A Project for Students and Citizens

Posts Tagged ‘Public library’

Living Democracy in Hobson City: Week Five

In Hobson City on July 18, 2013 at 4:11 pm

CAM00786Collaboration Helps Sable Learning Center Children

By Audrey Ross

The Sable Learning Center in Hobson City is a prime example of how much needed programs can persevere, through the good times and the not so good times, for the sake of the community. Opened decades ago by Maudine Holloway, the Sable Learning Center has always been a safe place for the children of Hobson City to go after school and during the summertime. Teachers at the center would give them extra attention outside of school and would often take the children on educational field trips. But budget issues have put more stress on this previously thriving program.

Although parents can give donations for the services provided, the center is free for children of all ages. Many of the Sable Center’s youth come from low-income homes. In the summertime, the children are fed breakfast, lunch and snacks throughout the day. They also have access to an in-house library of books and other learning materials. In the past, they have relied on the city and private donations to keep things up and running. In recent years, however, the Sable Learning Center has struggled to come up with adequate funding to continue its programing.

Low on staff and materials, Holloway has been searching for ways to keep the children engaged during their eight-hour days at the center. Various local church groups come and volunteer with the children on a regular basis, which gives the kids an opportunity to do new and exciting things. This summer, the Sable Learning Center has paired up with the Hobson City Public Library to maximize the potential of both.

The Hobson City Public Library offers an extensive summer reading program full of all types of daily activities. Although the kids at the Sable Learning CenterCAM00746 can’t come to the library every day, the library is now coming to them. Every child who enrolls in the summer reading program is given a simple reading test and assigned a workbook according to their grade level. These workbooks are designed to help bridge the gap between grade levels during the summer. Children can complete activities in the workbooks to earn a Hobson City Library t-shirt and other prizes such as candy, fake mustaches and other fun toys.

With the help of Hobson City librarian Donna Ross, all 40 plus children in the Sable Learning Center were given a reading test and score in June. They were then given their own workbooks and presented all the prizes they could win if they worked hard to complete their workbook activities.

On the day the workbooks first arrived, the children were grouped according to grade levels and allowed to help each other. They were originally given 15 minutes to work. But when the timer sounded, they begged to keep working. There was so much excitement at having something to work toward and accomplish, and they did so diligently for the following days.

CAM00785After a few weeks, librarian Ross returned to see how many children had completed 10 activities. Each child who had done so received a Hobson City Public Library t-shirt and was encouraged to continue completing activities to earn more prizes. Those who hadn’t yet completed 10 activities had even more incentive to keep going. The pre-k children were initially left without workbooks as there were no preschool workbooks with the summer reading program, but with more help from the library all the preschoolers at the center were also able to get their own workbooks and work towards prizes.

Although the workbooks were a great first step, there was still an issue with the lack of staff at the Sable Learning Center. This problem has been greatly alleviated by the addition of a buddy system at the center that pairs each younger child with an older child to help them with reading, writing and other activities. The younger children benefit, and the older ones can experience what it’s like to be a leader and a mentor to another child. The effects of this system on both parties are tremendous, not to mention the help it provides for the teachers and staff.

The Sable Learning Center has been in Hobson City for many years. Throughout the years, many things have changed but one thing has stayed the same: Holloway’s dedication to providing Hobson City’s children a place to learn. With the help of the community, the Sable Center will continue to provide this for years to come. There is more progress to be made, but the center has made great strides this summer.

Living Democracy in Hobson City: Week Three

In Hobson City on June 28, 2013 at 4:21 pm

IMG_1022Club H.C. plans summer projects for Hobson City

The H.C. Club was organized by summer by 2013 Living Democracy Fellow Audrey Ross. She is working with the Hobson City Community and EconomicIMG_1026 Development Corporation and other local citizens. The group meets regularly to plan events and projects to benefit Hobson City. Members recently organized a basketball tournament with six teams participating.  NaQuan Christian, one of the tournament organizers, said he hopes to continue to work to create opportunities for youth in Hobson City. Club H.C. meets in the library and is open to youth age 10 to 18.  Their next project is planning community beautification efforts such as a Welcome to Hobson City wall mural. Members of the group, in addition to NaQuan, are Jessenia Howard, Nykeria Howard, Antonia Marquez, C.J. Howard, and Jacorius Ball. Ross said the founding members of the group are working hard together as they develop projects to benefit the community.IMG_1010


Living Democracy in Hobson City: Week One

In Hobson City on June 6, 2013 at 9:02 pm


Hobson City Library Offers Everything from Books to S’mores

By Audrey Ross

If there is one thing a community needs, it is a place for ordinary citizens to come together: a sort of “third place” outside the formality of city hall and other public arenas. In Hobson City’s case, that place is the library. The Hobson City Public Library sits in the center of the whole town, right in front of the newly revitalized J.R. Striplin Park just off of Martin Luther King Drive. Although the inside of the library isn’t much bigger than your average living room, it plays a crucial role in the town.

Because of Hobson City’s small population, at just less than 800 people, the number of spaces available for people to gather is limited. The library offers citizens of all ages a safe and quietIMG_3963 space to work, play and meet away from the heat or rain. In addition to books, the library is equipped with computers with Internet access, a children’s room full of educational toys and cozy beanbags.  A big round table is available for gatherings.

Librarian Donna Ross has high hopes for Hobson City’s main meeting place. She sees the library not only as a place to access information but a place for people to connect with each other and spend time outside of their normal routines.

“The library is a place where people connect, whether by technology or in person, with the things they need,” Ross said. “The Hobson City Library strives to be a place where people are exposed to different ideas and ways of thinking, perhaps at times opening patrons up to a world which would otherwise be unavailable to them.”

Her unique passion for her work has paid off and made the library an amazing place to be. “Donna is honestly the best librarian that Hobson City has ever had,” says Hobson City Community and Economic Development Corporation secretary Charity Richey-Bentley.

Nikki Gaskins will soon join the staff of the library to continue the work of Ross in developing this third space for citizens of all ages to enjoy.

Much of the library’s focus is on providing the children of Hobson City a place to learn and develop.  This summer Ross is directing a summer reading program that inspires kids to read and join in library activities. Since its start, the reading program, and the youngsters’ enthusiasm for the program, has continued to grow. Activities in the program vary greatly. From story times to movie nights to arts and crafts, Ross’ objective is to expose the kids to things they may not have done before and give them something positive to do within the community.

IMG_3952Ross also uses the library to connect Hobson City’s youth with other local groups and citizens by inviting them to participate in library activities. Recently an entomology student from Jacksonville State University came to the library for a fun, messy evening of s’mores and storytelling. But the real value of the library can be seen on the children’s faces as they speak with enthusiasm about the activities to come.  The library’s varied summer programs give children who would otherwise have little else to do something to look forward to each day and keeps their eyes open for new opportunities. The work of Ross to create diverse programs has built a strong foundation that will continue to benefit Hobson City for years to come.

Know your history (and build it too)

In Collinsville on June 5, 2013 at 11:51 pm
Collinsville High student Deanna McKinney explores "Little Collinsville."

Collinsville High student Deanna McKinney explores “Little Collinsville.” (Photo by Nathan Simone)


Many of us aren’t lucky enough to live in a small town that can trace its history back to its founders and original families.

But for Collinsville, members of the Collinsville Historical Association have made preserving the history of the town a collaborative effort since 2003. Housed inside the Collinsville Community Center, a former National Guard armory, is the Collinsville History museum.

While no more than a few rooms in size, what the museum lacks in space it more than makes up for in meaningful content.

Mary Beth Snow, a sophomore with Auburn University’s Living Democracy program, is mentoring a group of Collinsville High School students this summer. Her mission, in part, is to help them discover Collinsville through public work and striving to be engaged citizens.   Snow wants them to care about their community and help it grow as well. So it happens that on Thursday, May 29, Snow decided that it would be a great idea for the group to visit the museum. Snow’s group on this particular day included Deanna McKinney, Lynda Pedro and Naomi Cummings,  girls of different backgrounds, ages and interests.

(from left) Deanna McKinney, Lynda Pedro and Naomi Cummings explore the Collinsville History Museum with Rebecca Clayton.

(From left) Deanna McKinney, Lynda Pedro and Naomi Cummings explore the Collinsville History Museum with Rebecca Clayton. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

On our way to the museum, the girls joke about each other’s quirky habits. Pedro is known as the “and then” girl because she always follows lists of potential activities with “and then…”, Cummings is a self-professed “read-aholic” who spends the majority of her free time either in the Collinsville Library or at home reading any number of books. “I’m reading four Harry Potter books at the same time,” Cummings said. “And watching the movies to see how it differs.”

Snow said she immensely enjoys having a group of kids to talk to and address problems with and wants to instill in them a sense of responsibility and love for the place they’re from.

“I want these kids to know that there’s nothing wrong with loving where you’re from and wanting to stay there,” Snow said. “Growing up doesn’t mean moving away.” After trips and having fun, Snow said she has talked to her high school group about “brain drain” in rural Alabama and the effect that acts like shopping locally can have on a community.

“I’ve had discussions with them about serious topics, about how shopping in your community keeps dollars that eventually gets used in other ways,” Snow said. “It’s just something you don’t really think about until someone else prompts the discussion. I certainly didn’t when I was their age.”

And so their trip to the museum is part fun, part historical research and part personal discovery.

Rebecca Clayton, Gail Moore and Martha Barksdale are all women who volunteer at the museum when it is open Thursdays from 1 – 4 p.m. All of them were born and raised in Collinsville and, if only gone for short periods of time, have all returned.

Clayton said that the museum presently has items from more than 100 donors. As we speak, Gary Bowen, chief of police in Collinsville, enters the museum with an old rotary phone. “Found that downstairs,” Bowen says. “Looks like 1920s, maybe 30s.”

One of Clayton’s favorite pieces housed within the museum is a movie marquee, originally located on the  movie theater that now houses the Collinsville Public Library. Other artifacts housed within the museum include antique beds, high school yearbooks, old newspaper clippings related to a variety of wars and Coca-Cola bottles stamped with “Collinsville, Ala.” on the bottom from when Collinsville had a bottling plant.

