Optimists learn about libraries

Annika Thomas, Community Relations Manager for the Richland County Public Library, spoke on October 20 to the Optimist Club of St. Andrews-Irmo.

Thomas quickly dispelled any antiquated notions that libraries are merely institutions where books can be accessed.

That having been established, Thomas did detail how RCPL strives to address the needs of Midlands readers. An RCPL card is free to Richland County residents. With that card, a resident can gain access to a huge selection of books and periodicals: services routinely expected of libraries. Educators qualify for enhancements to the basic privileges.

However, since reading at grade level by third grade is such a major predictor of future success, RCPL takes a proactive approach to that established fact. The push for reading literacy then continues thereafter in order not to lose momentum, through such programs as:

1. Visits to elementary schools to assist in bringing children up to the third-grade standard. In 2022, RCPL representatives visited 37 schools with that goal in mind.

2. Nationally, one in four children experience dyslexia. RCPL can work at the library site to help solve dyslexia and also can equip parents to continue that progress at home.

3. Thomas described a pattern that seems to be prevalent among childhood readers. She reported that up through sixth grade, a large majority of children are active library users. Then, somewhere during the 7th and 8th grade levels, many young people drift away from using libraries. Finally, if library usage resumes at all, it occurs in the person’s late 20s. So one area of focus at the Library is closing that gap of reduced usage.

4. If a reader is either behind the curve technologically, or is computer illiterate altogether, RCPL can help begin or assist in the process of bringing that person up to date. Computer usage at the library’s physical site is available and encouraged, and every library branch is a Wi-Fi hotspot.

RCPL now has a licensed social worker on staff, one of the first three library systems in the U.S. to offer that option.

The programs described in this article are not nearly all-inclusive, so for the uninitiated, a visit to one of the branches or to the Main Library on Assembly Street would likely be eye-opening.

Pictured are speaker sponsor Steve Odom, Ms. Thomas, and Club President Kerry Powers.