Going Geek: Huntingdon Valley Library raises awareness

By Matt Schickling
Wire Staff Writer

The public library has forever been a refuge for the geek.

In April, during National Library Week, Huntingdon Valley Library (HVL) embraced this notion by launching a campaign to raise awareness for the role public libraries play in communities.

It’s designed around the things library-users “geek,” a verb meaning “to have an intense passion for,” according to the campaign website. Geek the Library will last until the end of December.

“You may or may not know from what a person does, what it is that they geek, and that’s the other part of this,” HVL Director Sharon Moreland-Sender said. “It gives us, the library and staff, an opportunity to share our passions with our patrons.”

To do this, the staff and some business owners in the Lower Moreland community have been posing for photos with a representation of their geekiness, like a fencing outfit or firefighter uniform, and making them into posters to display online and around the library.

Dr. Michael Burak of Huntingdon Valley Chiropractic Centre posed with a spinal column model for his “I geek chiropractic” poster. In her own photo, Moreland-Sender “geeks romance” to show her passion for that genre of literature.

Patrons can come in and write on the Geek Board, a chalkboard that asks the question, “What do you geek?” There’s been some interesting answers: Batman, Leo Messi, grandchildren, Minecraft and others. It’s constantly changing.

Moreland-Sender seeks to use this information in a practical way.

“We’re looking at what they’re saying they’re passionate about so we can change our programming. If someone says, ‘I geek Minecraft,’ well, do we have Minecraft books?” she said. “I just take it as feedback from the community about what they want.”

In this way, Geek the Library is a locally focused national campaign. Libraries across the country have been participating since it began in 2008 with grant funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The immediate purpose is to raise awareness about what the libraries do, and the long-term goal is to raise funds to keep them going.

Public libraries do much more than house and lend books. There’s educational opportunities like children’s classes, homework help and financial planning. The libraries also offer free Internet access and use of computer technology. Then there’s the community assistance — about 300,000 Americans get employment help at their local libraries every day.

State funding for the HVL has dropped by $15,000 in the last few years, from $51,000 to about $36,000.

““That caused a lot of hardship in 2010,” Moreland-Sender said. “Library hours were cut, there were some staff positions left unfilled, it affected the book budget, but I’m always thinking in terms of people.”

The HVL has been well-backed by the community and able to hang onto a successful program. The Friends of Huntingdon Valley Library raised over $32,000 in 2013, and the township income was around $450,000. Last year, they were able to put on 249 events for children, teens and adults.

But there are things that need to get done. Currently, the stucco is being redone on the front of the building and that will need to be repainted. The inside cannot be renovated before this is completed because the building is not watertight. The HVAC units are living on borrowed time, now 20 years old and “limping along though last winter and summer,” Moreland-Sender said. To fund the replacement of all three, it would cost about $78,000, the entire capital improvement fund.

“The more we can let people know what we offer, the value of it and the sort-of return on investment that people get from this library, I think that will only help with increasing the number of people that join the Friends and the amount of giving they can do.”

For more information, visit www.hvlibrary.org and www.geekthelibrary.org.