Sarah Cheek, Youth Services Librarian

Meet one of our newest team member, Sarah Cheek. Sarah received her bachelor’s at Austin College and her Masters of Library Science at TWU. Sarah has worked or volunteered for the Denison Public Library since she was a teenager. This inspired her to pursue a career in Library Science.  In 2006, Sarah was assigned to help with the Youth Services Department to help with Summer Reading Club. “Going into children’s was totally accidental… I was hugely impressed by the work Joyce had done, transforming the children’s program and have been a part, in some capacity since that time.” Sarah is excited to now be a full-time member of the team and will be specifically focusing on the Teens. She will be working with our Teen Advisory Group and the lead facilitator for the 5th-8th graders during the Summer.

Sarah also announced a special program for teens: The Edge of Imagination Station stop-motion workshop.  This has limited capacity so teens will need to register for this event. It is open to teens 13-17 or entering 7th-12th grade. Those interested should register at

“The library has always been my second home… A library’s goal should be to produce lifelong learners. We strive to produce programs where the children, parents, staff, and volunteers all learn a little something, stretch themselves.”

Be sure to stop by and introduce yourself to Sarah.


Zoe May, Adult Program Librarian

If you have looked at our website and social media outlets you have seen a growing number of programs for all ages at our library.  We have been bringing quality children’s programs to our patrons for many years but want to expand programming for adults and to accomplish that goal we now have Zoe May as our new adult programming librarian.  Zoe has been percolating ideas with staff and patrons to find programs that that are useful, educational, and just plain fun to our patrons and community.

Zoe worked for IBM in Austin for many years as well as living in Wyoming where she loved the scenery and adapted to an environment that sometimes went to 20 below zero.  She is glad to be back in Texas and is excited by this opportunity to bring innovative ideas and programs to our library.

This summer some, but not all, of our adult programming will be musically themed to coincide with our Summer Reading Club theme “Libraries Rock. “  This fits perfectly with Zoe’s degree from the University of Texas in music history before earning her degree in library science from the same school.  One of her adult programs will be about classical music which will include a TED talk on the same subject.  Zoe plans to show a couple of documentary films one of which will be about the making of the musical West Side Story as well as a film about the great composer Mozart.  The library will be showing the movie West Side Story on June 23rd as well as Oklahoma on June 9th.

While we are bringing musical programming to the library many in our community are not aware that our library has a music lab that is free to use with a library card.  In our music lab we have keyboards, acoustic electric and bass guitars along with an electric drum set.  You can check the room out for an hour at a time and work on improving your skills at your own pace.  And don’t let age dissuade you from using the music lab.  The young, not so young, and all ages in between have been using and enjoying the room over the months we have had it and with the doors closed there is enough privacy to let your inner musician out.

Zoe, along with other library staff, will be bringing adult programming over the next few months outside of our music theme for the summer.  There will be programs on real estate, knitting, making fairy gardens and a craft class.  Look at the calendar on our website or grab a calendar as you come in the door at the front desk.  These are just some of the examples of the variety of classes and events we will be hosting at the library over the coming months.  We are of course open to any suggestions for future classes you may have and welcome ideas to make our classes both fun and educational.  We hope to see you at one of our classes soon!

STEM – Part 2

Developing critical thinking skills in young children is essential in helping them navigate a world that is more complicated than any prior generation has had to face.  Many people think these thinking skills are mainly developed in school and they are, but much of a child’s time is spent outside the school environment.  This is where libraries, including ours, have been able to fill the need of providing children with activities where thinking and creativity are combined to enhance skills that will serve them a lifetime.

As has been mentioned in a prior post, children learn best by doing.  This is where STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) comes in, these activities are hands on so that a child is thinking while doing, they are physically and mentally involved and this combination makes for a much more productive learning experience.  Our library’s STEM kits are all hands on and while they can sometimes be challenging they are also fun.  And if an older sibling or parent or caregiver take a look at our kits they may decide to have a crack at working on them themselves.

The makers of STEM kits have become creative in the variety of ideas they have brought to creating their kits.  Some of our kits follow stories that are fairy tales like, “The three billy goats gruff,” or fables like, “The three little pigs.”  The kits take a central problem from the story and have kids use their problem-solving skills to create a happy ending for the story’s main characters.  As the summary on our web site says for “The three little pigs,” Kids engineer a happy fairy tale ending-as they design a house that can’t be blown down! Our kit helps children discover the STEM in one of their favorite fairy tales and naturally inspires them to explore a challenging situation until they find a solution! Kit includes a STEM-focused story card, 18 foam blocks, 35 panels in 2 sizes, 3 pigs, a wolf, plus student & teacher cards with lesson plans & full support. Blocks are 1 1/2″.Develops skills in using the design process; cause and effect; experimenting with structural stability, size and balance.

