The White Sands Missile Range Library now has a Tween center where children between middle and high-school age can gather to do homework, work on projects or just hang out. The room was made possible through the efforts of WSMR Librarian Colin O'Hanlon, Library Technician Karen Meyers and several volunteers.
The library already had a children's library section where they host a bi-weekly Sensory Story and Playgroup event. O'Hanlon said he had been hoping to get a room for the older children since August 2015. He said he knew the older children needed a place for their own so he entered an Installation Management Command Army Library competition for a million-dollar makeover prize. He lost to Fort Bliss, Texas, but later that day he received an e-mail saying a West Point Library branch was closing and they were looking for military libraries interested in book donations.
"I immediately raised my hand and thought, we could still pull this off," he said. "I still wanted to continue with the project because I recognized the potential."
The WSMR library received over 5,300 books from West Point, 89 percent of those books were junior-fiction books. He said he wasn't able to move forward with the project for a while since he was the only employee for the entire library. In September 2016, O'Hanlon was able to hire Meyers and could move forward to complete the project. Since October 2016, the two library employees began to process the new books for integration. The library had to close down for a week in December 2016 to organize all the books in the new space.
O'Hanlon, Meyers and volunteers: Christina Brown, Teresa Sanchez, Katy Lynn Rannow, Rose Anderson and Katie Lemaire, worked tirelessly to get the space ready. The team created a space for tweens in an area that was once used for storage and encyclopedias.
"We at least doubled the amount of books in about a month," Meyers said. "We did a lot."
Aside from volunteering her time, Brown also donated some of her furniture to help give color to the tween room. The room is equipped with a chaise lounge and two colorful bean bag chairs for those looking to spend some time researching or reading at the library. Brown also donated additional furniture to create a reading corner within the main library.
Since the tween center opened in January 2017, O'Hanlon said they've seen an 80 percent increase in library usage. The new center is the site for a bi-monthly Story Time event. Along with the chaise and bean bag chairs, the center's walls are adorned with tween art, done by the children and several tables and chairs to read, work on projects or do homework. For those who don't have time to search for a book at the library or would prefer to do their reading at home, they can now search for the book online and find the location of the book in order to save time during your next trip to the library.
"We're excited to get people in here. We've got one of the best collections for this size libraries," O'Hanlon said.
To search for a book online, visit the WSMR Post Library's online card catalog, at http://mwrlibrary.armybiznet.com/search~S63/
To search for events at the library, visit FMWR WSMR Post Library, Enterprise Webpage, at https://whitesands.armymwr.com/us/whitesands/programs/post-library.