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Disney Princess Merida (from Brave), portrayed by Rachel Wetzel, reads stories to children during the summer lunch program at the library. / Laura Austin Photo

RC Library offers summer activities for kids and adults

By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer

This summer, the theme for the Ridgecrest Branch Library is “Find Your Voice.” The library staff has been creative in finding and presenting activities every day that they are open. You will find something for kids, teens, and adults. They are also incorporating early learner programs for the younger ones. The Ridgecrest Branch/Kern County Library at 131 East Las Flores Ave. is open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11 am to 7 pm, Fridays from 11 am to 6 pm, and Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm.

If you haven’t been to the library in a long time, the modern library differs from the yesteryear library. In the old days, the library was where you were required to be quiet. A kind, but stern, librarian would give you a look if you were being noisy. Today’s modern library is an active, vibrant center of the community. “We generally try not to shush people and stare at them and try to make them be quiet,” Charissa Wagner, the Library Associate who supervises the Ridgecrest Branch Library, tells us. “It is a challenge sometimes to balance the modern library versus the traditional view many people have of libraries. They see the library as a library with only books – a quiet place to study and read. The modern library is not quite the same, and it’s challenging to balance that.

“It is more of a community hub where people can come, gather, and learn or receive information. We try to offer things that will benefit the community in some way, and we try to connect people to resources. A lot of people will come in, and they ask for help with something.” Wagner provides examples, “We’re trying to learn English, or we want to learn about citizenship. Do you know any local places that can help us with that? So we try to connect people to the resources that they need. Some of the things we do offer, but if we don’t offer it, then we try our best to find someone in the community who can help them” All of the Kern County Libraries are offering free lunches this summer. “Lunch is from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm Tuesdays to Fridays,” says Wagner. “It’s free to anyone 18 and under. They don’t have to sign up.  There’s a main entree, milk, and a fruit and vegetable. Sierra Sands Unified School District is providing lunch through July 7. From July 11 through July 28, the Kern County Superintendent of Schools will provide lunches to allow all Kern County library branches to offer lunch during the summer.

“One of the nice things that we’re offering through Sierra Academy of Dance is having a Princess Reader for almost every Friday we have lunch. That will be the rest of this month in June and the first two Fridays in July. We’ve had different princesses come to visit. They read stories to the kids, offer glitter tattoos, and photo opportunities.”

Artistic Director of Sierra Academy of Dance, Cate DeMin, says, “Our advanced dancers take the opportunity to raise money for summer intensive dance programs throughout the year. Last week Rachel Wetzel read stories to children in her Merida (from Brave) costume during the lunch program. Cinderella, Belle, and other princesses host a royal ball at the end of each month for three to eight-year-old children at Sierra Academy of Dance. In July, Wetzel and 13 dancers will represent the Academy at the Tremaine Dance Convention and Competitions in Orange County.”

There will be other dancers at the library. “East Kern Country dance troupe, Books in Motion, is returning on July 27 at 3 pm this summer. They bring a book alive through dance,” explains Wagner. “They will perform a dance tied to a book. They will teach the kids a little dance, and they’ll have a craft as well. I’m not sure what the title is for this summer, but they did Peter and the Wolf last summer.”

Wagner gives us an overview of some of the other programs being offered. “This summer’s theme is ‘Find Your Voice,’” she says. “Besides the obvious of singing, we were trying to find some creative ways that people can showcase their voice, and so we’re incorporating some art, we’re incorporating music, and we were hoping to incorporate some drama, but I don’t think that will happen. We do have some very great partners that we’ve had that have helped us provide programming. Earlier in the month, we had Bree Lewis and the Ridgecrest Youth Symphony, Brian Cosner, and some of Burrough’s High School jazz students come and do a musical instrument showcase for us. This week, we had a synthesizer showcase for people who like electronic music, and then next month, during the first week of July, we have the Ridgecrest Writers, who will be doing a writing workshop for kids. So it’ll be a week-long boot camp where they’ll go through creating characters and dialogue and wrapping it all up.”

Summer reading programs began in the 1890s to encourage school children, particularly those in urban areas and not needed for farm work, to read during their summer vacation, use the library, and develop the habit of reading.

And that is the mission of Ridgecrest Library’s Summer Reading Challenge.

Wagner explains, “We encourage everyone to participate because it keeps their minds active, especially children. During the summer, there’s this phenomenon called ‘the summer slide,’ where if you don’t keep your mind active, you lose a lot of what you’ve learned. And so this is one way we try to encourage people to keep their minds active and keep reading or listening to books.

“The summer reading challenge is for all ages, from babies through adults. We encourage people to read or listen to 10 books or for 10 hours, whichever is easiest. And so we want everybody to be exposed to literacy, even the babies. They can come into the library and pick up a reading log. We also have a special Summer Reading Challenge website:”

  In March 2021, the News Review spoke to Wagner about their then-new MakerSpace area, which they were able to begin building during the closed-down times of the pandemic. Today she tells us, “We have the Cricut vinyl cutter used regularly. The Cricut is a vinyl-cutting machine. It also cuts paper. It does different cutting projects primarily. We do have a monthly training that we have been offering. Some people have wanted to learn how to use the Cricut to make greeting cards for birthdays, Christmas, or other holidays. Sometimes we offer a project and training on how to use it for people who own a Cricut and want to learn more on how to use it or to do a specific project and want help with that. We’ve had some other different components that have been introduced to the public. The next component that we’re working on is now the 3-D printer. We finally have  computers that can run the 3-D printer.” They also have a sewing machine that is in demand.

Once an individual has had the training and signed the user agreement and liability waiver, they can schedule a time to use the MakerSpace equipment on their own.

Right now, the library needs volunteers to help with the training. “We have probably a lot more demands than volunteer availability at this time,” says Wagner. If one would like to volunteer, please go to the library and fill out an application.