by Jonathan Weaver
Ford City Library Assistant Tiffany Harkleroad recalls the hours spent at her local library growing up and she wants to make sure local children have the same opportunity and have fun while doing it. Even if it means sacrificing her 36th birthday gifts. “Every year for my birthday, I try to do something unique to celebrate my birthday. Because I work here, and I know the library – as every public library need of funding, materials and ways to serve our patrons in new ways – I talked with (Library Director Anita Bowser) about wanting to start a children’s literacy activity center,” Harkleroad said. “We have a lot of children’s programming here, but nowadays, a lot of families have parents that both work, or grandma babysits the kids during the day, and they aren’t able to come to that programming.” Nine different stations with workbook pages, small crafts and other themed activities debuted yesterday will help kids learn about colors, shapes and music through play during their visit. “Even if they can’t come to story time every week, they can still come and work on reading skills or math skills, following directions, and have fun,” Harkleroad said. Harkleroad, who celebrated her birthday April 20 – which this year was Easter Sunday, – made a wishlist on Amazon of items to send directly to the Ford City Public Library to benefit the community. “They were giving my birthday gift to the library. Over the course of six weeks, we advertised we were doing this project, and people bought every single thing on my list,” Harkleroad said. “We had about $500 worth of items donated to the library just for this project. “I never in a million years thought this crazy idea would result in such a really fun thing for the kids. I’m really proud of it.” Among those 20 families that donated were her parents, brother, sister and a cousin. Other individuals Harkleroad never met in-person. Bowser recalled that Fed-Ex boxes in the offices were stacked nearly five feet tall at one point. Harkleroad, of Kittanning, remembers most playing with musical instruments – like a tambourine – or art kits with her parents whenever they would go to the St. Clairsville Public Library in Belmont County, Ohio. She hopes the items will be used as soon as today after the ‘Tiny Tot’s Story Hour’ at 1PM or after the baby lapsit program the first Tuesday of each month. In 2013, Harkleroad participated in 35 days of random acts of kindness with friends. Harkleroad did celebrate her birthday through a dinner with friends April 18 and a birthday cake on Sunday. Bowser praised Harkleroad’s enthusiasm for the activity center and said the effort was the library’s first attempt at crowd-sourcing, an attempt to gather funds or information through an online medium. One of the popular methods is through the website, Kickstarter. “I thought it was a great idea. It sounded like crowd-sourcing to me, which is a kind of fundraising we have wanted to do but just didn’t know how to go about doing it,” Bowser said. “(Harkleroad) did it very focused and on a smaller scale, but it worked really well. “She has all kinds of great ideas and we encourage that.” The activity center debuted Tuesday and all materials will stay within the library.