Summer Intern Elsa Hager ’19 Fosters Love for Reading at Walla Walla Public Library in WW, WA

The Walla Walla Public Library sits near the middle of downtown, just across from the Goodwill. Hosting numerous programs such as crafternoons, paper airplane making classes, an information session about raptors (featuring a variety of live birds), a chamber music concert, and talks with notable authors (we have Sherman Alexie visiting in August), our little library is the place to be during the summer. It has also been a wonderful place to work for the past month and a half.

The library is not only engaging on the outside with its colorful signs and intricate brass sculpture of a magnificent bull; it is every bit as vibrant in its interior design and atmosphere. The children’s section where I work is home to games, blocks, stuffed animals out of children’s stories, colorful decorations, and a large painted carp that sits near the entrance. The wheeled carp sculpture used to belong to a children’s hospital where it was used as a cart for art supplies. The fish has been aptly named “ArtCarp.”

During the first few weeks on the job I was frequently stationed at a desk near ArtCarp where I could tell kids about the library’s Summer Reading Program. When kids sign up for the Summer Reading Program, they are given a chart to log their reading, and after reading for fifty days they can redeem their chart for a brand new book. Much of my first few weeks were spent trying to sign kids up. We visited many classrooms in Walla Walla to promote the program and handed out bags with reading logs, bookmarks, stickers, and other library paraphernalia. We especially targeted kids in the 4th and 5th grade age range because statistics show that academic performance at this age is strongly predictive of how well kids do in highschool and college.

Since school has been out for a while now, my routine has changed a bit. During a typical day, me and my fellow Whitman intern, Lucy, help organize the library’s teen volunteers, shelve books, help visitors, and plan and implement various programs. Today we are hosting a crafternoon (an afternoon of crafting) centered on great artists. We will be making crafts based off of Van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Picasso. Our last crafternoon brought in around 50 kids, so we hope to have similar results today! We love having kids come in to work with us because we know that making the library a fun place opens new doors for the children of Walla Walla. We hope to bolster the community by making education enjoyable and inspiring kids through books and learning. Of course, adults are also always welcome to stop by. Next time you’re downtown, come on in! We have air conditioning!

Experiences like Elsa’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff.

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