Happy New Year Rotarians! 
We had an exciting and informative first meeting of 2022 with a great presentation from librarian Jennifer Baxter and library garden manager Emily Clem.
    Jennifer Baxter shared several amazing things that are taking place at the Athens Limestone County Public Library. Some of them include:
    • The mission statement of the library. It is “The Athens-Limestone County Public Library seeks to enrich the lives of all people in the community by providing services and materials in a variety of formats to meet their recreational, educational, personal, and professional needs. Emphasis is placed on providing popular library materials and access to useful information, supporting formal education, and stimulating young children’s interest in reading and learning.”
    • Baxter has been the librarian in Athens for one year and one month. Baxter and her staff have hit the ground running for the community. 
    • According to Baxter, the staff has added “tons of new books” to make sure the community has access to anything they might want to read. Baxter told the audience if it isn’t on the shelf let her know and she will do her best to order it. Baxter said they have added almost 40 magazine titles to the library’s collection with 10 of those titles geared towards children that are available to check out. 
    • Another thing the library focuses on is e-books and e-audio books. The library has an app for that (https://camellia.overdrive.com) with over 80,000 titles. Baxter said the ALCPL has the third highest usage of the app throughout the state of Alabama. 
    • Baxter said the library has recently started podcasts. Fellow Rotarian Shane Black was on one with his famous ghost stories. Fellow Rotarian Wayne Kuykendall also has been featured with the history of the community. The library has an array of podcasts for patrons (https://www.alcpl.org/podcasts/)
    • ALCPL has access to several statewide databases that are funded through the state legislature. Baxter highlighted  ‘The Alabama Virtual Library’ and the ‘Learning Express Library’ which has test prep books for the ACT, MCAT, etc. Patrons don’t have to buy the books and they can print the PDFs. #lifehack Baxter also mentioned HomeworkAlabama.org that provides free tutoring 11 hours a day to help kids with their homework and access a live tutor. 
    • Baxter said the library has issued a challenge to the community to read 22 books in 2022. Those who complete the challenge will be entered to win a $100 gift card.  https://www.alcpl.org/22-books-in-2022/
    • Another challenge the library is promoting is the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. This challenge is nationwide and at the end of the program kids who complete the challenge will receive a certificate of completion. Baxter said this is another way the library is trying to engage the community to bring them in and to bring the library out into the community. She said it also promotes early literacy and the love of reading. https://www.alcpl.org/1000-books-before-kindergarten/
    • The library also provides a ton of youth services in the community. The calendar can be found here https://www.alcpl.org/events/ and includes Mommy and Me, read to a Therapy Dog program where those in 1st through 6th grade that might be struggling with reading can read out loud to a dog in a private area so they are not being watched and judged and Baxter said it helps the kids feel free and comfortable to practice their reading skills, Teen Writing Program, several story times, and a lego club.
    • The library also has a teen library council 7th through 12th grade for those kids that need a space and where they feel welcomed. 
    • Baxter said two more events that are a huge hit is Storytime in the Park and Baby Storytime. 
    • Rotarian Ronnie Marks brought up a partnership with the Mayor’s Youth Commission and Mentor Jerome Malone for them to start their own podcast. They have the equipment inside the podcast room and Malone is working with the commissioners to work with the podcast programs and they have their own logos, promotions, etc. The library is working on making the room available for rent for the community.  
    LIBRARY GARDEN - Emily Clem, the ‘queen’ of the garden, shared a progress update on the garden located near the library. 
    • Clem showed several photos of the renderings. She also showed pictures of the Entry Garden that was sponsored by the Athens Rotary Club. She stated there will also be a human sundial where you stand on the month and your shadow shows you the time. 
    • Clem said the native plants are the star of the show. Part of the garden’s mission is to be a demonstration garden for the plants to see how you can use native plants in personal landscaping. Clem said native plants are the natural flow of things. They’re adapted to grow here and Clem said native insects eat native plants native birds eat native insects (remember the 5th grade food chain) 
    • Clem said there is a great balance between the native insects and plants and that what makes the garden a must visit. 
    • The garden partnered with Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful through a grant to purchase some plants throughout the garden. 
    • Clem said they did a pilot field trip with fourth graders at Lindsay Lane Christian Academy and the kiddos loved the native insects. 
    • Clem said the raised beds can change every year and they had a successful first year and is looking forward to the second. 
    • Clem showed the plans for the performance and picnic pavilion and stated they are looking for corporate sponsors.
    • Clem thanked all of the wonderful volunteers. She shared a story of a volunteer who came to the library that just moved to the community and walked by the garden and is one of her best volunteers. 
    • Clem said this shows that new people in our community come to the public library. 
    • Clem said the garden can be used for small and medium size gatherings. People already use it to eat lunch, to read a book, etc. 
    • Clem said there is a huge potential for educational opportunities. 
    • A fellow Rotarian asked about renting the garden. The rates are set and Julie Johnson is who people need to contact at the library.

    Club President Tere Richardson shared a quote regarding libraries. 
    “Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, and great libraries build communities.” 
    Club President Tere Richardson commended the library staff on the great work they are doing in our community. 
    • If you pledged a donation to the Mayfield Rotary Club, please get your check to Treasurer Russ Mitchell made out to Athens Rotary. 
    • This Friday, Tami Reist from Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism Association will be our speaker on all things tourism in Limestone County and North Alabama. The meeting will be at Noon at the Athens State University Ballroom.