By Rhonda Mix
If you’ve never stepped inside the Lake Geneva Public Library, now is a great time to visit. Known as one of the most dramatic library sites in the Midwest, the building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright protégé James R. Dresser, is also one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. Overlooking Geneva Lake from its downtown post in Library Park, the building has become a favorite for architectural enthusiasts who admire the red brick, Prairie style structure with walls of windows that offer sweeping lake views.
However, what’s happening inside the library is the main attraction. Chock-full of activities for babies and kids, tweens, teens and adults, the Lake Geneva Public Library offers something for everyone to enjoy.
Library Director Emily Kornak, who joined the staff in January 2017, says that library programming has been around since the facility’s inception. “We have a long history of successful programming and traditional children’s programming has been especially strong,” she says. “The library as an institution has so much to offer, and we always try to let people know that this programming, as one of our many resources and services, is available and free of charge.”
Linda Boilini, president of the non-profit volunteer group, Friends of the Lake Geneva Public Library, says creating interesting activities has always been part of the library’s mission. However, the number of different programs available reached new and exciting heights last fall. “It’s so nice to have a new variety of offerings from where we were a couple of years ago,” Boilini adds. “And it’s great that we now have a chance to provide a lot of hands-on learning experiences.”
AN ECLECTIC ARRAY OF ACTIVITIES
Library staff strive to keep activities fresh, innovative and interesting — though some programs may repeat if there is enough demand. For example, programs focusing on local architecture and history — such as the area’s notorious gangster past — have been a favorite of locals.
Visitors also enjoy Music in the Library once a month, which has included jazz performers, string trios, rock performers, solo violinists, harpsichordists and even a hand bell choir around Christmastime.
Throughout the year, relaxing activities such as chess, adult coloring, arts and crafts and even Yoga are offered. In addition, there are movie nights, ukulele lessons and sessions for writers. “We’ve had a big response to programs like the calligraphy workshop,” Kornak says. “So many people come out and seem to have a lot of fun with it.”
Programs showcasing published authors and presentations about a wide range of topics are also featured on select evenings. “Our more informational presentations provide an opportunity to learn something new or hear a high-profile speaker or author you might not otherwise have an opportunity to meet in person,” says Kornak.
Especially popular, drawing interest communitywide, are the library’s make-and-take sessions. “The classes provide an opportunity to make beautiful — or delicious — things you can make for yourself, things you might not be able to do at home, while having fun with other patrons at the same time,” Kornak says.
Alisha Hines, head of Adult Services, says some of the most popular adult programs to date have included a wooden shoe carving class, sled dog demonstrations, Poems by the Lake, silent book clubs, artist of the month presentations and the variety of hands-on programming. “People are looking for ways to connect with the community,” she shares. “For example, the make-and-take workshops bring in community members of all ages who are happy to create. People like to have fun together and make a mess.”
In addition to all the fun, the library also offers workshops for some of the more serious and sensitive issues in life. Classes on financial planning and computer coaching are regularly featured. There is also a support network for people who have been impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association, in partnership with the Lakeshores Library System, hosts Lakeshores Memory Café for caregivers and people suffering from the disease. The program encourages attendees to share stories, socialize and make new friends.
Little tykes and young people are not forgotten; they can also find plenty to do at the library. “It’s nice to have something you can do with your little ones that doesn’t cost you anything,” says Sara Soukup, head of Youth Services. “It gives you something to do with children that is low-key, interactive and free. It’s also a way for children to make a connection with other kids and learn new skills at the same time.”
Programs have included a Kitten Party in partnership with Lakeland Animal Shelter; the Read to a Dog program; art programming, which includes painting kindness rocks to place around the community; and science programming, where children participate in activities such as studying animal pelts or the Snake Discover program, where kids can feed and touch snakes.
Sensory playtime for babies and toddlers is available in the fall with enrichment activities, musical instruments, even age-appropriate obstacle courses. A toddler time story and play group is featured for children up to age 2, and the library also provides English-Spanish preschool story time once a week. For kids ages 4-12, a Science Explorers program, part of the Wisconsin Science Festival, takes place October 13. Teen programming, including an In the Middle book club for ages 12-14, premiers in October.