As you can see this kit has a lot of parts.  Some of our kits have more, some less.  We do not want to let that fact scare you away from checking out our STEM kits but please be aware these kits are more than just toys and they need to be taken care of so that the experience is the same for each family that checks them out. 

The summary also brings out an important part of our STEM kits.  Kids learn problem solving skills by thinking creatively and by facing problems where the answers do not follow a straight line but can be found by thinking one step at a time.  Trial and error is part of the process and if something doesn’t work then it is time to rethink the answer and try something new.  It is the thinking process that is the key part of these kits and the skills they learn will last them a lifetime.

STEM – Part 1

You may have heard the term STEM and thought what the heck? This term has become more common in the academic and library worlds over the last few years and they deal with a very important topic. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. In this high-tech world these are the jobs of the future and the more children and young adults that become interested in these subject areas the better equipped our country is for handling the challenges we will face in the coming years.

So, what does all this have to do with the Denison Public Library? We believe STEM is a valuable resource that our young people can use to discover new critical thinking skills and learn about these important academic areas with hands on experience. Children learn best by doing. Let a child learn about something by using their hands and they will be learning without even realizing it. This is where our STEM kits come in. Each one of our kits has a number of activities that allow a child to learn at their own pace and explore problems in different ways.

Some of our STEM kits come in clear backpacks designed for children. For instance, one of our STEM backpacks deals with the subject of wind power. This one backpack kit has 75 pieces and a manual discussing wind energy and 10 experiments that can be set up using all the different pieces of the kit. This particular kit is meant for children eight years of age and older. But don’t let that fool you. Learning these things can be fun no matter the age. They can be used by the whole family to play with and experiment with, to explore a subject that is becoming more important as a renewable resource and of course there is nothing wrong with learning about a subject just for the pleasure of it. This description can be found when you look up this item on our library website, “Assemble a wind turbine complete with electric generator and adjustable rotor blades. The blades are designed with complex aerodynamic curves to look and work like modern-day wind turbine blades. Conduct experiments with your wind turbine, including experiments to optimize its performance by adjusting the angle of the blades and the placement of the turbine. Use the wind turbine to light up an LED and charge a rechargeable battery. Convert the wind turbine into an electric fan by using the electric generator as a motor. Build four additional models with the parts included: an electric three-wheeler, electric car, electric helicopter, and electric truck.”

We will be discussing more about our STEM kits in future articles. STEM kits are a great way to get children of all ages interested in fields they may not have even considered in the past. They are fun and interesting and we believe a great addition to our library.

Universal Class

In this month’s newsletter article, we will continue to discuss the Universal Class database available through the Denison Public Library’s website.  Near the top of the page is a search box with the phrase “I want to learn…” that allows you to type in any subject you wish.  If there are any courses that match what you are looking for you can easily and quickly find them here.  For instance, you can type in coding.  This search will bring back seven results mainly in the area of medical coding.  This field is exploding and here is an easy way to find out if this is possibly a fit for you as a career.

Another course found under the topic of coding is CSS which is used for website design.  With this knowledge you can begin to design interactive website pages for visitors to your website.  This brings us to a tip that librarians learn early on in their careers when helping people search for things on the internet.  If you don’t like your search results try another approach, a different set of search terms.  Typing in “website design” brings one result while typing “website” brings 20 results.  Sometimes finding only one result, in this case that would mean courses, will bring you the information you need and you can be happy with that result.  But with 20 courses you may find new things dealing with websites that you never thought of or never even knew existed.  Don’t give up on a search because you didn’t get the results you wanted.  Try different words and different phrases and your search results can be as wide or as specific as you wish and your chances of getting a positive result will be much greater.

One of the great things about the Universal Class website is the wide variety of classes offered. There are over 500 classes and a way to start to get the full scope of what is offered is to click on the “Course Catalog” tab at the top of the page.  There are 31 subject areas and each one of these has multiple courses under that subject.  Some of the subjects have up to one hundred courses while several have ten courses that you can learn from.

You may enjoy browsing the different course subjects offered and then looking through all the courses under that subject.  You many also wish to try a more direct search to go directly to the subject you are interested in.  The success of that search may once again come down to the search terms you put in the search box.  For instance, typing in “learn computers” will bring up 22 courses as well as typing in “computers” by itself.  But typing in “learn computer skills” will give you no courses at all.  The key is in the exact terms you use so don’t be afraid to try a search in more than one way.  More on this database next week.

This resource is free to use with your library card.  To get started visit: