Local Library Not Just For Books: Offers Activities And Enrichment Programs For Youth And Families

By Jarod Farn-Guillette

The local library plays a vital role in small towns. More than just a place to store books and use computers, they often provide essential services that many are unaware even exist. The Calais Free Library, free and open to anyone, regardless of residency, offers a range of programs and activities for youth and families that are not what you'd normally expect. Joyce Garland, the youth services librarian, has been active in the library for three years now, striving to expand services and increase interest in the library, all while improving literacy in local youth. 

During her tenure she says, “We've been experimenting with programs to see what will generate interest.” Already with plenty of popular activities for younger children, such as the popular Wiggles n' Giggles or Tap Your Toes, there was room for more, from the obvious such as a Book Lovers Cafe to the less intuitive activities such as Homeschool Thursday, Chess Club, Lego Club and even Pokemon. Garland states, “Chess Club was popular, with a lot of family involvement.” Aside from the regularly scheduled programming, she also has done special learning events such as geology and science themed courses such as “Rocks and Minerals.” Inviting a local prospector from Charlotte County, who “brought in and donated a lot of his own collection for the children to identify the rocks.” It turned out to be a popular event with fourteen students and four adults in attendance. Other educational programs include summer reading and lunch with the librarian, where kids come in once-per-week and have lunch and read a book with the librarian.  Other popular programs include Dr. Seuss and the holiday themed events. With summer approaching, expect more science and arts focused activities.  

More than a place for learning, the library has also become a place of growth and hope for some local youth living with unfortunate life circumstances. For many students in residential facility care the library becomes a place of reward and, according to Garland, a motivator for self-improvement. With library privileges as the carrot, not the stick, are used to maintain good behavior.

The sense one gets when stepping into the library, especially the youth library, is the history of the building, and its lack of technology. At a time when many libraries shift toward digital, the smells and sounds of books in stacks remain a main feature of the facility. Garland, appreciates this atmosphere and “wishes kids would get into books more.” She acknowledges, “we need to be open-minded about what kids are into.” With that, a possible future addition is another computer in this section and the installation of Minecraft. But don't get your hopes up yet kids.  

When activities and services for youth and families are few and hard to find in the Calais area, the library fills a valuable gap in services with its expanded offerings. According to Garland, community members are not fully aware of all the extras the local library offers Calais. “We are definitely a resource for families” and “we are a welcoming center.” On this day, toddlers sat at tables drawing, a wood block fort was constructed in the background and older kids bounced into the library for the day's Pokemon club. With near 10 youths in the library, engaged in healthy social and learning activities, that says a lot, even if just for providing a safe and positive environment for youth in our community. 

In a perfect world Joyce Garland and the other librarians would love to expand the physical building. Lacking a bathroom or kitchen in the youth section, programming has been limited. For those that care about the library or would like to learn more, this upcoming Saturday, February 11th from noon until 2:00 pm the library will be offering “Love Your Library Day.” With various Valentine’s Day themed activities from washable heart tattoos, sugar cookie decorating, hot cocoa, and making Valentine’s Day cards, there will be plenty of excitement and things for everyone to do. 


The iconic yellow building, perched with a great view of St. Stephen and the St. Croix River, offers more than many would expect. It's role in the community is indisputable. More than a repository for musty books, the local library is truly a place of wonder and growth, and not just for youth in Calais. Drop by this Saturday and dust off your own sense of wonder at the Calais Free Library.