Gift has library branching out

In memory of their grandmother, sisters from Port commission tree sculpture that is now the centerpiece of the Niederkorn Library’s children’s section

A REALISTIC SCULPTURE of a tree is the new centerpiece of the children’s library at Port Washington’s Niederkorn Library, which was recently renovated. Standing in front of the tree was the library’s new assistant director, Rosalia Slawson. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

The new refrain at the Niederkorn Library in Port Washington might be, “Meet me under the tree.”

That’s because a recent renovation of the children’s library in the lower level of the facility included the creation of a tree that stretches from floor to ceiling and beyond, with a hand painted sky and even a not-so-secret fairy door.

The tree was sculpted by Milwaukee artist Sally Duback. It is a gift to the library in remembrance of Marge Poole, given by her granddaughters Johanna, Moira and Sophia.

“Growing up, my grandma always wanted us to have a love of reading,” Johanna Poole said. “She would always read us stories instead of having us watch TV.”

And just as their grandmother had brought them to the library when they were children, the girls brought library books home to her as she aged, Poole said.

“We wanted to erect something in her memory because she gave so much to us,” she said. “And we were in there all the time.”

The tree, Poole said, was suggested by her father Patrick and something she and her sisters embraced as a “great remembrance. It’s something simple. It’s something cute, and it’s something that really adds to the room.”

Library Director Tom Carson said youngsters gravitate to the tree, which he called an ideal sculpture for the children’s library.

“To me, the tree is a symbol of growth. It’s something well represented in literature and it’s fun to look at,” he said. “It represents longevity and this community — it has deep roots yet it’s growing and changing.

“The kids love to sit under it, and when they come in they go to the secret compartment and put things in there for others to discover.”

While the tree may be the most visible change in the library, it’s certainly not the only one.

The children’s library has been given a facelift, with new carpeting, furniture and artwork. It’s been painted and the layout has changed. And along with the tree, plants are now part of the decor.

“It’s a whole different feeling, a whole different energy to the room,” Cindy Beyer, director of children’s services, said. “There’s a welcomeness to the room.

“This room gives kids a place to be kids.”

The collection has been revamped as well. Beyer said she went through every book, adjusting along the way, while the remodeling was going on.

While the majority of the changes were made in the children’s library — all of them paid for through donations — other improvements have also been made.

Upstairs in the adult library, the new books are now housed on shelves directly in front of the desk and the staff is working to create “open hold” shelves nearby. Patrons will soon be able to collect items they’ve placed a hold on from the shelves using the last four digits of their library card number and the first three letters of their last name.

The library will also soon replace its current self-checkout kiosk with two new ones.

“The goal is to free the staff so they can provide more one-on-one service,” Carson said.

People often need help on the library’s computers, he noted, to file job applications or resumes or to print boarding passes.

“Not everyone has computer skills, and they want one-on-one help,” Carson said.

And the improvements are continuing. The library is slated to get painted and the landscaping on the west side will be dug up, replaced with native pollinators either this fall or spring. Signs will tell people about the new plants, providing the library one more way to educate patrons.

And new boilers will also be installed, a necessary improvement although not one most patrons will notice.

Even as the library is making physical changes, it is also bringing in new programs.

The popular teen cafe is currently on hiatus as a new teen services coordinator is sought, but Carson said it’s expected to return next month.

The library is also bringing back the One Book One Community program in October, featuring “(Don’t) Call Me Crazy,” a compilation of 33 pieces about mental health edited by Kelly Jensen.

The book will be published on Tuesday, Oct. 2, and Jensen will be in Port that day, spending time at Port Washington High School before giving a talk and signing copies of her book at 7 p.m.

The library will be giving away 100 copies of the book that night, and will have another 100 copies at the library to give out throughout October. Book discussions will also be held throughout the month.

“There are some stories in there that are really profound,” Carson said. “Our goal is simple, to start the conversation. If you look at the statistics around mental health, it’s pretty scary.

“If we can change one person’s life, it will be a total success.”

October is mental health month, he noted, adding he is a member of the Character Counts mental health committee.

“We’re very excited about all this,” Carson said. “I think it’s important to revise the One Book event, to have it more specifically focused on an issue.”

Rosalia Slawson, assistant library director, agreed, noting it gives the community a sense of unity.

Carson said he has his eye on more improvements to the library, saying it’s essential in order to remain relevant in this day and age.

The library’s checkout numbers are pretty stable, he said, while the number of people coming into the library has increased slightly — and many people are using the library’s electronic resources.

“People take the library very seriously in this community,” he said. “We want to continue that.”


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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