Additionally, the library encourages local kids to get involved through its regular classroom visits during the school year. “The class visits are special because they open doors for kids who may not be able to come otherwise,” says Soukup. “The visits also show children that they can come in anytime and take part in checking out books, in addition to taking advantage of the free programming.”
LET’S NOT FORGET THE BOOKS
Aside from the outstanding activities, the main attractions at the Lake Geneva Public Library — the books themselves — are not forgotten. There are book discussion groups and the library also boasts a fun summer reading program for children and adults. Participants can earn great prizes from area businesses, including boat rides, theater tickets, beauty products and local treats. “The beauty of this is that when kids sign up, their parents sign up, so everyone is reading together,” says Soukup.
FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY
All of this top-notch programming would not be feasible without the support of the Friends of the Library and its outstanding fundraising efforts. Now in their 41st year, the group consists of 100 members and 12 board members. “The Friends of the Library have been very generous over the years in their support of our programs,” Hines says. “We evaluate the programs that are most popular and seek to choose programs that draw people to the library, so they can discover all the services we offer.”
Fundraising is implemented through the popular annual book sale that takes places every August. “It’s one of our biggest fundraisers and sometimes we also get membership that way,” Boilini shares. “It helps provide money for all the programs.”
The Friends of the Library Annual Meeting and Beachside Authorfest are two additional ways funds are raised.
LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE
Looking ahead, Kornak says the library aims to continue its innovative programming. “We receive good feedback from the city and library board regarding ideas,” she says. “I hope in the future we can work with the school district as well as local businesses, which could help shape the direction of our programming. People want more opportunities for new experiences. We want to make the library a place to learn and meet with friends and neighbors,” she continues. “It’s harder and harder to connect today, and the library gives you a place and opportunity to do just that.”
“It is so important for all of us to be lifelong learners and to have the ability to develop new skills at the library,” Hines adds. “Learning the history of Lake Geneva and the many topics you can explore at the library helps us develop as a people and continue to be engaged. From a library standpoint, it is important for us to say, ‘Welcome to the library; we have lots of things available for you.’ People are excited that our programs are free, and attending encourages them to visit the library and continue reading.”
WHAT’S ON TAP FOR SEPTEMBER
CLASSIC MOVIE NIGHT: REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE
5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4
CRAFTS BY THE LAKE
6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5
SILENT BOOK CLUB AT AVANT BICYCLE & CAFE
6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6
CARAMEL APPLE MAKE & TAKE
6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10
ACTIVITIES BY THE LAKE
10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12 Game, color, craft, create and drink coffee.
FAKE NEWS: THE NUTRITION EDITION WITH RN/EDUCATOR JOAN DAVIS
6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12
AWYA BOOKS CLUB (ADULTS WITH YOUNG ADULT BOOKS)
6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13 Discussion group for adults who read young adult fiction.
CALLIGRAPHY PRACTICE SESSION
6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17
MOVIE NIGHT: 12 STRONG
5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18
RAISING MY PARENTS: MAKING ALZHEIMER’S & DEMENTIA A TRUE BONDING EXPERIENCE OF JOY, LOVE, HUMOR & LAUGHTER, WITH AUTHOR CAROL BYRNE.
6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19
BOOKS BY THE LAKE BOOK DISCUSSION GROUP
1:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20
MUSIC IN THE LIBRARY
3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21
PARANORMAL WISCONSIN PROGRAM WITH RESEARCHER AND AUTHOR, CHAD LEWIS
6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25
WRITE-IN WITH ALISHA HINES, MFA
6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26 Writing prompts, paper, writing utensils and books to inspire will be provided.
PRESCHOOL STORY TIME
10:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 6 – Thursday, Dec. 13
Children ages 3 to 5.
9:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 7 – Friday, Dec. 14
Open to infants through age 2.
SENSORY PLAYTIME and FAMILY MOVIE NIGHT will begin in October.
For details about each program, visit LAKEGENEVA.LIB.WI.US/EVENTS