McAlester Public Library -- Getting with the programs

·8 min read

Sep. 25—McAlester Public Library is getting with the programs.

While the library continues with its traditional duty of making books available to readers, it's also expanding in a number of other areas, including creating programs for library patrons of all ages.

Assistant Library Manager Heath Stanfield handles some of the library's programs — including three he started himself, while other library assistants conduct other programs, either solo or by working in teams.

"Libraries can't be what they used to be," Stanfield said. "We have to evolve to meet the needs of our community."

That doesn't mean books aren't still important.

"We get 100 new titles per month," said Stanfield.

When Stanfield came onboard at the McAlester Public Library, he brought along with him experience in conducting programs, with a background as a naturalist at several Oklahoma state parks.

"Before I became a librarian, I was a naturalist for the state of Oklahoma where I worked for the parks system," Stanfield said.

That experience proved helpful when he put together some new library programs, especially one called Backyard Explorers, that's caught the attention of Oklahoma State University.

Another favorite is the Chess Club, aided by some giant-sized chess pieces and a huge game board that brings a bigger dimension to the game. More conventional-sized sets are available for players and budding learners as well.

During a recent Chess Club meeting in the library's Whiteacre Room, brothers Margo Martinez, 7, and Louis Martinez, 8, had fun playing with the huge chess pieces. Their mother, Ingrid Martinez, said their dad, Luis Martinez, taught them how to play, and they enjoy participating in the library's Chess Club.

"We're always here," she said. "We come for the Chess Club." She believes her children benefit from the activity.

It's a good game for them," Ingrid Martinez said. "It teaches them to be patient and you've got to use the mind."

At a nearby table, Library Assistant Lacey Sudderth coached a mother and daughter who are learning the game. Ashley Cooley and her daughter, Mckayla Cooley, received some pointers from Sudderth regarding some of the game's intricacies. Ashley brought along her son, Damien Cooley and one of his friends for another club the library hosts.

When Ashley learned about the Chess Club, she and Mckayla decided to participate and learn some finer aspects of the game.

"I just heard about it," Ashley Cooley said of how she came to be involved in the Chess Club. She said they were already at the library when they decided to try chess.

"We were going to be here for Backyard Explorers," she said.

Sitting at a neighboring table, Stanfield played a game with young Liam Cannon, 8, who was brought to the Chess Club by his dad, Cephas Cannon. In addition to the Chess Club sessions, they've been working on their game at home.

Cephas Cannon thinks his son is benefitting from learning chess and his Chess Club participation.

"I think so," Cephas Cannon said when asked. "It's really helped him with his focus and concentration."

With the Chess Club session complete, Stanfield moved on to the Explorers Club, which is also held in the library's Whiteacre Room.

As he conducted the final preparations, librarian Kaylee Stanfield made an online connection with Dr.Nicole Colson, who is a doctor of environmental science at Oklahoma State University.

While the connections were made, Library Assistant II Celeste Thornburg snapped some photos to document the programs.

A portion of the Backyard Explorers Club activities included watching a video of Heath Stanfield speaking in front of the Spiro Public Library, part of an endeavor to feature all of the libraries in the system.

Stanfield showed the young participants how they could make images of different types of clouds, such as cirrus, cumulus and others, by using cotton balls and construction paper. Or, if they preferred, they could make rainbows using papers of different colors.

Planned activities included creation of a weather journal.

"We'll talk about where winds come from," Stanfield said. "We're introducing them to the concept of citizen science and scientific literacy."

Backyard Explorers has been such a hit that Stanfield is scheduled to travel to Reno, Nevada in November for a national gathering of librarians to share his information regarding the club with others.

"I'm going to tell everyone about Backyard Explorers," he said. OSU has taken an interest in the program and have sent some guest experts to participate, he said.

"The reason OSU cares about the program is they want to encourage citizen science," said Stanfield.

Chess Club and Backyard Explorers are just a couple of the extra activities offered at the McAlester Public Library. MPL offers a number of special activities and programs, with the idea of offering something for everyone.

