By Revalee Hemken
My family did not have much extra cash when I was growing up in Redlands, California in the 50’s and 60’s. We didn’t have air-conditioning to combat the unbelievably hot summers. We didn’t have a bookshelf full of books to read. What would an avid reader do to survive June, July, August? How could she keep her cool?
I walked to the A K Smiley library on Monday and Friday mornings to load up on books. The library, built in 1894, is absolutely beautiful. It is honored as a National and State Historic Landmark. Even the children’s section features lovely oak paneling, shelves, and tables. The windows look out on a lovely park and Lincoln memorial building.. The splendid air conditioning made this a wonderful haven on hot summer days. Mrs. Redmond was the librarian in the children’s section. She ran a tight ship. There were no free books or prizes other than bragging rights in the summer reading program. Her special gift was in asking really good questions about the books her young patrons had read. How flattering and empowering to be asked for one’s opinion. She was never as much fun as our Winters Community Librarian Toni Mendieta but she inspired me to read more difficult books as I strove to complete her summer reading programs. I remember thinking “Pluto or bust” when the solar system was the summer reading theme. I was proud to see my personal “rocket” moving from planet to planet on the library bulletin board.
I walked my books home as fast as I could under the blazing sun so I could eat lunch and wait the required one hour before walking to the public pool at 1 pm. Our family had an economical pass so I could enjoy the afternoon pretending to be a dolphin or Esther Williams. My dad would stop by on his way home from work to take a swim and drive us home for dinner. I would read after dinner and sleep soundly in preparation for another great day.
I’m happy that Winters is my new hometown. My volunteer activities at the Winters Friends of the Library warm my heart because I get to interact with my neighbors enjoying our library and its many services and programs. It’s a double pleasure when I see them fresh from the Bobbie Greenwood Community Pool or on their way out to enjoy the water. I’m sure Winters kids will always associate summer with books and fun in the pool.
I look forward to the reopening of our library.
Toni and staff provide great support to young and old alike. Patrons of the library make use of the computers and fast internet service. The air conditioning makes it a cooling station during our hot summer weather. Story times in English and Spanish are very popular. Several clubs meet at the library. ESL is taught and English conversation groups for Spanish speakers are held weekly. Tutors meet with adults who are learning to read and write more effectively. The beautiful garden outside the children’s section provides a wonderful place to meet and to learn about native plants. Arts and Crafts are provided on Thursday evenings. Aguas Frescas is a great event held on the last Thursday of the month. The extended hours on Tuesday and Thursday provide families a great opportunity to interact with books and friends. Special events such as magic shows movies provide extra fun for patrons. Success is a tutoring program held after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My particular focus is on the WFoL book sales room where we offer inexpensive books and media for sale to support the library. We’re working together with library staff to set up a system so we can safely begin to accept book donations again.
I’d love to know what you are reading and where you are swimming this summer? What do you look forward to when the library reopens? Are you making use of the online content and programs the library has been offering this summer, like the Summer Reading Program? Please join the conversation online until we can meet in person. Share your thoughts on our Winters Friends of the Library FaceBook Page.
Revalee Hemken on the board of the Winters Friends of the Library. She coordinates our book donations and sales program, works with the English conversation groups, and cheerfully pitches in many other projects to help serve our community.