The moms and dads who use the South Hill Library figure it’s never too early to get their children hooked on reading.
“It’s one of her favorite things to do,” said Cynthia Seely on a recent visit to the library with her 3-year-old daughter, Jennifer.
Their selection that day: “Tom & Pippo & the Bicycle.” Said Jennifer: “I want to read this book.”
Since it opened last January, the South Hill Library has become a favorite haunt for children and adults alike.
Nearly 40 percent of the books checked out from the new branch at 34th and Perry are for children.
While the South Hill library doesn’t have the dramatic waterfall view of the downtown library, it is getting plenty of use nonetheless.
Nearly 40,000 items are checked out each month at the South Hill branch, compared with about 50,000 downtown.
With its vaulted ceiling made of natural wood, generous window light and easy parking, the South Hill branch is appealing enough, even without a river running by it.
The South Side facility has 15,000 square feet of space, compared with the old Manito branch of just 4,200 square feet.
Circulation at both the new South Hill branch and the East Side branch is up nearly 30 percent.
“It’s a huge improvement,” said BruceAnn Culbertson, who uses the South Hill library to check out books to read with her two children.
The south branch is currently the second busiest library in the city’s new system, although the new Shadle Library, now under construction at Wellesley and Belt, is expected to circulate more items than the South Hill library.
Shadle moves into its new 18,000 square-foot building next spring.
The smaller East Side library, on the campus of the East Central Community Center, circulates about 10,000 items a month. That branch, which serves a smaller neighborhood area, has 6,400 square feet of space.
Library officials said the success of the South Hill branch shows the great potential of neighborhood libraries with the new buildings funded through the $28 million library bond issue approved by voters in 1990.
The bond issue included the new downtown library; the South Hill, East Side and Hillyard branches, which are currently open, and the Shadle and Indian Trail branches.
The new branch planned for Indian Trail and Barnes roads will be 10,000 square feet. It is currently under final design with ground breaking next spring.
Dolly Richendrfer, manager of community relations for the library system, said planners in 1990 wanted to emphasize the branches as the “preschoolers’ door to learning.”
Each branch is staffed with a trained child librarian.
“We feel if we can get them (children) there, we’ll have lifelong readers,” she said.
Parents using the South Hill branch apparently feel the same way.
Cynthia Seely, who has a master’s degree in psychology, said children’s books not only encourage good lifelong reading habits, but they teach children to resolve conflicts and get along with others.
“It’s learning about the world,” Seely said. She goes through as many as eight or nine books a day with her daughter, including two at naptime and two at bedtime.
Seely also attends story times at the South Hill branch. During story times, she meets other parents with children of similar ages.
“You see a lot of moms,” said Nancy Ledeboer, youth services coordinator for the library system. “It’s an opportunity to gather and interact together, and for kids, it becomes an informal social group.”
Mitzi Cugler takes her twin boys, 15 months, in their twin stroller, and her 5-year-old daughter to story times.
“It’s best to start them out young because then they feel books are a part of their lives,” said Cugler, who has a master’s degree in elementary education.
She said she started showing her children picture books at 3 to 4 months of age.
Kristen Snyder, the children’s librarian at the South Hill branch, said, “I am amazed myself there are that many people who are committed to bringing their kids to the library. I love it.”
Snyder puts on a fun show in her 30-minute story times. She reads aloud from her favorite selections, showing the pictures to the children, and lets them stretch out or answer questions when they get fidgety.
The story times are intended to encourage more reading later.
“Reading in the home is important,” she said. “The TV is easy, and it’s on a lot. Sometimes it’s hard to turn it off.”
All of the library branches, as well as the downtown library, offer weekly story times for toddlers and preschoolers. Typically, 30 to 50 children are brought by their parents to the South Hill sessions.
The libraries are on a break during the holiday weeks, but story times resume citywide beginning Jan. 6.
For preschoolers ages 3 to 5, the readings at the South Hill branch are Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., and at the East Side branch on Mondays at 10:30 a.m.
The South Hill branch also has a story time for toddlers on Mondays at 10:30 a.m.
The branch libraries aren’t just a haven for children and parents.
They get plenty of use by adults and students.
The reference desk at the South Hill branch gets 3,000 to 4,000 inquiries each month.
Michael Sierra, the head librarian at the South Hill branch, said that on school days students quickly fill study areas in the afternoon and early evenings.
It’s not just a social occasion, he said.
“A lot of work gets done,” he said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Librarian’s Top 10 children’s books Children’s books are arguably the most popular items at the new South Hill Library. Nearly 40 percent of all the books checked out are for children, and children’s librarian Kristen Snyder has a built a loyal following. She agreed to name her Top 10. Here is her list, in alphabetical order by author’s name, with Snyder’s brief description of each: Carle, Eric, “The Very Quiet Cricket.” A very quiet cricket who wants to rub his wings together and make a sound as many of the other insects do finally achieves his wish. Ehlert, Lois, “Snowballs.” When snow is falling everywhere, a snow family is created and imaginatively decorated. Emberley, Ed, “Go Away Big Green Monster.” Die-cut pages through which bits of a monster are revealed are designed to help a child control nighttime fears of monsters.” Henkes, Kevin, “Chrysanthemum.” Chrysanthemum loves her name until she starts going to school and the other children make fun of it. Martin, Bill, “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.” A bright, rhythmic exploration of the ABCs. McBratney, Sam, “Guess How Much I Love You.” During a bedtime game, every time Little Nutbrown Hare demonstrates how much he loves his father, Big Nutbrown Hare gently shows him that the love is returned even more. Rosen, Michael, “This Is Our House.” George won’t let any of the other children into his cardboard box house, but when the tables are turned he finds out how it feels to be excluded. Waddell, Martin, “Owl Babies.” Three owlets whose mother has gone out into the night try to stay calm until she returns in this testimony to a mother’s faithfulness. Wells, Rosemary (illustrator), “My Very First Mother Goose.” These nursery rhymes give us a suggestion that mishaps might be funny rather than tragic, that tantrums can be comical as well as frightening, and that laughter is the cure for practically everything. Wood, Don, “The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear.” A beautifully illustrated “must read” full of humor, suspense and satisfaction. Mike Prager