Built in 2001, it has taken years for the White Mesa Education Center to arrive to the point where it is now. However, it has definitely arrived. The first room one comes to after entering the building is the community library.
It has a children’s room off from the main room, as well as two distant ed college classrooms and offices. Thus, someone coming in to check out a DVD or music CD may inadvertently get exposure to a college course, which has been influential in prospective college students’ lives.
“They watch what goes on and then they say, ‘Oh, so that’s how it’s done. That’s not so hard; I could do that’,” librarian Dan Raisor says. “All of a sudden, being educated is more cool than being a tough guy.”
As well as college classes, tutoring services, and an Adult Ed program—which library personnel oversee—the library hosts other events to keep community members coming to the building, such as an annual Easter egg hunt, quilting, art and beading classes.
Raisor has written successful grants and sought donations, both of which have been instrumental in gradually building up the number of books available to patrons, and the community has responded.
“We have moms and grandmas bringing in their little ones and reading to them,” he said. “And the school district is seeing a corresponding rise in reading ability for grade school age students.”
The numbers prove it. In the 2012 annual report it noted that 1,613 children’s fiction books were on the shelves. A recent report, which ended in October of 2013, stated that number had risen to 2,036. In the same amount of time, adult non-fiction books increased from 725 to 1,019.
There are presently 1,228 children’s picture books, 938 paperbacks, and 588 adult fiction books, as well as 951 reference books that students can use for homework. The Center also has a workroom complete with poster paper and a laminating machine, to help students complete school projects.
This past August the Center had 1,256 total checkouts as compared to 278 the previous August. The number of patrons entering the library increased from 19,321 in 2012 to 32,903 in 2013. Incredibly, this is for a community of approximately 225 people.
Although patrons often come to the center to use the internet, books are the biggest draw. This is all the more remarkable because a rec center is also available for after school and summer use.
Correspondingly, in the past six years, 28 of 30 eligible White Mesa students have graduated from high school or with their GED. Six residents are currently enrolled in college.
The community is experiencing an unprecedented shift in attitude towards education and the library may well be at the heart of it.
Or, as Jim Rohn (a rags to riches businessman) has said, “Everything you need for better future and success has already been written. And guess what? All you have to do is go to the library.”