Made in Fort Worth is all about those businesses and organizations that help make Fort Worth Fort Worth. So when it came to our health and wellness issue, it only made sense to reach out to the Fort Worth Public Library. After all, the FWPL has been serving our community since 1901. Madeworthy recently talked with Jana Hill, the FWPL’s Adult Service Manager.
Madeworthy: Made in Fort Worth is a feature all about Fort Worth traditions, of which the FWPL certainly is one. Can you give me the CliffsNotes version of the history of the FWPL?
Jana Hill: … the original building opened in 1901, funded by Andrew Carnegie, and led by local women’s club powerhouse, Jennie Scott Scheuber. The second floor was a gallery space used to exhibit artworks that ultimately formed the collection of [what became] the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth… Recognizing the need for locations beyond the downtown location, Wedgwood was our first branch library, opening in 1962. The neighboring Vivian J. Lincoln branch is our newest location, opening this past summer. Today the Fort Worth Public Library has eighteen locations and circulated over three million items in the past year.
MW: The modern library is about much more than just checking out books. How does the FWPL serve all aspects of their patrons?
JH: First, we check out more than books! FWPL card holders can also check out musical instruments, outdoor games, programmable robots, STEAM kits, babysitting kits, and even karaoke machines and metal detectors. The FWPL also strives to serve as a “third place” for the community beyond the confines of home or the workplace. Public libraries are one of the only places you can spend time without being expected to spend money while you are there. To this end, we offered over 7,000 free programs and events for people of all ages in 2023 [which] provide the opportunity to learn new things and become more involved in your community. It’s so rewarding to see connections being made and friendships forming in our programs!
MW: The FWPL has some great programs for older patrons. Can you address some of the special needs of your senior patrons and how these programs address them?
JH: We find that older adults want the same things everyone else does – to enjoy meaningful relationships, be part of their community, and participate in engaging activities. But older adults can also feel isolated by changes in their families, being out of the workforce, or facing health and financial challenges. All our adult programs are senior-friendly, but our programs for older adults are designed specifically to address these needs. We offer Senior Social Hours at several branches, plus La Hora de los Abuelos, a social program especially for older adults who speak Spanish. Older adults may also be interested in our local history and genealogy programs, book clubs, knit and crochet clubs, creative writing clubs, painting clubs, computer classes, or chair yoga… it’s never too late to learn something new!
MW: We know that the library has long been THE place for moms and kids, and we have a lot of mom readers. What are your top three favorite programs for moms and children?
JH: As a mom myself, I really love that FWPL offers specialized story times for a variety of age groups, from babies on up… [which] include songs and activities that really engage the kiddos and parents. Now that my son is a little older, we love attending the Brick Builders LEGO program and Family Science Time programs together. They are both offered in many branches, so we can always find a program that works with our busy schedule.
MW: Speaking of children, tell me a little about the Reby Cary Youth Library!
JH: The Reby Cary Youth Library is an amazing place and a destination for families all over the DFW area. It’s Fort Worth’s first library designed specifically for children and their caregivers – from the collection to the furniture to the play areas and garden. The building is light and bright, with glass walls, interactive public art, kid-friendly furniture, and fun extras like LEGO tables, a play kitchen, a puppet theater, and youth programming every day. Adults can only access the building if they are accompanying a child, so it is a very special place.
MW: Tell me a little about how the FWPL fosters a sense of community in a city as diverse as Fort Worth.
JH: In a library system this large, that can be a real challenge. We start by building a sense of community among our staff of 240, by creating opportunities for collaboration and building support systems across locations and specialties. We look closely at each location and consider the people it serves, organizations it partners with, and what sets that community apart. We recognize and celebrate what makes each community unique, and the entire staff works hard to find those commonalities that bring everyone together.
We also foster community by being an active part of it… going beyond the walls of the library. You will see our outreach team at practically every large event in Fort Worth, and our staff regularly attend neighborhood meetings, school functions, and community gatherings of all kinds.
MW: Fort Worth has an incredibly rich arts scene. How does the FWPL collaborate with our local arts organizations to promote the arts in our city?
JH: Arts and culture are… so essential to our mission that they are written directly into our strategic plan. We do… programming on a regular basis with The Cliburn and the Amon Carter Museum [among many others]. Through our Amplify 817 music streaming platform and live concerts, we also work closely with Hear Fort Worth, Arts Fort Worth, and music venues to ensure that local musicians get community support, exposure, and opportunities to perform at library branches and beyond.
MW: Can you give our readers a sneak peek at what the FWPL has in store for us in 2024?
JH: We have so many exciting things in the works for 2024! We will open Clifford Crossing, our first branch west of Loop 820, with a collection hand-picked for that community and plenty of great programs for every age group. Elephant and Piggie, from the popular children’s book series by Mo Willems, will be making appearances at libraries this spring and a new Storytime in the Park series will also kick off at city parks around town. Grownups should keep their eye out for all-new adult cultural programs happening citywide, a new ESL for Parents class at the Reby Cary Youth Library, and specially developed programs for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In June, we will host a huge kickoff part for our summer reading program and live, all-ages concerts at various libraries. It’s going to be a tremendous year and we can’t wait for you to join us!