Writing the next chapter for the Southfield Public Library

National Library Week highlights the building of more than just books

By: Jessica Strachan | Southfield Sun | Published April 15, 2014

 Ken Winters and his daughter, 2-year-old Amara Ze-Winters, of Oak Park, spend time at the Southfield Public Library April 8.

Ken Winters and his daughter, 2-year-old Amara Ze-Winters, of Oak Park, spend time at the Southfield Public Library April 8.

Photo by Donna Agusti

SOUTHFIELD — Get lost in a book, flip through a glossy magazine, scan a newspaper, surf the Web, explore a research topic, sway to the sound of live music, connect with the community.

There are countless things happening at local libraries, and the Southfield Public Library is a treasure trove of information and fantasy that’s being celebrated for National Library Week this April 13-19.

“National Library Week gives us a springboard for discussion. It allows each individual library to call attention to the various things libraries do for the community,” said Dave Ewick, city librarian at the Southfield Public Library. “Some have said maybe we don’t need libraries anymore. My thought is, maybe we don’t need libraries of the 1700s; we need a 21st century library. One like ours.”

Just about any day that the Southfield Public Library is open, there are things for the community to engage in. Beyond the floors of books to browse, and spaces to work, research or read, several interactive features make the library a place for community and entertainment.

It’s a place to meet the authors behind a favorite book or brand-new release, to learn a new trade or use the library’s toolbox of print and digital resources — to even bond with children over make-and-take crafts, typically gratis.

One of the strengths of the library is connecting fascinating reads with special events that bring the story to life, sometimes literally.

On April 23, two animal rescue events will be held, tying together the story of animal activist Spencer McCullough in Chris Bohjalian’s novel “Before You Know Kindness.”

Guests can find out how local groups like the Michigan Humane Society and Horses’ Haven fight for animals around the state, aiming to end homelessness and to promote humane treatment of many furry friends like kittens and puppies. Horses’ Haven specifically cares for horses, ponies, donkeys and other large animals in need.

Courtesy of the Friends of the Southfield Public Library and the Detroit Blues Society, a low-dough concert is held each month showcasing some of the region’s best folk, blues and jazz talent. Admission for these shows is $5 for the general public, and kids younger than 12 get in for free.

Many of the artists have already made a name for themselves on the national level, but return to their roots for local shows in the community.

This is the case for Detroiters Jo Serrapere and John Devine, who brought their Mississippi Delta-style and “race records” sounds from the ’20s and ’30s for a performance April 16.

In addition to monthly events like the Jazz & Blues session, each day’s calendar at the library is dotted with free computer classes, story time for children, and book discussions for adults and young readers in the teen scene.

Currently, there’s a display called “Read Like Downton Abbey,” featuring the British drama’s character photos and what Southfield Public Library staff would guess their reading lists include.

Celebrating National Poetry Month, the third floor of the library has a display of notable poetry books. Make sure to find the bowl of “pocket poems” this month, too — small poems inside a folded piece of paper to read for later.

Finally, locals can officially get involved with National Library Week April 16-17 by hopping in the photobooth set up at the library to have a photo taken with their favorite book. There will be a compilation of the photos displayed afterward.

Ewick said that oftentimes, it’s hard to place the value of a library’s service, but highlighting the accessibility of books, DVDs, software tutorials and other hands-on training from library staff demonstrates how relevant modern-day libraries are.

“When you walk in, you don’t just have the Southfield Public Library at your fingertips,” he said, adding that they are part of a consortium of 65 libraries. “We also don’t just give you the tools, like Internet; we give you the guides to computer assistance. Every day, we have people coming in asking how to use email, how to search for things.”

Believing that everyone can find something at the library helpful and that libraries touch people by celebrating the free flow of information, Ewick calls on journalist Linton Weeks’ quote about the work he does: “In the information ocean, librarians give us floatees and teach us how to swim.”

Additionally, Ewick said that for nearly all of the 104 institutions of higher education within a five-mile radius of the building, the Southfield Public Library is the main library for those students.

Whether it’s this week, this month or this year, library advocates like Ewick hope that community members find a new way to utilize the resources at the Southfield Public Library.

“You don’t miss oxygen until it’s not there. Sometimes I think libraries are like that,” Ewick said. “I understand that not everyone uses the library, but knowing it’s there, knowing you can even call up a librarian and ask something you need to, it’s a wonderful thing.”

The Southfield Public Library, 26300 Evergreen Road, is open 1-9 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, 9:30-5:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and 1-5 p.m. Fridays and Sundays during the school year.

For more information on library services or events, call (248) 796-4200 or visit www.southfieldlibrary.org.