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