Fall message from the Executive Director

I have decided that November is my favorite month. It begins with the leaves starting to drop along with the temperatures (even if they bounce back up), and concludes with the best holiday, Thanksgiving. With Halloween, Dia de Muertos, and Six Bridges Book Festival in our rear view, it will be no time before we’re eating turkey, exchanging gifts, and welcoming a new year.

Speaking of Six Bridges, this year was one of the most memorable in recent history. After our big change from spring to fall and after being virtual for two years, it was great to have the community of all ages out again celebrating books and the joy reading brings. I enjoyed moderating the event at Ron Robinson Theater with Kim Wehle. She had practical advice on how we might all adopt lawyer-like ways of analyzing problems and making hard choices by (1) identifying our values, (2) carefully researching applicable knowledge, and (3) accepting in the end that we cannot get everything we seek.

The parking deck rooftop party on a brisk fall night to kick off the eleven-day festival was a powerful reminder of the wonderful location of Library Square near the banks of the Arkansas River and the library’s ability to bring people of different backgrounds together. I hope that outdoor event becomes a new tradition.

We had many well-attended events where we celebrated some locally loved authors and hosted numerous award-winning authors from across the country. If you missed out this year, many of the events are available to watch on our YouTube channel. Take the time to check them out if you missed them live. Or go back and watch again if you want to relish a great program.

As we look toward the end of the year, we anticipate more fun programming across our branches as kids are invited to make holiday crafts. In addition to the holiday programs and crafts, we have three exhibitions on view that explore our world from vastly different perspectives. On view at Children’s Library, Oliver Jeffers: 15 Years of Picturing Books, features the art of a talented writer and illustrator who has sold over 14 million books worldwide. I hope that parents in our area take advantage of this opportunity to share this unique experience with their children. Conversely, Our Community Through My Lens at the Roberts Library is a series of photos taken by unsheltered residents in Pulaski County. These powerful images give us an opportunity to witness the differences but also the jarring similarities of a group that struggles with basic needs. Also at Roberts Library, you can see Illustrated Arkansas: The Art of Comics in the Underground Gallery, a collection that showcases local graphic artists and designers. I strongly encourage you to witness these fantastic exhibits that will be on display through the end of the year.

Much of what a 21st century library does happens in a virtual realm – with ebooks, apps for music and movies, and even streaming our CALS programming. We know that making change is not easy for some patrons for a variety of reasons. This year with funding from Windgate Foundation we introduced the services of our two CALS Digital Literacy Guides. This small team is here to help our patrons with any technological needs; whether someone needs help figuring out how to work an Excel spreadsheet or how to set up their personal cell phone email. The emails and calls we get from grateful patrons praising Camille and Jakeob has been gratifying. This free tech help can be scheduled as one-on-one assistance at the Guide’s home branch, as drop-in assistance when they visit other branches, or through one of the group classes they offer.

In 2018 we sat down to create a strategic plan for the first time at CALS since the 1980s. The end date of that scope was 2022, which back then seemed so far away. Now, here it is. I will talk about what we have accomplished and share more about how you can help us shape the next plan at a later time. For now, I will say that I am very proud of all the progress CALS staff and our community partners have enabled us to achieve since 2018.

I look forward to the future, including the big changes that the voters funded in May with the remodeling of Main. That will be underway we hope by the fall of next year. Planning has already begun, including preliminary renderings from the architects. They will have public meetings to solicit your input on what you would like to see with a massive makeover of this old but endearing building. We will be sharing more about how this will impact both staff and patrons in the coming months.

As a parting thought, I encourage you to think of others, whether those are your friends and family or members of the community. We have a few drives that are great opportunities to aid those who might need a helping hand, including the Arkansas PBS Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive through November 30, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center’s toy drive through December 7, the upcoming annual Food for Fines drive, and our our Free Little Pantries turn over stock almost daily. Please follow us on our social channels or through the newsletter for the most up to date information on what is happening at CALS.

Happy Holidays,

Nate Coulter