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Making noise at the library

Residents are checking out popularity of new children's story time
by: Vern Uyetake Two of the library's newest hires, Carson Mischel, right, and Rebecca Mayer. are getting out in the public and sharing what the library has to offer.

Carson Mischel isn't afraid to make a little noise in the library. You might just catch her singing and dancing, too. And you won't find Rebecca Mayer behind a desk with her nose in a book.

As two of the newest librarians at the West Linn Public Library, they are attracting some attention.

'We aren't that stereotypical angry, shushing librarian,' Mayer said.

Mischel, 32, and Mayer, 30, are shaking things up and working hard to bring in new patrons.

Children's story times at the library have always been popular, but lately, the little ones are coming in droves.

Today's story times are not the picture of a grandmotherly librarian in a rocking chair reading quietly to a circle of preschoolers. Instead, it's a young hipster librarian incorporating song, dance and movement in between stories. And don't tell the kids, but they are learning too.

'I love how they incorporate literature with crafts and music,' said parent Michelle Lopez of West Linn, who attends every week with her 3-year-old and 1-year-old.

Mischel joined West Linn as the children's librarian three months ago, bringing with her a background in early literacy.

On April 12, she engaged more than 20 children at the preschool story time. She started the group off with a song to get their attention. Then, because it was National Library Week, Mischel read aloud from books about libraries, including 'Bats at the Library.'

'I like that one because it rhymes,' Mischel told the children.

Throughout the story, Mischel stopped and asked the children questions and pointed out details.

Then, just as the kids got a little antsy, she plugged in her iPod, pulled out scarves and had the kids dance and move to a song.

They settled down again to listen to 'Book, Book, Book,' a story about animals visiting a library. There was lots of mooing, clucking and oinking going on.

The story time also included stuffed animals, a storyboard and a craft.

When it ended, the children gathered around Mischel, getting stamps on their hands and giving her hugs.

'You can tell she really likes children,' said Darlene Bond of Oregon City, who brought her 5-year-old granddaughter to story time last week.

For the children, it was a fun way to fill the morning. What they didn't know is that they also practiced their colors, animal sounds and counting skills, along with listening and following directions.

'There's actually pre-reading skills we're trying to teach," Mischel said.

But the library isn't just for children. As the library's program director, Mayer wants to attract West Linn residents who don't typically visit the library.

'Librarians are notoriously bad marketers,' Mayer said. 'I want to bring the community here but also put ourselves out there.'

A key message she wants to spread is this: 'Get a library card.'

To spread word about the library's offerings, Mayer and Mischel visited Safeway and Albertsons April 12 to hand out buttons for National Library Week and talk with customers.

Some residents might be surprised at the services the library offers. There is free Internet access, DVDs, CDs, electronic readers, e-books and access to some of the best researchers around.

From digging up tax forms to giving directions, the librarians are there to help out.

'The library is not just books,' Mayer said. 'Never be afraid to ask for help. Our driving focus is customer service.'

Mayer said the library now uses Facebook and Twitter to reach out to the public, and it is seeking to connect with people in additional ways.

Mayer and Mischel have been brainstorming some nontraditional uses for the library, such as hosting film series and maybe even speed dating.

'Both Rebecca and I are excited about trying new things,' Mischel said. 'The library is going to be changing a lot over the next several years. We are redefining what the West Linn library is.'

And for that, Library Director Diane Satchwell is grateful.

'They've brought so much life to the library,' Satchwell said. 'It's fun to see their excitement.'

For more information about the West Linn Public Library, visit westlinnoregon.gov/library.




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