A/N: This article appeared in the February 20 issue of the Ephrata Review.
By: Rosalba Ugliuzza
Fridays are back and the Village Post Office has arrived.
These are just two of the reasons the year is off to a great start at the Ephrata Public Library.
But there is even more excitement on the way in the coming months as library visitors and users will be able to scour the building in a galactic way.
Beginning Saturday, May 18 until July 11, the library will host a science traveling exhibit called “Discover Earth.” Thanks to a grant received by the American Library Association, Ephrata is the only library in Pennsylvania hosting the grand exhibit.
“This project will be the largest that we’ve ever done at the library,” said executive director Penny Talbert. “I am expecting in those six weeks to see 60,000 to 80,000 people come to see the exhibit.”
Part of the STAR Library Education Network, which is led by the Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning, the Discover Earth exhibit is visiting 10 libraries nationwide.
The exhibition includes an 18-inch diameter Magic Planet globe and a 42-inch multi-touch table computer. Children and adults will be able to gain knowledge about the Earth through features like animal specimens and simulation-based educational games.
Talbert said said there will be educational tours for the kids.
“They will view a short movie and then they will go through the exhibit to do experiments,” she said. “There’s a game show that kids can play. It’s really neat.”
The library has also recently installed a real-time digital weather station that will collect data and show how local temperature, pressure, and precipitation change during the exhibition’s stay at the library.
“We’ll be able to gather that data and compare it with the other data that the 10 (stations) in other libraries in the country have,” said Talbert.
As part of the exhibit, there will be an archaeologist who will help the kids with an archaeological dig. Talbert said an astrophysicist from NASA will be teaching a beginner astronomy course for the public.
“There are close to 100 programs that we are doing for this exhibit,” she said. “It’s going to be crazy, but it’s going to be awesome.”
The exhibition will also coincide with the library’s summer reading program this year, aptly titled “Earth Science.”
“It’s like the perfect storm,” said Talbert. “So we are really excited and scared to death.”
The library has overcome challenges in past years, but it has received enormous support from the public for its changes like the most recent one with the “re-opening” on Fridays.
“We had a lot of people that were very adamant that we open on Fridays. In fact, we used to get our annual fund drive letters back, and they would write, ‘Will donate when you open on Fridays,’” Talbert said. “Fridays were our slowest days so that’s why we decided to close.”
Closed Fridays resulted in a 37 percent cut in the state funding. Talbert said the Ephrata library wasn’t as badly hit as other libraries.
“When something like that happens, you try to recover, and you find new sources of income,” she said.
Foot traffic has consistently picked up with more services offered. In 2012, more than 335,000 people visited the library, and circulation has increased by four percent.
With the growing popularity of electronic readers, EPL has expanded its collections of books, audiobooks and magazines by launching a digital library.
“Not only is the library going to be about books and the community, but it is also going to be about content delivery,” said Talbert.
Through an online service called OneClick Digital, users with a library account can download free e-audiobooks. Users can also download books through OverDrive, another online service with a collection of best-selling and classic titles. There’s a seven- to 14-day lending period. Once the e-books expire, they will return to the digital collection. Users can check out five titles at one time.
Users can also check out Amazon Kindles and Kindle Fires at the library. Talbert said people have also started to embrace the Zinio online service, which allows users to download magazines to their computers, Kindle Fires and iPads.
“Books will never go away. People love books,” she said. “Sometimes people will say, ‘Oh in 10 years, we’re not going to have books,’ but they like them. There’s a reason why we’re so busy.”
The Village Post Office, located on the State Street entrance of the library in the former staff room, opened about two weeks ago and functions just like a regular post office. People can mail letters and packages and buy postage stamps — however, packages will not be weighed.
The library’s VPO is the first in central Pennsylvania.
“The nice thing about it is that the (Village) post office is opened much later because we are opened Monday through Friday until 7 p.m. and Friday, we are open until 5 p.m.,” said Talbert. “People seem pretty excited about being able to come here and mail their packages.”
With the passport and post offices now in effect, the library plans to expand it services again in mid-summer by opening a notary office. Talbert said the expansion of services is a good thing for the library.
“It’s almost like a knowledge center or a community commons, and it’s becoming more and more like that,” she said. “It’s a destination. I want them to come here.”
There are a couple of spots still available to sign up for the Discover Earth exhibit. For more information on the exhibit, the digital library, and the Village Post Office, visit ephratapubliclibrary.org.