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Libraries’ offerings extend beyond books and computers

San Diego county is a region of outdoor living, from students who eat at lunch tables in noontime sun on a daily basis to community events scheduled at parks and beaches year-round.

Every now and again, however, our residents are slammed by icy rainstorms and gusty winds that warrant an actual umbrella to get from the car to the house and back again. Come the weekend, families hit the road to pitch a couple of snowballs in Julian or Pine Valley with the promise of returning home to warmth and dry clothes after a day of play.

In the meantime, homeless residents on the lookout for a dry place to take shelter by day turn to spaces that are free, with a public bathroom and a place to charge a cellular phone. As with so many other community services, the library checks out.

Counterpoint to the physical presence of rain and the need for a warm refuge, there is also respite to be found in the safety of resources for residents who might have a warm bed at night but struggle by day for information, connection, community. Really, is the older man who clearly has not showered in some time with weathered skin and a collection of bags seated at a public library table for a six-hour stretch so different from the quiet girl who does not use the name from her birth certificate and sneaks bites of food from her backpack in the teen reading area? Neither one appears to check out books. More noticeably, both use the library as shelter from whatever their life looks like once they pass through the doors at closing time with their hunched shoulders and lonely looks.

Noticeably, the event listings at local libraries include a few key categories. Sure, there are story hours for children, game nights for families and monthly book clubs for avid readers but there are also meetups that might not have existed ten years ago. A 2021 Institute of Museum and Library Services article “Showing Their Pride” describes the steady increase of LGBTQ-related programs in recent years, including those where people talk about their experiences as homeless teens with a connection to the LGBTQ community. Meanwhile the American Library Association has research available on programming for baby boomers, the 78 million Americans born from 1946 to 1964 who are at risk of being overlooked by society upon widowhood. They might have a lovely home, but do they have anywhere to go?

Along with fire and police services, and a local elementary school, the library is a fixture in most communities. There are fewer books on the shelves these days, the better to curate a collection and reel in square footage while online sources of information abound; there are shortened building hours but boosted public wi-fi available; there are events listed that focus on community services and food banks and veteran outreach. The library, it seems, offers a roof but is also a source of shelter.

This month, local libraries have a rich offering of events which blanket a wide swath of the community.

• Kids in grades 1-3 can join the Beginning Readers Circle from 3:30 to 4:30 on Thursdays at the El Cajon library.

• Parents and caregivers can join in songs and stories for babies under 18 months. Geared toward pre-walkers, this group meets Fridays, 10:30 to 11 a.m. at the El Cajon library.

•Craft activities and building challenges with LEGO bricks, geared for kids ages four and up are offered by local high school students every Saturday and Sunday in March from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. at the El Cajon library.

• High school students also offer homework help, reading practice, and craft activities for grades K-8. Spanish, Arabic, and Chaldean-speaking tutors are available. Drop in from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays at the El Cajon library.

•The El Cajon library also offers recurring and regular meetups where LGBTQ+ teens, ages 12-17 can socialize in a safe space every Wednesday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

• Adults can get free help with learning how to use a computer from 3 to 4 p.m. every Thursday at the El Cajon library.

• The El Cajon library also offers weekly English as a Second Language classes. See a staff member for more information.

• The San Diego International Rescue Committee (IRC) is offering a new program for asylees, human trafficking and domestic violence survivors to assist with housing, medical, legal, and eligibility for public assistance in Farsi, Dari, Pashto, Spanish, Russian, and more languages. More information will be available at the El Cajon library from 2 to 3 p.m. on March 7.

• The El Cajon library welcomes adults with disabilities and their caregivers to make crafts, play games, explore the library, and enjoy music, storytimes, guest speakers, and more on the second and fourth Monday of every month from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

•Join in at the Lemon Grove Library from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on March 7 for Seeds and Sustainability, a hands-on experience in planting seeds and starting your own garden plants. Patrons will take home peat pots with seeds to transplant.

• The Lemon Grove library will also be showing an afterschool movie every Tuesday from 3 to 5 p.m.

•The Slime Club will be meeting at the Lemon Grove library from 3 to 5 p.m. on March. 9. All supplies are provided.

• Game Day is happening from 3 to 4 p.m. on March 16 at the Lemon Grove library— stop by to play video games, card games and board games.

•Young children are also welcome every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. for songs, stories and fun at the Lemon Grove library.

• Children in grades 1-5 are invited to join in at the Santee library every Wednesday from 3 to 4 p.m. for a different afterschool adventure. Supplies are guaranteed for the first 30 participants.

• The Santee library offers toddler storytime from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. every Thursday with stories, songs, playtime and fun for the littlest readers.

• They also offer preschool storytime from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. every Friday with a focus on building early reading skills, learning to follow directions, and enjoying social time.

•The Black Storytellers of San Diego will present an oral history, Women Who Tell Our Stories from 3 to 4 p.m. on March 9 at the Santee library to celebrate Women’s History Month.

• Join the Lego Construction club at the La Mesa library every Monday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Builders can construct whatever they want, or take on a weekly building challenge. All ages welcome but younger children must be accompanied by an adult.

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Source: East County Californian

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