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Whether you’re looking for a good book or a fun craft project, you might want to see Alisha Coleman at the Port Royal branch of Caroline Library, Inc.
Coleman is the branch assistant and the only staff member assigned to the branch, which is manned by volunteers when she’s not there. She helps out patrons who stop in, and she runs crafts programs for kids and adults.
She also supervises a small group of children ages 7 to 13 who are part of a “latchkey” program. The kids come hang out at the library while their parents are at work.
“They come here. I keep an eye on them. We do crafts. They play games. That’s basically what it is,” Coleman said.
Coleman develops the various crafts projects. They’ve made windsocks. They’ve constructed paper mache. They’ve painted. They’ve decorated vases and flip-flops.
The setup works well for someone who almost became a teacher. Coleman was going to school at Virginia Commonwealth University until she realized a career as a classroom teacher wasn’t the right fit for her. Instead, she now enjoys spending time with the children who come to the Port Royal branch and leading them in activities.
“When they come, they’re happy, and we do fun stuff,” she said. “They look forward to coming here.”
The Caroline native joined the library staff last September, and she sometimes helps out at the Bowling Green and Ladysmith branches.
“Ladysmith is different because it’s a lot of people, but I like it. And (same with) Bowling Green,” Coleman said.
“Here (in Port Royal) is laid back. Some days, I might have two people the five hours I’m here, and Ladysmith, in the five hours we had 45 people in, and in Bowling Green we had 60,” she added.
The lighter traffic in Port Royal means Coleman can assist patrons that much more efficiently.
“It’s not as crowded. So when you come in, you’re most likely able to get on a computer. You don’t have to wait. I’m here. I see what goes on, so if you need a book, I can find it for you really fast,” Coleman said. “I can roam around and keep an eye on everybody.”
As might be expected with her working in a library, Coleman is a fan of reading. She prefers mystery books, though since having kids of her own she’s gained a new appreciation for children’s titles such as the “Llama Llama” series.
Reading can lead to education and “opens your mind to new things,” she said. “With kids, when they read, they use their imagination—they’re creative.”
She said the best thing about working in Caroline is “the people.”
“I know a lot of people here, and everybody’s friendly,” she said. “I’m comfortable here.”
Her main goal at the Port Royal branch is to “get more people to come to the library.”
“The library’s here in town. Use it. Utilize the Port Royal branch,” Coleman said. “I only get maybe the same 10, 15 people, but I know there are lots of people. Come to the branch. Check it out.”
The Port Royal branch is typically open Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays from noon to 5 p.m., and, if volunteers are available, Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Coleman was a nominee for this year’s Owlson award, which the Caroline Library gives annually to “someone who has consistently performed in a way that leads to a significant advance or benefit to the entire system.”
In her nomination, library administration said, “(Coleman) raised the circulation numbers, visibility, and program attendance with her Latchkey Crafts for Kids and Teens program. Port Royal went from nonexistent showings to being the highest attended system-wide for young people’s craft programs. Their adult attendance for the Get Crafty program also consistently equals or beats attendance and donation of craft materials for all the branches. Alisha goes out of her way to bring people the books and services they need, often donating materials for her kids’ program out of her own personal craft supplies.”