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PRESS RELEASE | April 24, 2015

The Front Porch Library Named Among National Finalists

The last time the Front Porch Library reached out to the wider community, it was to ask for help finding an insurer to keep their doors open.

Tallahassee came through with suggestions, offers of help, and ultimately an insurance policy.

Now there is good news to share.  The Front Porch Library is a finalist for a 2015 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.  The award – given by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and its partner agencies — recognizes top arts and humanities-based programs which operate afterschool and out-of-school.

The Front Porch Library is one of 50 programs to achieve Certificate of Excellence status from hundreds of nominations from across the country. If chosen in the top ten, the library will receive $10,000 and an invitation to Washington, DC for the award conference in August.

Today the Front Porch Library continues to thrive as a book-and-project gathering spot for the children of Seminole Manor Neighborhood. Co-founded by neighbors Adrian Fogelin and Dr. Kary Kublin, the initial vision was to give ready access to books and educational materials to youth in this low income neighborhood.

“The library began with my father’s house, and kids who needed books,” says Adrian Fogelin. Not wanting to give up his house when her father died, she decided to establish a library on the porch—a library which quickly took over the whole house.

The collection now numbers over 3,000 cataloged books, all donated. But the library is more than just books. Every Sunday, a volunteer staff gathers to run programs that bring the wider world to kids who arrive on foot and by bicycle. Library volunteers come from the neighborhood and the community. Many are students from SAIL High School and Leon High’s Key Club. These high-achieving teen volunteers act as mentors and role models.

As the library gets ready to celebrate its sixth birthday, there are many past programs and shared memories to draw on: building a Rube Goldberg machine, jousting on the lawn with the Society for Creative Anachronism, quilting, cooking, studying Greek mythology, learning about modern China, conducting explosive science experiments and funding summer camp experiences from one generous donation.

“We’ve seen a lot of kids come to the library, growing up right before our eyes Sunday to Sunday,” says Co-Director Kary Kublin.  “If we want kids to read, we’ve got to read with them.  If we want them to ask questions and solve problems, we have to make sure the opportunities are there and that they are accessible.”

The Front Porch Library is proof that it takes a village. With this national recognition, the village continues to grow.

More information about The Front Porch Library as well as weekly updates and photographs can be found at http://thefrontporchlibrary.com.

National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Awards is an initiative of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH). The President’s Committee partners with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to administer the program.

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On Sept 8, 2014 we made a plea to our local community to help us secure insurance for The Front Porch Library.  An article was published in the Tallahassee Democrat and we received a surprising number of responses.  A copy of the article can be found below.  Our story has a happy ending.  See the Letter to the Editor which ran on Sept 11, 2014 at the bottom.    Thanks Tallahassee Democrat and the Earl Bacon Agency.

FPL Democrat article

Front Porch Library needs a hand

Adrian Fogelin, Special to the Democrat5:02 p.m. EDT September 5, 2014

The Front Porch Library, the very local children’s library of Seminole Manor Neighborhood, began when I lent my first grade neighbor a book. The girl was named Kelsay and the book was “Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key,” by Jack Gantos. When Kelsay book-talked “Joey,” the title was passed hand-to-hand around the neighborhood.

“Do you have another book like that?” the kids asked.

I write novels for young readers and had plenty of books collected from other authors. They flew off my shelf. When the kids had exhausted my collection I checked out books from the public library following a wish list from each reader. I paid a few fines and bought a few books that didn’t come back, but it was worth it. The kids were reading!

My father lived in the house across the street from mine. When he died, my husband fixed up the porch, put in shelves. The idea was that we’d turn the porch into a library neighborhood kids could reach on foot or by bike where they could choose books for themselves.

Both the porch and our mission to put books in the hands of young readers proved to be too small. The library quickly spilled into the house because you can’t cook on the porch or seat all the kids and volunteers we have for a program. You also can’t build a really cool structure using all the Leggos, Duplo Blocks, Tinker Toys and Erector Sets we’ve scavenged from the bins at Goodwill.

The library celebrated its fifth official birthday in June. What have we done in our five-plus years? We have built a collection of books with nearly 3,000 catalogued titles—all donated. Books come from everywhere, including schools all over the country I visit as a traveling author. Sometimes they just appear on the porch, donated anonymously in a battered cardboard box.

