Green Bank Library librarian Hallie Herold is ready to get visitors back into the library to use the space as a place to read, learn and enjoy the company of friends and family.
With the help of a newly awarded Libraries Transforming the Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries grant, Herold plans to extend the library’s services into its outdoor space behind the facility.
The grant is part of an initiative through the American Library Association in collaboration with the Association for Rural and Small Libraries and is focused on providing libraries the tools and training to initiate community involvement.
“I’m kind of implementing the grant in three phases,” Herold said. “What we’re focusing on here at Green Bank is improving our outdoor space. We have a beautiful area back there; a nice, covered porch, big spacious yard, really nice view of the Green Bank Telescope, and it’s not used. It’s under appreciated.”
The initial goal of the grant was to provide library patrons with computer access outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At the onset of the pandemic, the other four libraries in the county opened up their WiFi networks and extended them so anybody can access WiFi from outside the building, twenty-four hours a day,” Herold said. “At Green Bank – we don’t have that option. We don’t have WiFi here.
“What I’m working on right now is getting those materials so that we can offer that opportunity to our patrons who are interested in sitting outside and using their computer. I am hoping that it will be popular. If it is, potentially we could expand that and come up with something a little more permanent to offer computer access outside in the open air.”
The outdoor computer access is the first phase of the grant. The second phase is to open up the conversation to the public.
“On June 30, at 6 p.m., I’m inviting all interested parties to come explore the space,” Herold said. “I’ll have some light refreshments. It will be very casual – just an opportunity to talk about ideas and brainstorm.”
Those interested in sharing ideas for the outdoor space who cannot attend the meeting may pick up a paper copy of the survey at the library. An online survey will be available soon.
Herold said she is looking forward to hearing what the community has to say and to hear ideas for the outdoor space.
“I’m just excited to see where this will go,” she said. “I’m hoping that this will just be the start of more conversations and building the space to make it a functioning part of the library; to extend our services outside our physical walls.
“I hope that we get to a point where it’s normal for people to come in and go through that door, grab a magazine, sit on a porch swing, meet a friend for lunch,” she added. “Maybe have some sort of space for groups to have meetings.”
In addition to being a public library, the facility is also a designated Pocahontas County Visitors Center and Herold wants to include ideas for visitors who are new to the area or just passing through.
“We get a lot of traffic here,” she said. “People that are trying to visit the telescope or passing through and see it and say, ‘what is that thing back there?’ I think I would like to look at that side of it a little bit. Maybe have some informational signs about the telescope, directing people to the [Green Bank Observatory] to do their tours and then also a place for people to stop in and have lunch if they’re traveling through.”
The possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to brainstorming ideas for an open-air space, and Herold is hopeful the community will take an active part in creating an inviting and enjoyable space.
“I just want to see it used more,” she said. “I’m excited. I think there’s a lot of untapped potential.”
With the library returning to welcoming visitors after being closed for the pandemic, Herold said now is the perfect time to bring the community together for a conversation.
“The pandemic has sort of stripped a lot of that away from a lot of places,” she said. “That’s what I’ve missed most about the library, the constant buzz of people coming in and chatting and meeting each other here.
“It’s a community center, and I’m hoping to get back to that – safely.
“We’re going to work on it.”