❤️Downtown’s Worcester Public Library📚📖🎥🎸 is a great resource for all!❤️

By Jim Coughlin

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Jim is an avid reader!

The Main Branch of the Worcester Public Library was closed from March 2020 until June 2020 and had the formal opening of the new front entrance on Franklin Street on August 17, 2020. However, just prior to the June re-opening, the Library Board of Directors had chosen a new director in December of 2020, Jason Homer, who formerly worked as the Library Director in Natick.

Homer is absolutely passionate about his job as the library’s director. He came to Worcester during a difficult time for our city, state, country and the world because of the global pandemic. However, in his very short time in Worcester he has already been recognized for his leadership qualities.

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WPL librarians – always there to help students with projects, book searches … and so much more. photo: J.C.

As a youth growing up in Worcester, I was a regular patron of the Main Branch of the Library at Salem Square. From memory, I could tell you exactly where each particular section (of only books) were located, such as Humanities, Social Sciences and Science, the Children’s Room, Newspapers and Periodicals and much more.

But the recent assignment from my editor Rose to write a story on the many new services available to all at Salem Square library was something of a “reporter’s surprise,” if you will. I learned that no longer is the Worcester Public Library a huge collection of books, books and more books, as it was back in my early days. But rather it is a vital community center of all kinds of information and resources that have kept pace with the new age of information in the 21st century.

In comparison to earlier days, there is a relatively new and updated Children’s Room and a Teen Room, complete with inter-active technologies such as a computer generated drawing board in the Children’s Room where little ones as young as 3 or 4 years of age can “draw” on a computer screen that lights up with bright colors to keep their attention. One added benefit for Worcester’s increasingly diverse population is that this screen is also programmed in Spanish. To show how thoughtful the planners of these new library features were about generating positive vibrations among the youngest amongst us: there is a game of “Tic Tack Toe” on this wall-sized computer. But in addition, it also features a corollary game of “Tic tack Woo,” as in Worcester.

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The WPL, pre-new front entrance. CECELIA file photo

Also in the children’s room is a rocket ship where the little ones can go in and view a computer screen and, if parents are at all concerned what they are viewing, there is an adjoining computer screen that will let them see exactly what their child was just viewing.

In addition, there is also a “baby’s play area” where the little ones can play with various building blocks to their hearts content.

The library director told me that the children’s room rocket ship is placed there in honor of Worcester’s Dr. Robert H. Goddard who is credited as being the father of rocketry and the Space Age. Goddard fired the first jet fueled rocket into space on March 16, 1926, at Pakachoag Hill in nearby Auburn. It is good that Worcester’s future generations will get to know their former famous neighbor’s contribution to the Space Age – he played such an important role in things that we, as Americans, take for granted today – such as landing astronauts on the moon!

Homer said the children’s room is for infants to age 12 and after that there is the Teen Room for kids ages 12 to 17 that is perhaps the most popular and widely used of the different departments in the entire library. Staffing the Teen Room are three young women: the longest serving the Teen Room is Erin O’Neal who has been a librarian for five years and is originally from Wyoming. In my interview with her she said, “I love my job and the (Worcester) library is a great library to work for.” Assisting her is Claire Laprade who has been at the WPL for only one year. She, like Erin, enjoys her job. She said the focus is on the teens. “We can provide a safe place for teens,” she said. The pair said the number of teen patrons on each day depends on whether it is a school day or a day off from school.

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Hundreds of “classics” await you at the WPL! CECELIA file photo

Erin said during school days, the WPL Teen Room averages about 30 visitors. But they said on perhaps a school day there can be as many as 100 teens over the course of the day. For teens, if they have their library card, they can scan it and take out a laptop for whatever they want to do. There is another librarian in the Teen Room who has only worked at the library for a much shorter time and just happened to be off the day that this reporter dropped by for his grand tour.

THE INNOVATIONS CENTER

There is also an area that the library director called “The Innovations Center” that contains among other things, sewing machines that patrons can check out for their use in an identical way as taking out a book to read!

Worcester has long been a “Gateway City” for newly arriving immigrants from all over the world. Behind the table where I sat with Homer for our interview is what is called The Welcoming Center. “What we have on the shelves, here are videos and DVDs for helping people with their test for (United States) citizenship and for English as a Second Language – ESL,” he said.

Also in this area, I found a whole array of both videos, along with newspapers and periodicals in foreign languages such as
Japanese, Korean and more.
Included in “The Welcoming Center,” the Worcester Public Library also hosts representatives from various social service agencies such as SMOC, the South Middlesex Opportunity Center that provides counseling and coaching for members of Worcester’s homeless community who have fallen upon difficult times.

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Jason Homer, WPL director, and staffer in one of the many WPL departments designed to serve diverse Worcester communities. The Teen area is the most widely used section of the library. photo: J.C.

And for those of you who are into reading various newspapers and periodicals from either across the country, New England or Central Massachusetts, there is a very diverse Periodicals Department, with newspapers from Worcester’s neighboring communities and as far away as Pittsfield, Massachusetts (which is as far west as one can go and still remain in our state).

On the second floor and third floor of the library are two banks of computers for those who wish to do letters applying for work or to do either internet or book catalog searches. Directly behind the computers on the second floor is what is called the “Worcester Room,” a collection of newspaper articles on people of historical note to Worcester such as members of the Worcester municipal government, our state reps and other citizens.

And not to exclude those in the city who are visually challenged, there is a department that has a collection of books in Braille and Americans for Disabilities/ ADA-approved and -adapted computers for their use.

Here in the United States, we had a president who had served as the Commander of the Allied Forces during World War II in Europe and subsequently became U.S. president in 1953. During this time, there was a newly elected United States Senator from Massachusetts named John F. Kennedy who became a champion of every demographic who became marginalized, including the blind. He filed bills in the United States Senate to improve the lot of the our visually challenged citizens. Unfortunately, the president, Dwight Eisenhower, did not seem fit to give them a helping hand for improved services. So unfortunate. So come 1961 when Mr. Kennedy had ascended to become the most powerful man in the world, president of the United States, he did not allow the power he had inherited from Eisenhower to go to his head. He made assisting the blind one of his administration’s many, many priorities!

What this reporter has tried to lay out for the readers of CECELIA is that you don’t have to be a professional student or a “bookworm” to visit the Main Branch of the Worcester Public Library on Salem Square in downtown Worcester. No matter where your interests lie or your age or ability, or even challenges in life … for either learning, enrichment or just finding a way to spend your spare time, the Worcester Public Library has something for you.

And perhaps the biggest advocate the City of Worcester has at this time for making all kinds of learning and information available to all of our residents is Jason Homer, the executive director of the Worcester Public Library. He’s intelligent, caring and, based on my nearly hour-long meeting with him, he absolutely loves what he is doing as the library’s executive director!

So, the next time you are in downtown Worcester, near Salem Square, I urge you to drop into the Main Branch of the Worcester Public Library. I promise you there will be something there for you – including copies of CECELIA!

On my way out of the library, last week, I stopped and asked the library’s security officer, Mr. Hargrove, for his thoughts on the new library director. He had nothing but absolute praise for Homer. Worcester needs more Jason Homers. We greatly appreciate his service to our city!

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This September: dad walking his son to school. Parents, visit the library with your children so they become comfortable learning in this Worcester gem! photo: R.T.