2016 was an incredibly dynamic year at McAllen Public Library, with nearly a million people walking through our doors. Proving to be a community resource drawing in patrons from all over the region and continuously striving to be an inclusive space. Take our look at this year’s Top 10 notable achievements and learn why MPL continues to receive international attention, five years after the opening of the award-winning Main Library.
#10: Authors at MPL
Authors from across the Valley connected local literature with our library and introduced our community to voices from our region. Ranging from storytelling events for children to book talks and workshops, the following lists some of our 2016 author events:
Award-winning author David Bowles joined us a few times this year, including for Haunted Valley, which drew in over 300 people! During the event, he read from and signed copies of his latest collection of dark legends, 'Ghost of the Rio Grande Valley'.
For our Valley Nature Series in April, we hosted local photographer and writer Luciano Guerra for "Birding ‘Texas Style’ in the Rio Grande Valley", an interesting and entertaining program to renew our appreciation of the diverse wildlife around us.
In conjunction with National Poetry Month, we presented local poets Priscilla Celina Suarez (McAllen’s Poet Laureate), Jan Seale (2012 Texas Poet Laureate), Kathleen Carlson and Victoria Lopez. Attendees were able to enjoy their reading and take copies of a few poems to share the joy of poetry.
This summer, our Wordsmith Wednesday programs invited talented writers and poets to read from their work and discuss the art and craft of creative writing. These weekly events featured Britt Haraway, Chris Carmona, Emmy Perez, Erika Garza Johnson, Fred Rendon, Jr., Marge Flados, Rodney Gomez, and Sue Place.
Joining us for Queer RGV Poetics: A Workshop & Open Mic were César de León and Veronica Solis, in an event focusing on themes of trauma and healing. The workshop also paid tribute to the late borderlands scholar and RGV native Gloria Anzaldúa.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, Noche de Letras featured local authors Alejandro Cabada and Isaac Chavarria and invited us to explore the identities and voices of contemporary writers from South Texas during an author panel and reading. Our Children's Department also hosted a storytelling event for 'Animals of my Land' with Rossy Evelin Lima, Gerald Padilla, and Gaby Rico. Children were invited to meet the authors and participate in a special storytelling in three languages!
Mario Ybarra, Jr. and Sarah Anderson, a teen author, also joined us for a soft launch of their books and a Q&A session.
#9: April Amnesty Month
During the month of April, McAllen Public Library participated in a month-long drive to get overdue books, CDs, and DVDs back on our shelves. Any overdue item returned from April 1st to April 30th had its fines and fees removed. And, as library staff, we did have a goal to reach!
The challenge set in place by Library Director Kate Horan was that if 200 items were returned before the end of April, she’d dye her hair hot pink. Of course, we all wore our ‘Dye My Boss’s Hair Hot Pink’ buttons every single day of that month. It took less than a week to pass that goal, and missing items kept coming in until the last minute of the challenge. The Amnesty Challenge was partly designed to get missing items back on the shelves and into the hands of new patrons. More importantly, the program was an effort to get people back in the library. Patrons with fines on their accounts are less likely to return to the library, even for small amounts.
We completed the challenge with more than 2,040 items returned to our library system! Out of the items returned, 287 were long overdue and marked as lost. After losing the challenge, our Library Director had to fulfill her promise of dyeing her hair hot pink. And we thought it looked great on her!
#8: Pop Ups
MPL has gone mobile! Rapidly becoming a popular and exciting addition to our library services, the community was invited to visit our Pop Up Library throughout the city in an informal setting to sign up for a library card or renew an expired card, check out books, pick up MPL swag, hear about our events, and learn about our resources. Not only did we build relationships with the community and provide good conversation about all we have to offer, we were able to engage new patrons who have never visited a library and inspired them to become a part of our MPL family.
Locations we Popped Up at include Las Palmas Community Center, McAllen Convention Center, Boys & Girls Club, WIC Clinic, Village Healthcare, Roosevelt’s, Palm Valley Animal Center, Quinta Mazatlan, VA McAllen Clinic, Aqui Estamos Conference, ArtWalk at McAllen Incubator, and McAllen City Hall. Expect to see us Pop Up in more surprise visits this coming year!
#7: New Library Resources
Ensuring we provide our community with resources that allows them to be effective users of ideas and information remains a vital part of our mission at MPL. Constantly keeping up with new trends, we implement new resources - free to the public - every year. Popular resources we've begun offering this year include:
Freegal is a new music service that offers access to millions of songs from Sony’s extensive music catalog! Registered library card holders are able to download & keep three songs per week in MP3 format for free. The songs do not expire after downloading. In addition, patrons are able to stream songs for three hours per day on a device of their choice.
A fun and innovative resource is ComicsPlus, where you can explore thousands of digital graphic novels & comics 24/7! Access is available anytime, anywhere with web connected devices such as PCs, tablets, and smartphones.
Also, all MPL locations now have access to complete digital editions of all three local newspapers: the Monitor, the Brownsville Herald, and the Valley Morning Star!
All of these resources can be accessed on MPL’s eBranch at www.mcallenlibrary.net.
#6: Code Camp
Code#RGV is a nonprofit that creates tech entrepreneurs and skilled professionals for local jobs by educating, promoting, and certifying professionals. They strive to promote community participation and collaboration to invigorate creativity, innovation, and the local economy. This year, they have partnered with us for a variety of programs and events – particularly Code Camp - at the Main Library.
