Books, magazines, comic books, and other literature are where these adaptations come from, and a library is the go-to place to find new stories again and again; however, the adventure one can find in a library isn’t limited to books. Today, we are going to be talking with Nick Smith of the Pasadena Public Library in Pasadena, CA, who will give insight into the many things families can look forward to when visiting their library.
Geeky Parent Guide: Nick, thank you for taking the time to share with us the wonderful world of the Pasadena Public Library. What would you say is your favorite thing about the library (even if it’s your current role at the library), and how has that changed since you were younger?
Nick Smith: One of the biggest positive changes in the library world has to do with flexibility. Successful libraries have to adapt to new physical formats, whether in the form of e-books, audio books, graphic novels, or videos. Our central library building was built over 90 years ago, and none of those things existed then. We were, however, one of the first libraries to let patrons check out musical recordings and continue to add new physical formats and styles of materials, and make them available to the public.
The libraries I went to as a child were filled with books, but that was about it. No comics, few magazines, and certainly nothing electronic.
GPG: The Pasadena Public Library seems to be very active with events, such as ArtNight hosted in October and March. For those that haven’t attended an event like ArtNight, will you share what that experience is like for those that want to attend in the future? Also, are there ways for people to get involved with the library to help coordinate an event?
NS: The idea of ArtNight is to share as many forms of the arts with as many people as possible over the course of an evening. It happens twice a year in Pasadena, usually in March and October. People ride shuttle buses from venue to venue around Pasadena, meeting authors and artists, watching dance, listening to music, and viewing visual arts. It’s a great experience. At the library, we have author signings, a graphic novel salon and gallery, art exhibits, and a variety of other things each time. Classical music, puppet shows, photo exhibits…pretty much anything goes.
GPG: The list of things to do at the Pasadena Public Library seems quite extensive, from Storytime and Homework Help for kids, a YA Book Club for teens, concert performances, and plenty of book recommendations. Are there any recurring activities or events that you would consider a go-to for any parent or child interested in visiting the library?
NS: If you have younger children, our storytimes create the opportunity for children to experience stories, but also for the families to interact in a safe setting. For school-age children, we are doing an entire year of events related to STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics] with everything from classes on careers to art experiences.
GPG: Are there any annual or bi-annual events that stand out and reinforce that the Pasadena Public Library is doing what it can to educate and provide a positive atmosphere for families to visit and ultimately return again in the near future?
NS: Since the 1920s, one of the things our library has done is to stage a Summer Reading Club for children. A few years ago, this was expanded to teens and adults to nudge families to all read. Also, our One City, One Story program brings authors and ideas to the city to get as many people as possible to read the same book over the course of a few months and start discussions. This year’s book is Rise of the Rocket Girls about the early women who worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. We have other, similar programs for children and teens, plus our participation in larger events such as ArtNight.
GPG: What types of resources are available at the Pasadena Public Library that people might not be readily aware of, whether it’s specific technology, online catalogue, video game clubs, or computer labs?
NS: We are about to open a special Innovation lab, with everything from sewing machines to 3D printers to laser cutters. The idea is that people will be able to use the equipment to make things, even if they don’t own the hardware themselves. Also, once some current updates are completed, we will be able to offer our users online access to graphic novels and magazines, in a way similar to our e-book checkout system. We are also building a collection of technology that you can check out and use at home, like robots that will help kids to learn about how programming works. And yes, we’re starting a new video game club for teens.
GPG: What special activities or events are coming up that you want to highlight for parents with young children?
NS: We start with babies. Every week, we have storytimes for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. We also have a monthly Baby Gym to allow young children to interact in a safe space, and art options for young children who are encountering paints and even crayons for the first time.
GPG: For families with teens, what would you recommend for them to explore?
NS: For teens, we have book clubs, writing workshops, a club where they watch anime, career and college workshops, and a host of volunteer opportunities. For instance, teen volunteers make up the bulk of our homework assistance for younger children. We also have a teen author festival every year, which is getting bigger.
GPG: What geeky things do you enjoy doing outside of the library (e.g., watching Netflix, reading Harry Potter endlessly, etc.)?
NS: I’m a huge science fiction fan, both reading and watching, but I’ve been a reader of comics ever since I could read. I also spend time playing board games, especially now that there are so many cool ones. My current favorite game is Terraforming Mars which is based on both science and science fiction. Plus, I’m a performing storyteller and a history buff, and both of those things can take up time.
GPG: What else would you like to share about the Pasadena Public Library for those interested in finding a new library to call home?
NS: Pasadena, as a community, loves reading. Our library actually predates the city itself, which is very rare. So, we have a central library and branches positioned so that almost everyone in the city can easily get to a public library. That’s an amazing thing, as is the fact that our residents voted to tax themselves to support what we do and keep us getting better. Mostly, though, we’re a library where you can ask for things, whether it’s help with a project or material that you can’t find.
GPG: Before we wrap up, how can people keep up to date on what’s going on at the library?
NS: We just updated our website and calendar, so you can look for our catalog and events here. [Yes, that’s really a 5. Cities can do things like that.]
Both library programs and things put on by other folks (but happening at our libraries) are on the public calendar there, and an online version of the library newsletter provides more details about our programs. The biggest events are highlighted near the top of the page.
If you want to keep track of the wonderful Pasadena Public Library network, you can also follow them on social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and their own blogs. Geeky parents in or out of the Pasadena area, check out special online pages dedicated for your kiddos based on their age – Kids and Teens – and find all of the latest book lists, events, blog posts, homework help, and many more fun activities.
The Geeky Parent Guide wants to extend a big thanks to Nick Smith for sharing his insights into the Pasadena Public Library, and why it will always be cool to go to the library.
Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.