"The library's been so cool about letting me do programs," Stanfeld said.

A schedule of activities at the McAlester Public Library, along with the days and the times they are held, includes:

—Tween Game Time is every Monday at 6:30 p.m. It's for patrons younger than 14.

"They play board games; they'll play video games," said Standfield. "The new Switch is what they're excited about right now," he said, referring to the Nintendo gaming system

—Wiggle Worms is every Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"It was traditionally called Story Time," Stanfield said. It's been adapted to include more physical activities, which keeps kids moving. "We don't want kids sitting on their hands," he said.

—Chess Club is every Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

"It's for chess players of all ages," Stanfield said. "What I like is it's a game that gets them to focus," he said, recalling how he recently watched a senior play a 10-year-old.

"Kids are smarter than adults," said Stanfield. "We're just more educated."

Stanfield not only started the Chess Club at MPL, he previously started the Chess Club at McAlester High School during his student days back in 2000.

Are those who participate in Chess Cub required to already know how to play the game before attending? Not at all, said Stanfield.

"If there's an odd-man-out, I'll play against the least experienced player," he said.

—Teen Game Time, for teens aged 13-to-18, is held every Friday at 3:30 p.m. Like some of the other activities, it's held in the library's Whiteacre Room.

"They have the big screen TV," Stanfield said, which is useful because this group typically likes to play video games, among other activities.

—Teen"s Mixed Up Art is the Second Thursday of the month at 3:30 p.m.

Traditional book clubs are also among activities the library offers. They include:

Adult Book Clubs:

—The Bookies: Second Thursday of the month at 1 p.m. The Bookies group is led by librarian Janice Saaranen. Books scheduled for discussion include "Everything I Never Told You" by Celeste NG for September; Tattooist of Auschwitz" by Heather Morris for October; "Educated" by Tara Westover in November and "Adventure of the Christmas Pudding" by Agathta Christie in December. An alternate book choice is "American Dirt," by Jeanine Cummins.

—The Readers: Second Tuesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. Heidi Menges leads this group. Books include "Nowhere to Turn" by Lynette Eason for September; "The Switch," by Beth O'Leary in October; "Daughter of Cana," by Angela Hunt in November and "Christmas Bus" by Melody Carlson for December.

—Tween Book Club: This club is geared for tween readers, between the childhood and upper teenaged years.

—Great Escapes: Last Thursday of the month at 3:30 p.m. Librarian Linda Haile helms the kids' book discussion group. Books for this year include "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" by J.K. Rowling for September; "The Bad Beginning" by Lemony Snicket in October; "Dork Diaries 12: Tales From a Not-so-Secret Crush Catastrophe" by Rachell Russell in November and "Dog Man" by Dave Pilkey for December.

Teen Book Club:

—Teen Reads, the last Thursday of the month, at 3:30 p.m.

Other clubs or groups include:

—Backyard Explorers is the first Wednesday of the month at 4:30 p.m..

—Socrates Cafe is the third Thursday of the month 3 p.m. This is an adult discussion group that discovers a variety of subjects, with Logical Fallacies"being a recent topic.

—Macrame Makers is the third Thursday of the Month at 5:30 p.m. Library Assistant Lacey Sudderth usually leads this class, devoted to those who want to develop or learn how to fashion macrame.

—Adult Trivia night is the fourth Thursday of the Month at 5:30 p.m., with trivia questions geared to grownups.

—SAIL is on Mondays and Wednesday at 10 a.m., starting September 8.

The McAlester Public Library is at 401 N. Second St. in McAlester and can be contacted at 918-426-0930.

With all of the aforementioned programs available at MPL, library staffers say everyone is welcome to attend and participate in the club, or clubs, of their choice. No advance signup is necessary. Those who would like to participate can begin by showing up for a meeting of any of the clubs or programs at the scheduled time.

Stanfield considers MPL an ideal site for the programs.

"The library's a good, safe place," he said.

"We have games and clubs for a variety of ages and interests," said Stanfield. "It's the people's library."

Contact James Beaty at

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