By ANGELA H. HILL

After last year’s successful pilot run, the Franklin County Library is offering Bookyard Parties at 12 locations this summer. Bookmobile drivers Wayne Keith and Coretta Waller have traveled to apartment complexes, stores, community centers, fire departments and parks; bringing snacks, games, crafts and a mobile library to county residents.

The mission behind Bookyard Parties is to bring library services to parts of the county in which residents may face mobility, geographic, transportation and economic challenges that make it tough for them to travel to the county’s two branches.

Plus, children who read during the summer often have a smoother transition back to school. Summer reading programs in general are aimed at preventing that “summer slide” – a term educators use to describe students’ declines in reading abilities over the summer.

“Hopefully we provide some [of those resources] when we can get the books in their hands,” Keith explained. Keith also serves as the library’s Mobile Media and IT Director.

He added that he’s seen more children checking out books at this year’s Bookyard Parties. They can sign up for library cards at the bookmobile. Many of the crafts and games are designed for children, but Keith said the Bookyard Parties benefit the entire family. All activities are free.

One of the biggest hits, activities-wise, has been the button-making machine, Keith said. Children can color their own button circles, and the library staff uses the machine to turn those creations into wearable art.

Keith also added that Franklin County Library is partnering with nonprofit and healthcare organizations to distribute free wellness information as well as fresh vegetables at some Bookyard Parties.

The idea for Bookyard Parties came from hearing about efforts in other localities, Keith said. While these programs are in high-density, urban areas, Franklin County was able to tailor its Bookyard Parties to the county’s rural landscape.

“We tweaked it to fit us,” Keith said. “We have a younger segment and more of a family segment that might hang out with us for an h our.”

In previous years, the bookmobile has also joined with Franklin County Parks & Recreation to offer crafts and books at events such as outdoor movies.

“This gets a little visibility for the library,” Keith said. “We’re not your grandma’s library.”

The bookmobile also visits facilities such as senior living centers and apartments, and can occasionally offer book delivery service for homebound residents, depending on the library’s available staff.

At the end of the day, it’s about being a good neighbor, Keith explained. The bookmobile’s schedule has doubled this year after staff received a great response to last year’s runs, he continued.

Keith said he hopes the summer Bookyard Parties will lead to additional year-round bookmobile stops, up to what the library can handle with its existing staff and vehicle.

The best part about the Bookyard Parties, however, “is the occasional high-five or hug you get when you walk into Walmart” from area children and adults who value and appreciate the library on wheels and its services, he added.

The following Bookyard Parties are scheduled for this summer. All are from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.:

July 11 – Smith Mountain Lake Community Park

July 16 – Mountainview Apartments, Rocky Mount

July 18 – Naff Community Center, Boones Mill

July 23 – Sontag Community Center

July 30 – Ferrum Elementary School soccer field parking lot

August 1 – Franklin County Library’s Rocky Mount Branch

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