By writing a book’s assigned number on their card and crossing the number off when the book is returned children manage the circulation of books themselves. Do we lose books? Sure. Our neighborhood has a high turnover rate and sometimes the books go with the departing child, which is OK. Sometimes a kid needs a book more than we do.

Every Sunday there is a program, a project, a reason to come to the library. One month we worked on simple machines, building a Rube Goldberg machine as the final project. Human anatomy month culminated with each kid lying down on brown paper so we could trace them crime-scene style — only when the silhouettes were cut out, all the vital organs were glued on.

Recycling month sent us on a mission around the neighborhood, picking up and sorting trash. Last fall, when talking about the strategies plants use to propagate, we scavenged a one block area for seeds (with neighbors’ permission). We ended up with seeds from 46 species of plants on our collecting table.

The library’s front lawn has been used for salsa dancing lessons, building a catapult, a visit from wild animals brought to the library by staff from the Tallahassee Museum, a jousting demonstration staged by the Society for Creative Anachronism, a therapy dog visit, a drum circle, water balloon fights and frequent reading on the big blanket under the trees.

There is always someone to read to a child, or listen to a child read aloud. A band of dedicated volunteers from the neighborhood and all over Tallahassee make the library possible. In addition to my neighbor, Kary Kublin (who I consider the other mother of the library), the corps includes teachers, writers and avid readers.

Students from Leon High School and SAIL, FAMU and FSU provide energetic help and serve as role models. Kids claim individual volunteers as their own. Enduring friendships form. At the age of 12, library kids join the volunteer ranks, or, as we like to say, “become management.”

Over time we have developed traditions. I bake a cake every week and the kids decorate it. Have you ever seen a gray cake? That’s what happens when you mix all the food colors together; the library is a place of hands-on experimentation. We bob for apples at Halloween. We have the summer read-a-thon and an annual watermelon seed spitting contest. (The library record seed-spit is 24-and-a-half feet.)

Each year when the library celebrates a birthday, the kids prepare a dinner for parents and neighbors. For two Sundays prior to the birthday, the library kitchen is alive with chopping and sautéing as produce from the neighborhood garden is turned into spaghetti sauce—a meal that can be stretched to feed the nearly 50 guests who gather to celebrate the library each June.

This past summer, thanks to a generous donation, we sent eight kids to camp at the Tallahassee Museum.

The most difficult thing when the library opened was finding anyone to insure a house that, once a week, became a gathering place for exuberant neighborhood kids. Although to date we have gotten by on half a box of Band-Aids, it is essential that we have liability coverage. Accidents happen.

The issue of insurance has, once again, made the future of the Front Porch Library uncertain. We received a cancellation notice from our insurer. They are no longer willing to insure a house worth less than $100,000, and the library house, though valuable in so many ways, does not meet that requirement. We have been reaching out to the community for help in finding an insurer and hope that, with that help, insurance will come through. It just has to.

You can’t beat the combination of books and kids on a Sunday afternoon. Books and kids and a big gray cake.

How to help

To learn more about the Front Porch Library or watch videos, visit thefrontporchlibrary.com.

Small library gets help

Re: “Kids library needs a hand” (TLH Local, Sept. 8).

I was amazed at the number of offers of help we received thanks to the article in Monday’s paper. The phone rang all day long with people wanting to donate books or financial help, but what surprised me the most was the number of local insurance agencies that called to offer assistance.

Bobby Bacon at the Earl Bacon Agency has found us a policy that does exactly what we need and is affordable, but we had unsolicited offers of help from Amanda Thomas at Demont, Corey Tyre of the Corey Tyre Agency, Sam Rogers Sr. of Rogers, Gunter, Vaughn Insurance, Jack Rivers of the Southern Financial Group, Mary Katherine Lawler of Doug Crowley Insurance Services, and Gaye Johnson of Midtown Insurance LLC. If I have left anyone out I apologize. It was quite a day!

Our community came together to save the Front Porch Library, and the kids and volunteers who gather there every Sunday afternoon to celebrate books and neighbors are grateful. We give thanks to the Democrat and the generous supporting community that is Tallahassee.

We would not be opening our doors without you.

ADRIAN FOGELIN

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