by Nathan Boddy
The Bitterroot Public Library has added a new member to its staff with Ravalli County local, Annika Riley, as the Library’s Youth Services Librarian. While new to the Hamilton location, Riley brings with her the four years of experience she gained at the North Valley Public Library’s Youth Services Specialist in Stevensville. Prior to her tenure with the public library system in the Bitterroot Valley, she’d also spent five years as an elementary school teacher with both Corvallis and Hamilton school districts, but finds her work in the library to be a fitting place for her efforts in education.
“I feel like, working at a library and getting to put on these programs for kids is like all of the best parts of teaching,” she said.
As the Youth Services Librarian, Riley’s role is to design and offer a variety of programming for all kids as well as assuring the availability of appropriate materials for checkout. Additionally, she will be managing outreach with the community such as school visits.
“I try to provide programs that will appeal to extroverted as well as introverted so that everybody will want to participate,” said Riley. “I design the regular programs that we host here at the library, but we also seek out and bring in other talent.”
The Bitterroot Public Library will continue to host its Preschool Story Time this year with reading for children to take place each Friday at 10:30, weather dependent. Each story time is developed around an age appropriate theme, and intended to stimulate understanding of a topic. Due to Covid, registration is required, but the group should expand in July into separate ‘baby/toddler’ and ‘children’ groups. Also visiting will be some of the exciting regional groups such as Animal Wonders, spectrUM, Missoula Irish Dancers and the Montana Natural History Museum.
Riley says that the role of a public library is to “take learning to a place that is more authentically connected to the world around us and encourage a lifetime of learning.”
That encouragement is on display with the ‘6 Book Reading Challenge’ to begin on June 14th for youth ages 5 to 18. Participants will be encouraged to stop by the library to check out six books that they can read prior to August 6th. Each young reader will fill out a small report on their chosen books and then discuss further reading recommendations and their reports with the Youth Services team at the Library for a $10 gift card. Not to be outdone, the Teddy Bear Reading Club for ages 0-4 will also provide an opportunity for the youngest readers to complete early literacy activities to earn prizes.
One exciting new program for this summer was developed by Youth Services Assistant, Katharine Key, whose position was made possible by the passage of the 2020 Mill Levy. The program, SAGA (Summer Afternoon Group Activities), will expose upper-elementary aged youth to such exciting events as the BEAR Ropes course, Kitchen Science Lab, Theater Workshop and more. Registration is required via the Library website or phone.
A graduate of the University of Montana, and mother of two, Riley says that she enjoys the impact that libraries can have on kids and moments such as when, “kids come into the Library and get loud and animated because we have a book they’ve been wanting to read or we have a book on a certain topic that they’re super excited about! Or when I recommend a book to a kid or teen and they come back to the Library and tell me how much they loved it and want more recommendations!”
Says Riley, “My vision for the future of Youth Programming at BPL is having a space for just youth to come create, make, tinker, play, etc. Where youth from all walks of life feel included.”
For more information and to register for events, visit the Events Calendar page at https://bitterrootpubliclibrary.org.