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The bookshelves of the seventh floor of Alden Library, Feb. 13, 2024, in Athens, Ohio.

Athens County Public Libraries celebrates Library Lovers Month

For patrons and employees of Athens County Public Libraries, this February is more than the month most known for Valentine’s Day. It’s Library Lovers Month, which means 29 days of celebrating the mutual love between the library and its doting clientele. 

Holiday-related programming at the Athens Public Library is run by Nisha Vogt, a children’s librarian at the branch. 

“Anytime I’m trying to come up with programs for a coming month, (I) Google what holidays are coming up … that we can highlight, and I found Library Lovers Month,” Vogt said. “I was like, ‘This is perfect,’ because I grew up so passionate about my library, and I know a lot of our patrons are too.” 

As one of the activities Vogt developed for the month, patrons are encouraged to share their love for the library through handwritten notes. 

“I think sometimes you can get a little burnt out, so hearing what we’re doing is making a difference in people’s lives is really helpful for us, and it’s just nice to hear,” Vogt said. 

The branch manager of the Athens Public Library is Amy Drayer, who feels the positive energy of Library Lovers Month year-round. She believes making the holiday official and celebrating it through notes from the community makes February special. 

“It makes us as librarians feel that what we do is critical and important to our community,” she said. “I think we feel that daily, but it’s nice to have that highlighted.” 

Vogt’s favorite notes have shared gratitude for bonding moments among families and access to books that would otherwise be unaffordable. 

“We get a lot that (say) our staff is really nice and we make them feel safe here, so that’s been really awesome,” Vogt said. 

From the minute a patron walks into the library, they can see the variety of ways they are encouraged to celebrate Library Lovers Month. From purposeful programming, like themed merchandise and going on a “blind date with a book” to naturally occurring moments of laughter and joy as kids flip through books and play in the library’s snowy backyard. Love can be seen and felt in every corner of the building. 

Another activity is a sign hung on the bookend of a shelf. It reads “We Heart Our Library” and is decorated with paper hearts signed by kids from the community. 

“I think kids love feeling like a part of the library,” Vogt said.

One of the library's patrons is Jana Hovland, who often brings her two sons with her to enjoy the library experience. Hovland has been coming to the library since her school days in Athens, but she has spent more time there since she had kids. 

“We love to read … and there’s lots of books, and there’s always new books too,” Hovland said.

Along with her sons, Hovland has attended many events hosted at the library, including summer-themed programs that ranged from environmental activities to craft days to face-painting parties, the latter of which her youngest son remembered fondly with a grin.

Hovland is grateful to the library for its quality kids programs, an example being the event she was attending, Sprouting Melodies — a music program for children ages five and under. She is also grateful for the environment the library fosters. 

“It’s a welcoming, open space,” she said. “Anybody can come to the library, anybody can check out books. There are lots of other resources too. You can check out bikes, you can check out board games … and I think you can even check out tools and other stuff.”

Another resource Vogt believes most community members don’t know about is the library’s community behavioral health worker, Liz Vandendries. 

“She goes through all the branches during the week and meets with anyone who might need help,” Vogt said. “She points them to amazing services that … really bridge the gap in a lot of our communities because Athens County as a whole is extremely economically diverse.” 

Vogt’s favorite part of working at the library is the thoughtful interactions shared among employees and patrons. 

“It’s a really fulfilling experience to be able to share something that means a lot to you, like a book you enjoy, and have other people come back to you and say they’ve enjoyed that same book,” Vogt said. “It’s really nice to get that kind of connection with your community.” 

That community is one Drayer believes is full of lovely people with a special passion for their library system. 

“It’s always Library Lovers Month for us, we love our patrons,” she said. “We love being a part of the community and we experience a lot of wonderful grace from everybody on a daily basis.”


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