDs, and activity sheets for toddlers and preschoolers… all in a convenient rolling duffel bag to take home

– Musical instruments, find a complete list here

– Adaptive toys, communication devices, capability switches, and games for children with special needs – find a complete list here

– Read-along audiobooks

– Tablets and self-playing, pre-loaded video players with educational and entertaining content for kids, secure and ad-free, no internet needed. “Sturdy enough for your 3-year-old, interesting titles for your 12-year-old!”

– Puzzles ranging from a few wooden pieces to 100 pieces, and access to the adult puzzle section for more challenging fare

– Interactive storytime for infants and toddlers, infant and toddler sign language classes,

– Free online resources for learning, parenting, school needs, homework help and reading, health and wellness, mental wellness, resources for LGBTQ+ youth, and resources for promoting healthy racial identity.

Opportunities for Teens

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– A dedicated Teen Room with a Short Story Machine, gaming, dry erase boards and room to work on projects or study with friends, and a “take a book, leave a book” shelf

– Teen Book Clubs, with drinks and snacks

– a monthly Gaming Club

– an Anime Club for ages 11-18

– free online primary sources for research papers and projects

– Kids can check out eBooks, eAudiobooks, graphic novels, music, movies – and learn languages online.

– The Teen section is run by a volunteer Youth Advisory Board

Mural by Noelle Jordan Stillman

And Even Grownups

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And grownups can find free advanced tai chi classes, a writer’s group, Puzzle Club, a group for fans of Cosy Mysteries, DIY craft opportunities, free gardening help and a Seed Library and a creative writing program.

The library also offers free tutoring for adults learning English as a second or third language, or those who want to improve their reading skills.

Plus resources for starting and improving your own small business, job hunting and financial literacy. And help with driving tests, geneology, research, and online tools for investments and managing your finances.

The Palm Harbor Library also offers free and confidential assistance with Medicare, Medicaid and health insurance questions – and delivers books if you can’t get to the library.

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