With Growing Interest, Area Libraries Expand Adult Programming | New
NORTH MANKATO – Kuldeep Agarwal and his three teammates weighed their options as they debated the proper spelling of words like belligerent, medley and chartreuse.
As the team progressed through three rounds, the words became stranger and less familiar.
Then there were the words hardly anyone in the adult Saturday night spelling in Spring Lake Park’s heated house had ever heard of, like quockerwodger, a slang term from 1850s Britain that refers to a wooden puppet controlled by strings.
“There is no preparation as such,” Agarwal explained. “At this age I think it’s more like, if you know you know and if you don’t know you don’t know.”
Agarwal, who has been tracking spelling bees nationally, heard about Saturday’s event through a friend and decided to give it a go.
“What interests me is meeting up with friends and having a fun evening,” he said.
The Adult Spelling Contest, sponsored by Taylor Library of North Mankato, is just one of dozens of local programs aimed at adults as social events return in person, said Hallie Uhrich, outreach librarian at the Taylor Library. The point is to have fun, and she ran the Adult Spelling Contest to reflect that.
“This is the third time we’ve done this,” Uhrich said. “It’s quite different from your typical spelling bee. They spell together as a team; a person writes the word on a white board, so it’s not like they are showing up in front of a crowd.
Volunteer judges roamed the hall to confirm whether each group’s spelling of a particular word was correct, scoring points to win prizes like gift certificates or beer producers from the Mankato Brewery.
While the spelling experience was new to some, there were many who came back after participating in former adult bees organized by the library at different locations, such as Mankato Brewery and LocAle Brewing Company.
It was the second time for Jody Bryant, who recruited a few friends from Bethel Baptist Church in Mankato to compete on Saturday. Her first adult spelling contest was in 2019.
“Some of them were very obscure words, like flibbertigibbet,” Bryant said. “Others were common words like secretary. To the others, you really think you should know how to spell and then you say, “Oh! There were two i’s in that one.
Her teammate, Catherine Martin, had her eyes riveted on one of the prizes. Her last and only other spelling problem was back in high school which hadn’t gone as well as she had hoped.
“This is my moment to come back,” she said with a laugh.
Danielle Elker, a grade 2 teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in Mankato, had so much fun the last time she recruited fellow teachers Andy and Beth Cress, from North Mankato, to join her with her boyfriend, Ben Johnson of Woodbury as a team. Saturday evening.
“I just think the spelling is so much fun,” Elker said. “We’re all teachers and I have to teach Grade 2 students to learn to spell. It’s not the same level of spelling, but it’s still spelling.”
Uhrich’s mission is to provide a more diverse array of adult programming in addition to the plethora of children’s events at the Taylor Library.
“So far, it’s going well; I started doing crafts for adults, ”she said. “At first it wasn’t something I planned to do every month, but then a bunch of people signed up and I was like ‘OK, maybe I should do this every month.’ Since then, I have had a full registration every month.
On August 20, the Taylor Library is hosting an adult murder mystery in Spring Lake Park, with food, prizes, and booze available. The interest was high enough that she expected to be able to have enough characters for 80 people.
Kelly McBride, director of library services for the Blue Earth County Library System, said their primary focus is on the summer reading program for children and adults, and adult events will resume at autumn.
“For the adults, we have reading bingo, which encourages them to read books they wouldn’t normally choose outside of their typical genres, and then they win prizes from local businesses,” McBride said. “Then we have our adult book discussion that takes place on the last Tuesday of every month and those books are available by checkout here at the library. “
In the fall, five authors will speak at the Blue Earth County Library in Mankato on Saturday morning, including an adult writing workshop led by Rachael Hanel, professor of creative writing at State University. of Minnesota.
Other authors will come to the library to discuss their books; Joe Kimball – a reporter who happened to be in Duluth the day after the Glensheen Mansion murders in Duluth in 1977 – will discuss the case through first-hand experience, followed weeks later by paranormal investigator Chad Lewis.
While the library has hosted authors in the past before the pandemic, this fall will be the first time they will have so many in the space of a few months.
“We’re really trying to improve our game when it comes to adult programming,” McBride said. “We try to choose presenters, speakers and activities that we know will be relevant to this community and that people will appreciate.”
LeRoy Nosker Tanner, programming and technology services librarian at the New Ulm Public Library, said adult programming has been fairly stable over the past four to five years.
“Before the pandemic we had a lot of adult-oriented events and we’re happy to say that all of them have started again or are expected to start again in September,” he said. “So the programs related to literature, technology, arts and music, and subjects of interest and history, we try to provide a good variety to people. “
In addition to author appearances, the Minnesota Valley Civil War Roundtable meets at the library once a month. An arts group that meets once a week for a few hours will return in September after a pandemic hiatus, and the library also has a memory lab with equipment to convert analog audio and video to digital format. Nosker Tanner teaches customers how to use the equipment to convert home videos and sound recordings from cassettes and phonographs for preservation.
Nosker Tanner has also partnered with Red Dragon Gaming in New Ulm, where adults can meet to play and learn new table games together. He is also teaching an adult computer course starting next month, with the intention of making it a regular, recurring course for people who want to hone their computer skills.
While the reviews have been positive, he said the challenge is to make sure clients are aware of the programs and that these programs are held at a time that suits adults and their busy schedules.
“Finding the right time and the right place to schedule shows is really the hard part of adult programming,” Nosker Tanner said. “You want interested people to be able to come, so you have to take the pulse of that and experiment. “
While the adult spelling at Spring Lake Park on Saturday drew a large crowd, with 10 teams and around 35 participants, Uhrich said the previous spelling in January 2020 attracted enough people to form 30 teams.
“We’re more interested in winter than summer, so I think we’re going to go back to winter only – the next one would be January 2022.”