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Holiday Luminaries decorate South Branch Library

By La Prensa Staff


TOLEDO: The South Branch Library is lit up each evening for the holidays, but with colorful animals, flowers, and other decorations. About 25 people attended an informal lighting ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 called “A Luminous Evening.”


Celeste Felix Taylor, South Branch Library manager, told the crowd the effort has been a three-year project between the library and the Toledo Zoo. Normally, the luminaries come to the library branch for just two weeks each year, but will be on display for the entire holiday season.


“As the zoo has transitioned to just doing the Lights Before Christmas, we’ll now be the only entity that will have the luminaries every season,” she explained. “We are extremely proud, can’t wait to see all the families that normally come to us. It’s going to be fantastic when all my day care kids come here to do their intensive reading for them to see all of these beautiful animals.”


Callan Loo, founder and president of the Ann Arbor-based nonprofit Intentional Living Collective, helped facilitate the transition of the luminaries from the zoo collection to the library.


“To go out in the community and help build things just like this, to bring the luminaries, which would have gone somewhere else, to this library as a permanent asset is really cool—and that’s what made me want to help,” he said. “We had to figure out all the little details to make sure they didn’t get shipped to somewhere else, because somebody else bought the rest of the luminaries and they went somewhere else. It would’ve been a shame to not have them in this community.”


Ms. Taylor won the Rising Phoenix Award earlier this year from Loo’s organization, which celebrates the stories of local community heroes who have risen from the ashes of major life transitions stronger than before and then chose to do inspiring things to help others.


Luminarias (“lights”), or farolitos (“lanterns”), are an important holiday tradition in New Mexico and other places dating back to the mid-1800s, where Spanish and Latino families alike marked the paths to their doors and the local church with small, Sosa-style bonfires on Christmas Eve—symbolically lighting the way for the Holy Family.


Toledo City Council member Sandy Spang also attended the lighting ceremony, talking about how she grew up in the Old South End and how the local library shaped her as she read book after book about great women in the United States.


“There is light in this neighborhood. This neighborhood has a lot of challenges. I want you to know about some of the good things that are happening in this neighborhood that are that light,” said council member Spang. “One of those good things is this library. Great libraries don’t just have books, don’t just build good readers. They build good communities—and that’s what happens in this library.”


Ms. Spang and Ms. Felix Taylor each made particular mention of the recent $2 million worth of renovations to the athletic complex at nearby Danny Thomas Park, as well as the approach that South Branch Library is a safe haven for children of all ages in the Old South End.


“Everything that we do is to empower our young people to be all that they can be,” said Ms. Felix Taylor. “In order for that to happen, we must empower them, encourage them, believe in them—regardless of the neighborhoods we live in, regardless of what’s going on in the home.”


The library manager mentioned that some kids hang out at the library on days off from school, as well as afterschool—joking they sometimes arrive before library staff opens the doors at 9 a.m.


“We are proud that this is a safe place for them, this is a great environment where they feel good, that they know all of us. Some of our kids want to be police officers, so it’s fantastic to see the interactions they have with our security guards,” said Ms. Felix Taylor.


One of those children, Navarre Elementary fifth grader Shwana Gaskell, read the poem Do You? which includes the lines “Do you rule your world or does it rule you; can you see the light as it shines on through?”


The poem and the luminaries are but symbols of the light Ms. Felix Taylor and her staff are trying to create in the lives of the neighborhood’s children by offering special programming to draw them to what is viewed as a learning center. For example, a martial arts class for kids was being taught in an adjoining room while the lighting ceremony was taking place.


“South Branch has been infused with energy and positive momentum.  We have capitalized on our engagement and community partnerships to increase door count, programming and services,” said Ms. Felix Taylor. “This has led to investing in our community patrons and young people. 


The results are a more vibrant and robust community.” 


The South branch library manager stated an emphasis is placed on supporting a child’s growth, development, and academic achievement. Library staff provide homework help every Monday through Wednesday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.  Tutor.com also is available online to all students from 3 to 10 p.m. each weekday.


Early literacy is also emphasized through the Read for Literacy program. Librarians visit each school in the Old South End to further enhance literacy in the classroom. The library branch also partners with daycare and preschool programs.


The library has a partnership with University of Toledo Minority Business Assistance Center.

UTMBAC provides assistance to individuals who are interested in developing their own business.  Business advisor María González, who is bilingual, makes a monthly library visit. 


Exact library branch usage figures were not provided, as those are for internal use only, according to Ms. Felix Taylor. There are plenty of other opportunities to see the luminaries as the library branch hosts other holiday events.


The South Branch Library will hold a holiday party on Monday, Dec. 16, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., with a visit from Santa Claus, slime making, and cookie decorating.


There will be 4 Days of Christmas Movies, which will include holiday big screen classics along with a snack on Wednesday and Thursday Dec, 18 and 19, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., and Friday and Monday Dec. 20 and 23, 1 to 3 p.m.


Events conclude with Noon Year’s Eve on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 11:45 a.m. to noon, with a countdown and complimentary noisemakers.




Copyright © 1989 to 2019 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/26/19 21:22:33 -0800.




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