Code Camp is a program produced by CodeRGV for the Rio Grande Valley and McAllen Public Library to expose children and teenagers of the McAllen area and the RGV to computer programming, also known as coding. In addition to the classes offered, adults who make programming and coding their career choice provide insight into what it is like to be involved in that industry. For example, if the theme of the week is centered on game design, they invite game developers to show off what they do, give some insight into their profession, and show examples of what they create. By doing this they hope to not only take the mystery out of programming, but encourage the youth with real-world examples of how to make a career doing something they love related to programming and design.
#5: Special Programming
2016 has brought many great programs and events to the Main Library, allowing us to collaborate with other community-based organizations. Our Halloween Trail alone brought in over 500 children, the Harry Potter & the Cursed Child book release connected us with many of our social media followers, and our Día de los Niños Carnival was filled with fun, games, crafts, and storytime!
Through new campaigns, we provided programming that celebrated our diverse demographics. Such campaigns included Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Power Up at Your Library Day, Pride Month, Veterans Fair, and Viva Cultura. A few of the organizations we partnered with this year are Aquí Estamos, Bowen Language Center, the McAllen Vet Center, the Mexican Consulate in McAllen, STC, UTRGV, and the Valley Aids Council.
The Lark Branch Library hosted the 5th Annual Walk-a-Thon around Garza Park in awareness of Breast & Children’s Cancer Awareness Month, to show support to all of our loved ones who have survived, or are going through, this battle. Our monthly LEGO Program has become a hit! During this afternoon of LEGO® & DUPLO fun, we build tall buildings, create mysterious scenes & have endless amount of fun at the library.
During Book Sharing Night, the Palm View Branch Library invited all to share or trade their own books with fellow book lovers. One of the newer programs this year, the public has come to look forward to this event open to all! The DIY adult crafting sessions have also become a staple event for the bilingual community, ranging from a variety of fun projects.
#4: 5 Year Birthday Celebration
The New Main Library celebrated its Cincoañera on December 10th! All were welcome to attend and enjoy birthday cake, refreshments, and goodie bags. Library staff were on hand to help patrons access our new music service subscription, Freegal.
Five years after the grand opening we continue to be the largest single floor public library in the nation, and attract many visitors curious to see the wow features of our award winning library. Our grand opening had effectively transformed MPL from a neighborhood library into something like a regional attraction. And the impact and sense the New Main Library has had in our community continues to be impressive!
#3: McAllen Book Festival
It’s a celebration of culture and imagination by linking readers of all ages with performers, authors and publishers. On Nov. 12, MPL hosted the third annual McAllen Book Festival and drew in over 4,500 people! The festival is a free event open to the public featuring a diverse group of national, regional and local youth authors who participate in readings, panel discussions, and book signings. This year, organizers adopted more of a jubilee atmosphere with inflatables, an activity tent by IMAS, and games for the entire family. Books, hot dogs and snow cones were also given out for free.
Our sponsors, who helped make our festival a success, were Corner Bakery, H.E.B., IMAS, McAllen Parks & Recreation Department, McAllen’s Traffic Department, MCN, MISD, MPL Advisory Board, MPL Advocates, MPL Teen Advisory Committee, The Monitor, Raising Cane’s, Univision, and UTRGV.
#2: Grants Awarded to MPL
Taking the #2 spot on our list are the grants that were awarded to MPL! These grants allow the library system to bring innovative programs and services to McAllen and our surrounding communities.
Best Buy awarded the library with a $5,000 check to support the 90-Second Books project that will utilize technology to engage teens in literacy-based activities. Through 90-Second Books, teens will be able to work collaboratively to promote literacy and reading to their peers and community by creating short films based on their favorite books. The films will be screened on different platforms throughout the community.
The Texas State Library and Archives Commission awarded MPL a grant of $10,000 to design and launch a mobile app, which will be available early in 2017. Users will be able to access library catalogs of books and other materials, get information on current library happenings, sign up for events and study rooms, and use online subscriptions, language lessons, and research areas, including medicine, history, and college preparation. The mobile app will bring MPL to those who do not physically visit the library.
The Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and non-profit KaBOOM! Awarded MPL a $15,000 Let’s Play Community Construction Grant. The grant award will be used to build a playground just north of the Main Library to further enhance the city’s playability, beautify the area, and offer more spaces for children and families to enjoy the outdoors. The playground, which will be partially assembled with the help of volunteers, is meant to bring children of all abilities together to be active, learn through play, create memories, and form friendships.
MPL received a grant from the Texas State Library administered through the Central Texas Library System for a 3D printer, paving the way for MPL to acquire additional 3D printers and virtual reality viewers, which will be available to the public in 2017.
#1: MPL Named Most Beautiful Library in Texas
In July, McAllen Public Library’s Main Library went viral again when it was chosen as the most beautiful library in Texas by tech, science, innovation and culture digital publication, Tech Insider. The article listed the most beautiful library in each state in the nation. MPL was honored to be chosen to represent Texas libraries. Read the entire list here: http://bit.ly/texasbeauty
McAllen is ranked at the top once again. This time it’s for the transformation of an abandoned Walmart into the most beautiful library in Texas. To find the most beautiful libraries in each state, Tech Insider looked at past and current award-winners as judged by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the American Library Association (ALA) awards.
“I am honored that Tech Insider listed McAllen Public Library as the most beautiful library in Texas,” said Library Director Kate Horan. “This spacious facility has allowed us to expand services to our citizens, and the citizens have responded by making MPL their home base. As we near our 5-year anniversary, I’m prouder than ever to serve as Library Director.”
The 123,000 sq.ft McAllen Public Library, the largest single floor public library in the nation, sees an average of 60,000 visitors each month. Library amenities include: 16 meeting spaces, 116 computers, a café, a teen area, an expanded children’s area and a collection of 355,794 items.