Learning Side by Side: At the Jenna Welch and Laura Bush Community Library, College Students Share Library Space with Teens, Babies, and Grandparents

Article excerpt

Two El Paso (Tex.) Community College students pore over research texts next to a high school student Googling an online source not far from 14 teen mothers learning to delight their babies with nursery rhymes and rhythms. Such is the scene at the library on EPCC's northwest campus, as described by Phyllis Price, a member of the library's Friends group.

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"Hear a pin drop in this academic library? No way!" Price wrote to her colleagues. "The Jenna Welch and Laura Bush Community Library is one lively, community-building place where people are learning side by side."

Babies learning and teens participating in fun activities in the middle of an academic library are all part of the way librarians at this joint-use facility are redefining what a library can be.

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The library partnership was created by EPCC President Richard Rhodes and El Paso Public Library Director Carol Brey-Casiano. "With passion, perseverance, and trust, joint-use partnership can be a resounding success," Rhodes emphasized while serving as a panelist in a program on joint-use partnerships at the American Library Association's 2005 Annual Conference.

Both EPCC and EPPL are driven by a common goal--serving the underserved community in the northwest section of the city. This dynamic partnership has been strengthened by efforts from such local organizations as the Canutillo Independent School District, the El Paso Independent School District, and the YWCA.

Named in honor of Jenna Welch, who grew up in the community, and her daughter, Laura Bush--the current First Lady and a great promoter of literacy and libraries--the library has been energized by two visionary librarians, Monica Wong, the library's head librarian, and Anna Hernandez, EPPL's youth librarian. "Those entering into partnerships should be prepared for great opportunities to come with a great deal of work," says Wong, adding that she would like the library to become the "in" place to be for people in the community.

Over the last four years, the number of programs offered has more than quadrupled, as has attendance, growing from 119 programs and 3,752 attendees to 546 programs and 17,289 attendees. …