90 years on, Belle Glade branch firmly in 21st century

BELLE GLADE — The Belle Glade Library’s history goes back nine decades, as a resolution passed by the Palm Beach County Board in March 2019 declared. Its services, though, have taken a decided step into the 21st century.

According to the county’s proclamation, “in 1929, the Women’s Club opened a small library in the Belle Glade City Hall, circulating books throughout the Tri-City area, and in 1935, the first librarian was hired. In 1938, Pahokee began library service in a Methodist Church;

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker
Diane Wooten, a Library Associate 4 in the Children’s Department, has worked at the Belle Glade branch for six of her 30 years with the county library system.

“In 1967, Belle Glade moved the library into a permanent building on Main Street, and in 1976, the Lawrence E. Will Museum was added to the building to preserve the history of the Glades. In Pahokee, the library was named after Loula V. York, who was a school teacher in the city for 34 years;

“In 1986, the Belle Glade Municipal Library joined the Palm Beach County Library System, followed in 1989 by the Loula V. York Branch and in 1992 by a new library in South Bay that was built through the dedicated work of Mayor Clarence E. Anthony after whom the branch is named;

“In 2013, the Belle Glade Branch moved to its new permanent location on Northwest Fourth Street that includes a Civic Center available to the whole community in partnership with the City of Belle Glade;

“And, the Palm Beach County Library System celebrates 50 years of service in 2019 and honors the pioneering community members who championed the value of library service to their towns and cities.”

The county board passed the declaration on March 12.

“The Belle Glade Branch now has a growing collection of urban fiction, as well as a wide variety of online resources, such as magazine articles, newspaper resources and internet access,” says its website. “The branch has an active children’s department that offers activities to children of all ages. It also has a computer to help adults learn to read.”

Anyone, of any age, who wants assistance in learning to read may call the branch any day of the year.

Also offered are: a growing Spanish collection; one catalog computer; 16 computers in the children’s section; 22 public computer terminals; eight computers for teens; free Wi-Fi and internet access; two meeting rooms, one seating 60 and the other, 80; color and black & white copiers; and also, for sale, flash drives (2GB) $5, tote bags $1 and ear buds, $5.

Diane Wooten, whose position is Library Associate 4 and works the information desk in the Children’s Department, talked about how things have changed on Wednesday, Sept. 25, the anniversary day.

“The electronics, when they came into the system, that’s the biggest change that I’ve observed,” she said. That changed everything that people value libraries for.

Have they made it easier or harder for learning? “Well, it’s supposed to be easier, but I don’t see it that way,” she answered, “because they give up the books.”

Ms. Wooten believes that’s a drawback — although inevitable: “Yes, eliminating the books for computers (detracts from learning) because when it’s time to do homework, they normally don’t do homework first; they go straight to the games. So, I think books are more important. But they’re learning more how to use their electronics now,” Ms. Wooten said.

She doesn’t believe the tactile experience of turning pages and moving one’s eyes at a faster and faster pace necessarily help people establish great reading skills but more that, especially with computers, “to me, there’s too many distractions.”

Are they learning more or less than they were way back when?

“I think they’re learning less when it comes to books,” she answered.

But libraries still are a very important place for the community, she maintains. “Very much so.” She enjoys the events they have, though.

“We do mostly story times, and we do like the programs. We have special guests come in, like the performers today. Geddy the Gecko is not a local guy, but he’s very good. The kids love him.”

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