Make Your Gift Go Further!

By Kenneth C. Kowalewitz

Chair, South Hero Library Foundation Board

Find the article on page two of The Islander!

This is an exciting time for South Hero and your public library! Over $1.3 million has been raised of the $1.5 million goal needed to break ground. As one volunteer said, “With less than $200,000 to go, the goal is so close you can almost smell the dirt on the shovel!” There is a way for you to not only help put that shovel in the ground but also make your money go further.

Mentoring and the Library: Stronger Together

By Barbara Brown

There is a wonderful program in Grand Isle County known as the Grand Isle County Mentoring Program. Begun in 2009, students in the local schools are paired or matched with an adult from the community. The matched pairs meet in the school buildings for about an hour a week and play games, share snacks, cook, read books and have conversations. Each year the group hosts a Game Night where the mentor pairs meet to participate in tournaments and eat pizza. There is an annual outing at the Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center held in conjunction with other mentoring programs in the area.

Mentoring has proven results for children and adults who make the commitment to meet and spend time together and the Grand Isle County Mentoring program has been extremely successful. The program is school-based, which means that the pairs meet on school property. They are given access to school facilities, such as classrooms, playgrounds, kitchens, gyms and libraries when those spaces are available. Once students  graduate from their elementary schools they are no longer permitted to meet on school grounds. Luckily many of the children in the program are offered an opportunity to transition to a community-based mentoring program. Pairs are able to maintain the strong bonds that they have developed and continue to influence each other in positive ways.

Finding opportunities for maintaining the mentoring relationship presents challenges. Meeting space in Grand Isle County is quite limited, and many of the matches would love to have a place for quiet conversation or to engage in some of the fun activities they previously enjoyed. Adolescents also have particular needs and some of the activities that appeal to younger children have less relevance for upper middle school and high school students. Those who want assistance with challenging homework assignments, opportunities to do research on the internet, or help writing college applications have a hard time finding space to engage in these activities.

The new South Hero Public Library is preparing to offer exciting solutions to the challenge of finding places for mentor pairs to meet. The library is aiming to break ground on a new building in 2018 to enable expansion of library programs and services and serve as a center for our community. The new building will supply spacious, comfortable seating areas that take advantage of the natural beauty of the island setting. The technologically up-to-date infrastructure will offer high speed internet connections, access to computers and printers and research and reference materials.

There will also be spacious meeting areas available for public use, and the Mentoring Program will be able to hold essential meetings and training sessions. “We are so pleased at the prospect of having this fabulous space at our disposal,” said Karen Browning, GIC Mentoring coordinator. Mentor/match pairs interviewed for this article are excited about maintaining their relationships and their connection to the Island. “I love spending time with my mentor,” said one student. “We do so many fun things together.” Mentors have expressed their pleasure as well. “There are so few public spaces where you can go and spend time without being pressured to buy something,” said one mentor. “Libraries offer free meeting space. It is a great message for the kids. We do not always have to spend money to have a good time.”

The new South Hero Library building will be built without taxpayer dollars. Commitments for $1.3 million have already been secured towards a goal of a $1.5 million building fund. The library needs your help to raise the remaining $200,000. Find out more about this campaign at You can make a secure gift online by visiting Every donation to the building fund will go to create a community space that programs like GIC Mentoring can use.

You can also learn about upcoming library programs and services for both children and adults at the library website,, by visiting the library at 75 South Street, South Hero and by calling the library at 802-372-6209.

Visit for more information about how you can become a mentor or otherwise support the Grand Isle County Mentoring Program

We Want Your Ideas!

As published in The Islander on Feb. 20, 2018.

We would LOVE to hear your ideas about the programs and collections YOU would like to see at the South Hero library.  Be wild!  Be practical!  Be silly!  Be creative!  No idea is too off-the-wall!   I have been blown away by the energy and passion of the people in the Islands for having fun, learning, and just coming together to do something different.    Our combined brain power will make our library ROCK!

Let’s consider what we’ve been able to do together even in our current small space in the Folsom School – and how we can make it even better now,  and in the future when we have our beautiful new building.

In the past year, the library loaned close to 11,000 items to the community.   These are books, CDs, e-books, large print books, museum passes, and even puzzles.  I figure that if individuals had had to pay even $10 to buy each of the items that they borrowed from the library for free, that would have cost them $110,000!  What other books or sharable items would you like to see at the library?  Think outside the box… we have great stuff like an egg-incubator and a sewing machine… what else do we need?

Programs at the library are really taking off too.  In the past year hundreds of people have enjoyed a wide variety of programs and we’d love to hear your ideas about what else we can do (or what we should repeat because you loved it!).  Programs can be very practical – like the classes we’ve had on technologies like Photoshop, email, and Facebook.  Programs can also be silly – like the sleepovers we’ve had for stuffed animals (we had to find beds for 50 stuffed animals one night).  Programs can be motivational – like the reading challenge we’ve had for three year olds or the prizes for teens.  Programs can be a fun way to enjoy your neighbors in a group activity like Mah Jong or a book club.  Programs can be an opportunity to try making something with your hands – like quilting, sewing, basket weaving, drawing, needle felting, or a terrarium.  Programs can also be just plain fun – like family game night, or making decorations for various holidays together.   Programs can focus on tots, teens, families, seniors, business owners… you name it.   What programs would you like to see?   What would be fun or helpful to you?

