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Sunderland Public Library receives grant for new programs

SUNDERLAND — Local teenagers who regularly visit the Sunderland Public Library will soon have a number of new programs to explore, due to a $15,000 grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.

According to library Director Adam Novitt, the funds will be used to expand the young adult book collection. Novitt said many of the new programs were developed by groups of teenagers who formed two Young Adult Advisory Boards — a junior board for middle school-aged teens and a senior board for high schoolers — to narrow down recommendations for what they would like to see brought in at the library.

“Young adults are very important, but sometimes difficult to reach,” said Novitt, of the boards. “Being able to reach out to them and see what they want to have in the library has been great.”

To flesh out the best ideas even further, a survey was distributed among fifth- and sixth-grade students at Sunderland Elementary School in the spring.

Novitt said the recommendations will see the library offer a series of workshops that will provide teens with the opportunity to learn baby-sitting, dancing and college application writing skills.

Additionally, the money will be used to help pay for a redesign of the library’s young adult room. The renovations will replace the room’s cubicle and desktop computer layout with a bistro table — a small round table with chairs — and a few laptops.

As part of one of the new programs, Novitt said the library recently “rented a virtual world” in the popular computer game “Minecraft,” which will only be accessible by visitors.

“Minecraft is interesting because you build things in this virtual world, so teens can build a house and go visit their friend’s houses,” said Novitt. “We hope it will get kids who may be gaming alone in their rooms out to work with others in real time, face to face.”

He said Minecraft players will have the opportunity to win small prizes and awards for their accomplishments throughout the program.

The grant will also allow the library to hire a series of interns, Novitt said, most of whom will come from Simmons College’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science extension program at Mount Holyoke College.

“We want to bring in young librarians eager to begin their career and to make a name for themselves,” Novitt said. “Interns that come in for six months have a lot of energy and can come up with interesting ideas.”

Novitt said he hopes the boards will continue to meet into the future, providing the library with a good source of feedback and ideas.

The grant will be paid out to the library by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners over the next two years as it develops and implements the new programs.

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