Walla Walla's library is a community gathering place

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Alexis Rodegerdts, Walla Walla Public Library public services specialist, helps enliven the facility with community activities and resources to keep it from becoming a place of "just dusty books on shelves."

Books? Of course.

Music CDs and movie DVDs? Check.

Computers? Got those, too.

Baking pans? Ditto, if you happen to be at the Walla Walla Public Library. Not only will you find an extensive collection of cook books, but you can also check out unusual pans, such as some shaped like bunnies, for holiday baking.

Such are the many innovations and programs at the city's library, a community gathering place that gets especially busy when it's cold outside and people are looking for a place to sit back, have some hot coffee or tea and read.

The latter pastime is shared by many from January through March when the library is busiest, Director Beth Hudson said. Last January 14,546 people came through the door.

"People love to come to events at the library," said Alexis Rodegerdts, the library's public services specialist. "... These people like to be engaged in the community. We want to keep people engaged in reading, to foster a sense of community. The library is not just dusty books on shelves."

And despite the economy, said Hudson, the library has no plans to cut out services and programs and every intention of offering more.

This year, the library is bringing back it's annual Booked for Winter event. Three books have been chosen as reading material for the season, said Rodegerdts. An area educator will present each book, field questions and facilitate discussion among participants, with refreshments for the 7 p.m. gatherings provided by the Friends of the Library.

"Our theme this year is ‘This Western Life,' " said Rodegerdts. "There are so many good stories to be told about this part of the country."

First up, on Jan. 26, will be a presentation by Scott Elliott, an author and associate professor of creative writing and English at Whitman College. He will talk about "The Jump-Off Creek," by Molly Gloss. Gloss writes about a widowed woman who goes it alone as a homesteader.

On Feb. 16, Kim Barnes' "In the Wilderness" will be presented by Rogers Miles, senior adjunct assistant professor of religion and general studies at Whitman. In her book, Barnes explores her memories of growing up in logging camps in northern Idaho and how environment can influence a person's spiritual beliefs.

The third and final book in the series is "The Best Short Stories," by William Kittredge, to be presented March 8 by Kirsten Telander, who teaches English at Walla Walla Community College. Kittredge is known for his earthy, practical depictions of life in the west: hunting, fishing, and life and death as a day-to-day occurrence.

In addition to Booked for Winter, the library has a variety of ongoing events throughout the year for all ages. For adults there is a monthly book club meeting the third Wednesday of each month, noon to 1 p.m.

"It's very casual," said Rodegerdts.

For children, in addition to guest talks by authors, there's the annual Dr. Seuss Day, usually in early March, and such activities as morning storytimes and evening family time. The storytimes are Wednesday and Thursday mornings 10:15 a.m. Wednesday storytimes are for children 18 months to 3 years old; Thursdays are for preschool age children.

Saturday morning the library hosts "Block N Roll," a new program in partnership with The Moms' Network of Walla Walla. "They have new fun blocks," said Rodegerdts. "We want to attract the dads in, to give the moms a break on Saturday mornings."

The current tough economy is helping people remember the value of services the library provides, Rodegerdts said. You can look for a job on public library computers, update your resume and, of course, check out a variety of books and other items. Free computer classes also are available.

The library also has hundreds of DVDs, including a variety of classic and newer movies, as well as music CDs and books on CDs of all types, Rodegerdts said.

"We have movies from the ‘Top 100 Films of the 20th Century' collection, arts and foreign films, exercise and how-to DVDs," said Hudson. Among newer realeases are "Deathly Hallows Part II," "Captain America" and "Super 8."

Yet with such a formidable inventory of new technologies available to enjoy reading and the arts, Rodegerdts said books will never go away.

"It's that sensory experience of a print book," she said.

For more information about the library and its programs call 509-527-4550.

Karlene Ponti can be reached at 509-526-8324 or karleneponti@wwub.com

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