Myles Smith, a community partner with the Living Democracy program, said that since its opening fourth-grade students in Collinsville usually receive a tour of the museum and the town.

“We take them to the museum and show them around downtown,” Smith said. “Just try to give some background on where they are.”

Myles Smith, Collinsville community partner with Living Democracy, as he appeared in 1954.

Myles Smith, Collinsville community partner with Living Democracy, as he appeared in 1954. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

A highlight of the trip is discovering the 1954 Collinsville High School yearbook, with Smith’s picture inside. Everybody exclaims “oh my gosh, it’s Myles!” and gathers around to look.

While our group is further exploring the museum, Clayton points out a miniature model of the former glory of the Cricket Theater, currently being renovated downtown.

“If you like that, there’s more where that came from,” Clayton says.

By then it’s closing time (4 p.m.) at the museum, and we’re invited just a step away from Gail Moore’s house, located off of Highway 68, where “Little Collinsville” is housed inside a large metal shed. “Little Collinsville” is a collaborative effort by Gail and Charles Moore to re-create miniature models of Collinsville buildings from the 1940s and 50s. It features buildings of importance to Collinsville in beautiful crafted detail.

A spot near a reproduction of a Baptist church has a fully functioning well (think a teaspoon of water at a time) and a replica of an historic African-American church stocked inside a preacher and congregation member figurines.

Many residents, said Moore, aren’t aware that “Little Collinsville” even exists. “People have heard about it, but most haven’t visited it,” Moore says. “We welcome everyone to take a look.”

More information about the Collinsville Historical Association and museum can be found at gemofthevalley.net

Living Democracy in Collinsville: Week One

In Collinsville on May 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm


By Mary Beth Snow

My first week in Collinsville is in the books, and I feel like I’ve lived there for an entire summer already. We’ve gotten some good work done on our projects, but in reality, most of the week has been devoted to settling in, exploring, and meeting people.

Something we talked about a great deal in preparation for this summer is the concept of “third places” – places in the community where people casually encounter each other. These places differ from official meeting places in that there is no set time or plan for interactions there; it spontaneously occurs. They’re essential to healthy communities though. The definition of community involves people meeting together, and for people to meet and form authentic relationships, they have to be able to do that naturally. Third places are where community is built.

One of the best third places I have experienced this week is Jack’s. Being a longtime Jack’s lover (it’s my favorite fast food restaurant) I was very excited to find out that my community had one, and even more excited to find out that it was such a922789_157015994471333_1053150698_n crossroads of community. There’s a group of men who meets there for breakfast every morning, which includes Myles Smith, one of my community partners. I ate lunch there twice this week with Myles. I met a host of interesting people there, including a former mayor, two chicken farmers, and a woman who is one of twelve siblings.  Every time we go back, I am introduced to someone else from Collinsville, and I love it.

Another thriving third place is the gym I joined. The time in the evening I have been going is apparently a very popular time for high school students to work out, because every night it has been packed with people working out, talking, and laughing together.  Everyone noticed that I was the new girl in town right away, so on my second night there, someone introduced himself to me. After a few minutes of talking we discovered that he is friends with the daughters in my host family and actually goes to the church where my host father preaches. On the same night I met him, I had sat next to his mother at Bible study just an hour before.

I’m very lucky because my community partner, The Collinsville Public Library, is a thriving third place. In a time when most public libraries go undervalued and underused, the Collinsville library is filled with people every day. People come to get books, use the computers and internet, make copies, have meetings, or just to spend time with their neighbors. It is a beautiful facility, located on Main Street downtown, and functions as a hub of community for all different members of the Collinsville population.

The library is on the first floor of a recently renovated building, and the second floor is still in the process of renovation. The annual Friends of the Library Plant Sale was held this Thursday and Friday to help raise funds for the renovation efforts. Various local gardeners, nurseries and businesses donated plants and flowers, and we set up a temporary plant stand in front of the Collinsville Drugstore.    I was fortunate to spend all day Thursday sitting under the tent at the plant sale meeting locals.  As Myles said, “40 percent of it is for the plants, but 60 percent is for the library.” People came by, many commenting that they didn’t need anymore plants this season or would be doing well to plant what they already had, but no matter what they said about needing plants or not, they bought some out of love for their library and a desire to help their community. Vick, Pam, and Mrs. Weaver offered their gardening expertise to customers while Myles and I handled the money and chatted with the visitors. More than once someone came by just to say hi and tell us that they would be back the next day to buy their plants, and Myles bought plants for friends who were unable to make it but planned to pay him back Sunday at church. When the Collinsville school bus drove by, a couple of children yelled out the window “Hey Mr. Myles!” and car honks weren’t an uncommon form of greeting.

I’m so excited about my weeks to come in Collinsville. I’ve already seen so much of the good in this community- people who love their hometown, who are so willing to help in any way they can and who are ready to welcome a stranger like me into their community. More adventures are to come… so stay posted!