I’ve always loved the library. Researching information, discovering new stories, investing in the lives of fictional characters, and educating myself. The first library I’d ever been to, the South Creek Library Branch in Orange County, celebrated its 15 Year Anniversary on Saturday, October 28! I stopped by to chat with some of the current staff members, and to take a peek at the library again.
I checked out so many books in elementary school, middle school, high school, and even college! This was back in the days of the encyclopedias, searching through huge, alphabetized, thousand-page books. I learned how to write bibliographies and structured reports. Remember when we couldn’t hand in a paper unless we had AT LEAST three sources? Little did I know I’d be searching for sources for the rest of my life in journalism!
I remember walking through the South Creek library, skimming the shelves for Agatha Christie murder mysteries. Then I’d browse the young adult section – the section on the outskirts of the library, always ready for new stories and calling me as if to say, “Here I am! Check me out!”
As the years went on, technology became more advanced. We checked out less books and used more computers. The library continues to stay ahead of the curve by using helpful apps and incorporating computer program classes.
Not only does the library offer informative books, but – and I thought this was the coolest thing ever at the time – it also offers CDs, DVDs, and now audiobooks!
I remember checking out the album, “Almost Here,” by The Academy Is… back when I was so into emo/alternative music. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to buy the album, so I sampled it first.
Now, we can easily stream or download single songs instead of investing in an entire album (I still buy the physical album if I REALLY love an artist).
In regards to the movies – I minored in Spanish in college and continued my education after graduation. I checked out the Mexican drama, Amores perros (2000), at the South Creek library. This film has a similar plot as Crash (2004) since the character stories are intertwined.
I have so many memories at this library that I wanted to share a little bit of the staff community with you.
Ever since I was little, the staff has ALWAYS been a great help.
As we rely more on computers, Branch Manager Julie Ventura still makes it a personal experience. Julie always walked around the library, organizing bookshelves and asking if anyone needed help.
Julie has been with the South Creek library since the very beginning – for 15 years! She’s an amazing asset to the library, and she’s always been so enthusiastic about this branch.
“We need to offer the pleasure of the books to them, but bring them active storytelling.”
Julie began working at the library the day before the branch director started. “It’s always been a good library system, but [the director] was more of a business mindset. ‘Treat it like a business, not like a government.’ If we have all these people working, then what are we doing for the community.” They worked together and organized the library, constantly improving it throughout the years with more engaging classes.
Julie says this is the only Orange County branch to reside in Osceola County. This library teeters on the border of Orlando and Kissimmee. No matter where people come from, Julie wants library members to feel welcome. “Most everyone who comes here stays here. I’m hoping to keep the branch moving forward and knitted into the community.”
The library offers a wide range of activities and helpful classes. There are interactive classes for the kids, computer lessons for all ages (such as how to manage email and how to use Microsoft programs), learn to speak English, and there’s even a few online courses to learn more advanced programs such as Adobe Photoshop and HTML.
I missed school so much when I graduated from college that I took a few online classes to learn more about coding.
To encourage active learning with children, the South Creek staff creates classes using the STEAM academic discipline: Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The children create a craft or science fair project, engage in exercise such as yoga or zumba, and participate in storytime.
The staff is very passionate about these classes, and they each work to create their own program. They ask for help from teammates, and they have the freedom to organize their classes in a way that will help the community.
“They’re so committed to their programs being successful,” Branch Manager Julie said.
Learning at the Library
Laura, one of the branch’s technical staff members, is very passionate about her job. Laura’s been with the South Creek library branch for two years.
“I help people when they have computer issues and questions. This library is about the community,” Laura said. “We try to help improve the community.”
Originally from Puerto Rico, Laura and her family moved to Orlando 12 years ago. She first learned English right here at the library. When people come to this area from other countries, the staff helps them feel more comfortable speaking English.
“The good thing is we can help them make that transition smoothly. It’s hard moving from a different country to here,” Laura said. “It’s about involving the community. It’s amazing helping people and getting to know people.”
What does Laura love most about the library? The kids! She leads storytime programs, crafts, and even gets the kids involved in active storytime with zumba and yoga.
“If I’m having fun, then they’re having fun. You become a family member,” Laura said. “They know your name, they take pictures with you. They ask, ‘What are you doing next?'”
Another key member of the staff, Tran, manages the library’s circulation. Tran mentioned that the library is always moving forward.
“We constantly try to improve,” Tran said. “We can share the skills we use daily to enhance the skills for our patrons as well.”
Tran has worked at the South Creek library for three years. She’d like to make improvements in a way that people can focus on their department and produce more quality programs.
“We mainly work on our own, or we ask for help from our teammates.”
Laura mentioned, “One thing I would like to see is instead of having people come in to the library, we go to them.” With the booming Lake Nona development, they don’t have a library system yet. Laura would like to visit that area, to go to the hospitals for the kids, bringing books and storytime to them.
Branch Manager Julie would like to see more ESOL (English) classes, more storytime classes, and to help the community get more involved in how to use a computer. “People who are less comfortable with computers, getting them more involved with how to use a computer to improve their lives with better jobs.”
Degree to Dialogue
Brendan, South Creek Branch Circulation Clerk, brings a unique education and optimistic point of view to the library. “I’ve always been passionate about encouraging people to re-educate themselves,” Brendan said.
He earned his undergrad degree in Spanish, and according to Brendan, half the library staff now speaks Spanish. Brendan went on to complete graduate school, studying Information Literacy and learning to cite resources correctly.
As part of an assignment, Brendan studied dinosaur books. He learned about how children’s books are structured, searching databases, and finding different ways to search and use keywords.
Brendan’s worked at the South Creek library for five years. He spent a summer at the Winter Park library as a reference librarian. Brendan also keeps his library knowledge fresh by working part time at Valencia Osceola campus.
When he’s at the South Creek library, Brendan teaches people how to speak English in his own program. He engages the audience with movie clips and culture questions. “I like sharing part of our culture and movies we grew up with.”
Brendan uses the Kahoot! app to engage library patrons in trivia questions. The app was designed for classrooms, so this is the perfect setting to use it in. “I try to give them some confidence in their reading comprehension.”
Another useful app is Mango Languages – a helpful tool to learn languages and practice in realistic conversations. I recently visited the website, and I was thrilled to see they’ll be offering American Sign Language soon enough!
“Our job as librarians is to show them what’s out there, what they can do. It’s up to them once they get home.”
It’s clear that the South Creek library staff is passionate about helping the community and making sure everyone feels comfortable.
“I love the sense of community,” library clerk Aly said. “We get a lot of familiar faces, so there’s a lot of friendship and community that’s built at this location.”
Check Out the Library Today
If you live in Orange County, check out the library closest to you to see what classes and programs it offers! For writers and designers, most library computers are equipped with Adobe programs such as Photoshop, InDesign, and Premiere. You can pop in some music and work on your media projects – or homework – in a different environment, outside of your home.
If you’re interested in learning a language (verbal or computer!), sign up for a class – they’re FREE! Most classes are one to two hours long, so it doesn’t cut into your day too much.
If you’re a listener, check out an audiobook using the OverDrive App. This is great for long commutes and road trips.
You can also check out a book, a movie, or an album while you’re at the library. These are great items if you’re into taking home a tangible item. Most libraries allow you to borrow an item for 3 weeks.
If you’re not finished using the item, you can easily renew it for another 3 weeks online, by phone, or in person. The South Creek Branch even has a drop-off where you can return items after hours!
Take advantage of these great resources. These are free, educational, FUN, and enriching!