LITERACY FOR LIFE: Busy Carson library looks to expand

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of articles focusing on literacy the Nevada Appeal will run over the next month. The project, Literacy for Life, will call attention to the problem in the area as well as programs aimed at increasing literacy levels.

Ruth Hightow moved to the assisted living center, The Lodge, in Carson City from Maryland four weeks ago to be near her daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Although the center's activities keep her busy during the day, she said, she's looking for something to do in the evenings rather than watch television.

So Maureen Farley, from The Lodge, accompanied Hightow on Tuesday to the Carson City Library.

Hightow's daughter and granddaughter had recommended "The Time Traveler's Wife," but all the copies had been checked out.

Instead she had a stack of Nora Roberts novels and was going to ask the librarian to recommend two.

"I don't want to stick only to Danielle Steel," she explained.

Hightow was among several patrons in the library Tuesday morning. Some browsed books, others looked through the audio section and nearly every computer had someone sitting at it.

And that, said Library Director Sara Jones, is not unusual.

"People use this facility in a great way," she said.

She said 400,000 items are checked out annually, averaging about seven books for each of the 55,000 people living in the city.

"We're one of the most-used libraries in the state," she said.

Even such, she would like to see it grow, both physically and in the services it provides.

"The more the information age gets a hold of us, the more these kinds of civic spaces are really important," she said. "It's really important to have a place where everyone is welcome, even more important in this terrible economy."

She is spearheading an effort to build a new 60,000-square-foot library in a central location that would appeal to residents and be a draw for new business.

Anthea Strachan, who brought her two boys Calvin, 1, and James, 3, to check out audio books on Tuesday, likes the idea of a bigger, better library.

"That would be great," she said. "I love books and I love reading. I want them to love reading, too."

Tripling its current size, the new building could accommodate Carson City as it grows.

"I'd like to build it to last," Jones said.

The specifics - where, how much it will cost, from where the money will come and when it will be built - have yet to be determined.

The library board may seek a 2010 bond or get funding from city supervisors, among other methods.

But, she said, the sooner it can all be worked out, the better.

"It's a very hungry environment," she said. "If we could build quickly, I think we could do it economically."

Private donations also will be key to securing enough funding. The library's largest fundraiser of the year, Oktoberfest, will be 11 a.m.-

6 p.m. Saturday with a kids park, drinks, food, live music all day and a book sale, complete with presentations from local authors.

But the bigger facility is just part of it, Jones said.

The library is now equipped with state-of-the-art computers, all less than a year old. There are books and magazines available for download, as well as audio books and movies.

She is also organizing a community read. From February to April 2010, the library will encourage book clubs, classrooms and individuals to all read "Three Cups of Tea," together about a teacher in Afghanistan.

It will unite the community as well as educate people about the Muslim world, she said.

The theme of the book fits well her personal philosophy.

"In Carson City or Afghanistan, people want their children to have a good future," she said. "A good education, knowing how to read, is a key part in that."

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