Nyala Edwards and Elizabeth Howard, the branch manager and assistant branch manager, respectively, of the Calhoun-Gordon County Library, said recently that the on-going renovations, robust program offerings, and a calendar full of activities for people of all ages are just part of their effort to change perceptions of the local library.

A temporary wall came down recently, revealing a series of private study rooms and a cozy fireplace with access on two sides. Across from that area, crews are still working on the renovation of the genealogy room, which, when open, will also include an archive of printed copies of The Calhoun Times dating back to at least the early 1960s. The newspaper donated the bound books when it relocated to a new office earlier this year.

“We want everyone to feel welcome and safe, regardless of age, race, financial status,” said Edwards. “We’re so much more than books, and everything we offer is free.”

Among those offerings are English as a second language classes, citizenship classes, veteran support days, coffehouse style events for teens, movie nights, virtual reality events, baby sign language classes, story time for children, scrapbooking classes, groups for parents with special needs children, painting classes, chair yoga, computer classes, game night for teens and young adults and much more.

Edwards said about 30 people have participated in the citizen classes so far. The class covers the material that prospective citizens will be tested on when they apply for citizenship. In addition to Mexico and other Latin American countries, participants have represented Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, China and Canada.

“We want to make sure if they want to become citizens, we are here to help them,” said Edwards. “It’s very important we make sure they know it before they take the test.”

John McKenzie from Calhoun City Schools teaches the classes, and free child care is offered for parents. Several people have already earned their citizenship thanks to the class.

Howard said two local ladies recently passed it on their first try.

“They were so happy,” she said.

Another program they offer is Reading with Sue and Carl, during which Sue Vanburen and her therapy dog Carl read alongside young kids. Howard said she’s had parents who have been amazed because their children don’t usually enjoy reading, but they’ll eagerly cuddle up next to and read to Carl.

“Carl is so cool because kids who never read or have trouble reading will go and sit down and lean against Carl and read to him,” she said.

In addition to the programs, the library also offers ebooks, audio books, a phone-based book club, computer and internet access, a book program that sends free books to children, and family passes to state parks, museums and other attractions.

“You can plan a day trip down to Atlanta with these passes,” said Howard.

The library also offers access to database research tool Galileo, prep material for the SAT, GED and Compass examines, language learning tools, and access to a special version of Ancestry.com.

The library also partners with multiple other organizations in the community to offer veteran services and help to struggling families through the VAC. Howard shared the story of one young veteran who came to a job fair at the library who was homeless and jobless, and he ended up with a job that very day.

She said the library provides a welcome place for people who otherwise feel like they have no where else to go.

“It’s just making him feel like he’s a citizen, like he’s important,” Howard said, noting that she and Edwards aim to help people get the assistance they need.

Said Edwards: “We haven’t been management that long, but we’re trying to make a difference.

The Ferst Readers program sends a free, age-appropriate book to children every month, and the librarians said they can sign local children up.

“We want families to be able to build a library at home, because reading is so important.

For a complete list of activities offered at the Calhoun-Gordon County Library, stop by at 100 N. Park Ave. in Calhoun.

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