Put on your thinking cap and let me know what you think!  You can reach me at 802.372.6209,, or just stop by the library anytime from 3pm to 8 pm Tue – Thu, 3pm – 6pm on Fri, or 9am – 3pm Sat.  I can’t wait to hear from you!

South Hero Friends of the Library Group Launches in January

As published in The Islander on Jan. 23, 2018.

In South Hero, we are launching a new ‘Friends of the Library’ group.  Friends of the Library is a group of people who actively support the library by promoting exciting programs, raising funds, expanding the library collection and volunteering in any way that matches the interests and skills of each member.    It’s also a wonderful way to have fun with friends, meet new people, and make a real difference in your community.

The organizational meeting will be at 6 pm on January 31st in the library at the Folsom School.   This is a great opportunity to help our current library to be all that it can be for our community, and to be part of the excitement as the new library begins to take shape.

If you think our current library is just a small collection of books… think again!  We have a cool collection of other fun stuff too.  Did you know you can check out an egg incubator?  How about an ice cream maker or a sewing machine?  Got grandkids visiting?  Bring them to the library to check out books, games and DVDs.   We have passes to a wide variety of local attractions: Shelburne Museum, Vermont State Parks, Local Motion Bike Ferry, and the Maritime Museum to name a few.  We also have large print books, ebooks (you can access all the ebooks in the entire Vermont system from home!), and audio books.

The library offers a wide variety of free programs for all age groups, too.  We show kids’ movies with snacks and a craft one Saturday per month and we’ll be showing Oscar-nominated films soon.  We’ve launched an animation club for Middle Schoolers, weekly Mahjong games, and a book club.  We’ve built graham cracker houses for the holidays, and gotten together for many types of arts and crafts.   We’ve hosted stuffed animal sleepovers, and we’ve invited speakers to educate us about topics of interest to the community.

Don’t forget that you also get … me!  I’m here to help you in any way that I can.   Someone recently requested help with applying for a job, and she got it!

We’ve got a good thing going, but there is so much more we can do!  I love being a librarian because it enables me to become ingrained in the community and to make a difference.   Please join me on this joyful and impactful venture.  Become a Friend of the Library!

New Library Will Be a Place for Community

As published in The Islander on Feb. 6, 2018.

The narrative of the day so often centers on the ways that social media, politics and other forces drive people apart. The Islands have a fantastic opportunity to focus on the opposite in 2018: bringing our community together. The South Hero Library aims to accomplish that mission and more, when it moves into its new, soon-to-be-built space.

Through many months of conversations, direct requests, and results from a 2017 survey, the Library has gathered answers to important questions about how well it’s meeting current needs, and how this public resource and destination can improve, heading into the future.

By far the largest voiced concern has been the public Library’s restrictive hours during the school year, due to its location in the Folsom School building. The new Library will have an expanded schedule, making it more readily accessible for retirees, young children, homeschoolers, remote workers, and others who have expressed a need for more daytime hours. Also resolved will be the space limitations in the Folsom School that have made it challenging for both the school library and the public library to address differing needs for the K-8 student population and the Island community at large, in terms of books, resources, creative space and programming.

The new building will have a welcoming atmosphere that includes a sitting area with a fireplace, better lighting and big windows, computers, work tables, and a community room that can be accessed from a separate entrance even when the library is closed, which will better accommodate larger programs and events. And not least importantly, it will have plenty of space to grow its collection, from books to snowshoes and more!

What have we learned about how people are currently using the South Hero Library? Unsurprisingly, the most popular use is borrowing books, with 81% of survey respondents reporting that they borrow print books from the Library. Other top uses include attending adult programs and events, borrowing through Inter-Library Loan, reading magazines and periodicals, and using the computers and printer.

Perhaps more surprising: fewer survey respondents gave “the latest books and movies” a top rating on a scale of importance than they did “WIFI access” and “events and programs for children.” Though the survey represents just a sampling of community members, this is right in line with a growing national trend. Traditionally, libraries have had a primary purpose of providing books and resources to the public; however, the definition of “resources” has vastly expanded in this electronic age, and libraries are becoming more of a community center, offering programs and assistance to the community in new and unexpected ways.

To cite an example, the South Hero Library’s computers and printer are available to help people search for and apply to jobs. Also, the DVD collection allows easy access to entertainment without needing a streaming video or cable subscription. Museum discounts and State Park passes provide additional access to learning opportunities. Weekly Mah Jongg games, monthly book discussions, and frequent events for kids and adults put ongoing learning, fun and companionship within reach for all members of the community. It’s clear that the Island community also values the Library as a place nearby where they can go to spend time outside the house, and maybe bump into people they know.

As plans for the new building take shape, the Library will provide updates, accept donations, and continue to collect ideas and feedback from the community through The goal of funding the new building through private donations and grants has been made achievable, in large, part by the community that the Library will serve. You can help bring it to the finish line! Please visit to donate financially, and consider joining the Friends of the Library group to get involved with current and future Library efforts.