Holiday Story-telling encourages community to interact with county library

Children will fill the normally silent library Saturday evening as they listen to holiday classics, but the day is merely one of many in which the library aims to expand its reach and presence in the county at large.

Maryann Owen, a technology librarian at the Elizabethton/Carter County Library, said the Holiday Storytelling is a revival of a program the library instituted last year.

“We had six of them last year, but our numbers were dropping as summer approached, so we decided to turn it into a single, big holiday event instead,” Owen said.

During the storytelling, professional story-tellers from an organization in Johnson City will come to the library and read Christmas stories to the families.

Owen said the event was part of a larger movement to bring more people of all ages into the library and engage them with their services.

“Unofficially, I do adult services and outreach,” she said.

She said she began her unofficial position when Judy Donley, a local artist and member of the Watauga Valley Art league, suggested hosting story-telling events at the library.

Since then, Owen said she has begun expanding the services the library provides to the community, hosting events once a month about topics the community expressed interest in.

“Say seniors said they needed help writing their wills,” Owen said. “I get the information necessary, maybe bring in someone, and we host an event dedicated to helping people write their wills.”

Owen said one of the unique challenges to consistently host events once a month is figuring out how to gather feedback from the community, but she said the results are worth it.

“This is my favorite part of my job,” Owen said. “This lets me use a lot of things  I hear from my patrons.”

In addition to listening to feedback, she said she tries to not repeat previous events: she wants to continue hosting time-relevant events. She said she is working on an upcoming event detailing how to survive an active shooter situation.

Owen said she learns as much as the student at these events as she may be the host or even teacher, however.

“I always try to learn something from the events I host,” she said.

For example, at one point Owen said she decided to focus more on holistic, or related to physical or mental health, activities, and she brought people in to teach about the benefits of yoga, massage therapy and a kind of therapy from Japan called “Reiki,” a spiritual healing technique involving laying of hands to move energy through the body.

“A lot of people said they did not know about this stuff,” Owen said. “It was nice to see people benefitting from these techniques.”

Owen said she wanted to stress the programs the library offers are always free, completely and totally.

She said she likes watching the parents’ faces when getting library cards for their children as she explains the benefits of the library.

“Libraries are not just about books anymore,” she said. “We want to be a hub in the community for everybody.”

The storytelling event will take place at the library from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at 201 N. Sycamore St. There, visitors can find a calendar board detailing upcoming events the library will be hosting.

“We did not do a lot of this stuff three years ago,” Owen said. “A lot of people are afraid to ask about it, but [with these events] we can get the word out.”

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