Russellville Public Library director Joshlyn Bowen speaks at the Jan. 12 meeting of the Book Lovers Study Club.

Russellville Public Library director speaks at Book Lovers meeting

Russellville Public Library Director Joshlyn Bowen, new member of the Book Lovers Study Club, was the featured speaker for the group’s Jan. 12 meeting, held at the library.

Bowen spoke about how she came to the role, to which she was hired in May 2022. She explained she served as a volunteer in the library for a year prior, which gave her “plenty of time to gauge the role the library played in the community” and set goals for moving forward.

“I had a clear vision as to what type of presence I wanted the library to hold within our community,” explained Bowen.

“First and foremost, I wanted Russellville Public Library to be a place of beauty so that those passing by noticed the building and wanted to step inside,” she added. “I reached out to a local artist who I knew could 100 percent bring my vision to life through window art, and that is exactly what Nikki Warren has succeeded in doing.”

Bowen said she also wanted the library to have “consistent programming and outreach to the community.” Since she came on board, the library has hosted several programs each month, all free to the community.

“With the help of the Extension office and outstanding well-known performers, each event has been a huge success, and our voice is ringing loudly within our community,” Bowen said. “Our patron numbers have tripled, and our patron retention and growth are off the charts.”

She also spoke about her third core goal: fellowship and compassion.

“I make it a priority to pay attention to library detail,” added Bowen. “Every morning, outside and inside of the library, I greet each guest daily, and I stress the importance to my staff that the first impression to the community is on the outside, but the second is how they’re treated once they come through the library doors.”

She said the library is “clean, inviting and exudes compassion.”

Bowen gave a summary of library activities since she became director.

The 2022 summer reading program welcomed 103 registered children – a number Bowen said will have to be scaled back because of available space, fire code restrictions and the final number that winds up at programs including parents and siblings. She also noted an issue with sufficient parking for events; however, she celebrated the success of the reading program summer activities.

“For the first time in library history, this program was funded 100 percent by a local business (Pilgrim’s),” she added.

Aug. 8 the library got a game table offering a number of electronic games, including Monopoly, chess and Tic Tac Toe – thirty-eight total games, some of them educational. Bowen said children and adults alike have been enjoying making use of the table.

The library also took part in a book drive to send books to flood-affected areas in Kentucky.

“As most of you will recall, Kentucky was severely impacted by flooding, with one library in particular losing everything. We immediately sprang into action by collecting book donations that would be delivered to this library,” she explained.

Bowen said with the help of the community and the Haleyville Public Library, close to 700 books were delivered to Kentucky.

“Aug. 10 we brought back a designated section for inspirational faith-based books,” Bowen added. “I feel it’s important to have a section designated for self-help and inspirational words of encouragement so that when patrons come in seeking books to improve their lives, they’re readily available.”

Aug. 12 the library joined forces with Tyler Thompson from the Extension office to begin hosting meetings of the Franklin County Robotics Club. In addition, also with help from the Extension office, the library supplied watermelon activity packets to children in the community in honor of the Watermelon Festival.

“Sept. 21 we revived our online book and social media platforms by supplying detailed book lists from the New York Times bestsellers as well as top picks from the Reese Witherspoon book club,” said Bowen. “When you go onto our website, there’s a link that connects to all of these books.”

Oct. 10 the library introduced a portable Polaroid selfie station to use during programs, and Bowen said it has been a big hit.

Other events Bowen spoke about included:

  • 22 – Fall movie day, “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown,” with face painting, finger foods, candy tables and photo booth.
  • 3 – Turkey take-home activity.
  • 3 – Christmas paint party with Nikki Warren.
  • 13 – Santa meet and greet, with reading by local author and illustrator Dianne Wages Pace.

“As you can see, we have been very busy since I started on May 16 last year,” Bowen added. “I’ve already begun planning and booking events for 2023, including a fairy hair pop-up princess event Feb. 11.”

Bowen said her goal for this year is to show the importance of a new library – with more parking, more advanced technology and meeting space specifically designed for programs and facilitating events.

The city has property behind city hall that has been donated for the purpose of a new library; however, the house currently standing has to be torn down before proceeding. Plans for the facility are reportedly in the works but not yet finalized, and necessary funding will have to be secured.

Bowen shared her enthusiasm for the eventual new library, as well as her commitment to continue working to make the library, old or new, remain a welcoming, enjoyable and educational atmosphere and resource for the community.

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