More than Books

Beauchamp Library offers variety of activities for students

Even while the search is on for a branch manager, Beauchamp Branch Library’s many services are available for community members of all ages.

The library hosts children’s activities and a GED program, and it also offers meeting places for local theater and gardening groups. On Halloween, the library will put on its sixth annual “Halloween Spooktacular,” a carnival-style event where children wear costumes and can win prizes at different game stations.

The Onondaga County Public Library system has begun the search to replace branch manager Olivia Opello, who retired recently. Senior librarian Dan Smith said the process of replacing a civil service employee is beyond Beauchamp’s authority.

“We are a branch of a central library that has a board of trustees with directors, so we are not a quasi-independent place,” Smith said. “The idea of civil service was to make jobs independent of political appointments, and there are state governed rules on who gets hired and how.”

Susan Reckhow, the county libraries’ administrator for branch services and initiatives, said rumors of a reduction in services are just that – rumors.

“We absolutely want to continue the strong programs in place, and a new branch manager would simply have an opportunity to make even more connections with the community,” Reckhow said.

The library’s program, “Cooking-Up Literacy,” won an Alliance for Workplace Excellence national award in 2010. Run by Christine Richie, the children’s program director, it is offered to children ages 5 through 13. The program is designed to enhance children’s’ reading, writing and math skills through lessons and crossword puzzles. Classes end with children creating healthy snacks such as fruit or veggie dips and, occasionally, pizza.

As a clerk at Beauchamp for the past six years, Richie regards the branch as an after-school hot spot. A guard is on duty Mondays through Thursdays, as the library strives to be a safe, family-oriented destination.

“A lot of kids come here after school, and it’s really the place to be,” Richie said. “Instead of going home, kids can come here and do their homework, use a computer, utilize the programs and hang out with their friends in a safe environment.”

Beauchamp is located at 2111 S. Salina St., and its relationship with the South Side has made it a rallying point for the community. Librarian Katie Hayduke recently transferred from Beauchamp to White Branch Library on Butternut Street. She says she noticed during her two years at Beauchamp that the library’s programs helped people understand the library services. While youth depend on the branch’s educational program offerings, such as story time or summer reading programs, the adult patrons depend heavily on Beauchamp for its technology services.

Paschal Ugoji, Beauchamp’s young adult librarian, helps patrons enhance their computer skills by teaching them how to create emails, search for jobs, design resumes and use social media. The branch also provides free Internet access, a luxury to some on the South Side.

“This community is relatively low-income and most people don’t have computers at home or Internet access,” Ugoji said. “There are days people are lined up waiting solely to use the computers and we try to respond as best we can to what the community needs.”

As for finding a new branch manager to succeed Opello, county library officials said they are compiling a list of eligible candidates who have the qualifications to manage a branch. The list contains people who passed the civil service exam for the position.

“We will select the branch manager out of those candidates,” said Kyungjin Park, county libraries’ director of internal services.

Beauchamp’s Reckhow is thankful the library has senior staff members who have offered stability during this time of transition. Looking forward, Reckhow said she would like to see more computers for patrons at Beauchamp, but most importantly wants to find a branch manager who will embrace the South Side.

“Beauchamp is an integral part of the South Side community,” she said. “Our previous two branch managers built up the tradition of partnership with the community. Now we need to continue that.”