DANVILLE – Green Meadow Apartments resident Dashone Watson would like to take her 9-year-old daughter, Shawntavia Lewis, to the Danville Public Library more often, but Watson doesn't have a car or money for the bus ride across town.
But now Shawntavia can check out books at the apartment complex thanks to a new program, "Weeds to Seeds: Growing a Neighborhood Library and New Library Users," that brings the library to them.
"She loves to read, and now all she has to do is walk over here," said Watson, who is also a program volunteer. "I think a lot of residents will use it. It's so convenient."
The library, the Altrusa Club of Danville and the apartment complex, which serves low-income residents, joined forces to establish the program, which sends books that have been taken out of the library's circulation to Green Meadow.
A small library was set up in the apartment complex's community center at 1611 Beechwood Drive, Room 103. Youth contest winners Keniya Wright and Daeron Allen designed a logo.
Organizers are planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony but have not set a date yet.
The idea was conceived by Mary Jane Starnes, the Danville library's outreach director and the Altrusa Club president. She knew that Barbara Nolan, the library's executive director, and Gloria Thompson-Brown, Green Meadow's resident services coordinator, were trying to find a way to encourage more residents to use the library.
"It's pretty difficult for our youth and adults to utilize our public library," Thompson-Brown said, adding that the complex has about 300 residents, including a large number of children. Like Watson, "most of them don't have transportation."
"And some of them had experiences where they borrowed books and didn't get them back in time. Then they had to pay fees they couldn't afford," she continued, adding that discouraged them from going back.
Meantime, Starnes had been looking for a better use for the books that are weeded regularly from the library's collection and don't sell at the Friends of the Library's book sales, which are held three times a year.
"We always have excess books," Starnes said. "Some of them are used for our program at the (Vermilion County) Jail. But lot of times, the leftovers end up being given away on the curb. Then I got the idea for Green Meadow and presented it to Altrusa and Barb. They thought it was a good idea."
Altrusa Club members donated money for shelving and other supplies. They also volunteered to help select books to send to the complex.
"The books are still in good condition," Starnes said, adding the library sent 13 boxes of books, magazines, DVDs and other materials for the start-up. The library will send new material over after each book sale.
Thompson-Brown requested children's and young adult books, educational materials, encyclopedias, cookbooks, self-help books and materials on money management, GED preparation, household tips and other useful information.
When residents want to check out a book, Thompson-Brown, the on-site librarian, will set them up with a library card – the same ones that Danville library patrons use – and go over basic library rules. Once they become familiar with the system, she and Nolan hope they will feel comfortable using the Danville library.
"When they come to our library, they'll already be ahead of the game," Nolan said. Starnes added the Altrusa Club is considering donating bus passes for residents once they get to that stage, since transportation would still be a barrier.
Thompson-Brown said the library program will enhance Green Meadow's after-school program, run by the Danville Area Project, affiliated with Catholic Charities. Linda Lucas, a community service worker, will provide tutoring for children and adults who are getting their GED or attend Danville Area Community College.
"Now they'll have all of these educational materials in our library at their fingertips," Thompson-Brown said.