Guests at the Main Branch of the Livingston Parish Library were greeted with a carnival atmosphere Saturday, a contradiction to the traditional quiet atmosphere.
However, this wasn’t a typical Saturday. Livingston Parish residents attended the second annual Livingston Parish Library system Book Festival.
Tents, sheltering a wide variety of activities, filled the front lawn of the impressive, still relatively new Main Branch. Inside the building, visitors moved about almost shoulder to shoulder, enjoying a variety of attractions.
The Dewey Decibels, a band composed of library staffers who named the group, performed on a temporary stage outside and attracted several dozen festivalgoers who tapped their toes to the beat of the music. Several food trucks were available to satisfy the hungry.
Livingston Parish Director of Library Services Giovanni Tairov said the festival’s purpose is to highlight library services available to Livingston Parish residents, and to promote a love of reading and an emphasis on increasing literacy among parish residents.
“We decided to hold this festival so that we could place a focus on what the library system has to offer for its citizens,” Tairov said. “We want the public, old and young — and especially the young — to come out for a day of fun and exploration. We want to give our patrons the opportunity to discover all the things that a modern library can offer. We’re not just about books anymore, even though books remain at the heart of our mission.”
Throughout the year, the library system offers free computer training, job building skills, quilting, music groups, programs for hobbyists and gardeners, and a venue for gatherings of budding writers and scholars, Tairov said.
Tairov said the library system wants to get more teenagers involved and said the Denham Springs-Walker Branch has a teenage advisory board.
Among the teenagers visiting the festival was Laurie McCreary, a sophomore at Live Oak High School. McCreary was dressed as Snow White and said, “I thought that since this was a book festival, I would come dressed as a book character.” She said she enjoys writing and reading and uses the library on a regular basis.
“I think this festival is amazing,” McCreary said. “It gives me a chance to meet with writers who have published books, and that’s a great experience.”
Kathryn Martin, of Hammond, a writer and journalist, said she came to the festival to visit with writer friends who had their works available to festivalgoers.
“This festival is a big shot in the arm to local writers,” Martin said. “The writers get much encouragement from their participation in the festival. There’s a certain loneliness associated with being an author, and the festival gives these artists a chance to be together and to mingle with the public.”
Tairov said his goal is to bring awareness of the library experience to everyone in the community and that is why the library has changed with the times.
“I want our citizens to make the library a destination,” he said. “We want to continue to engage the adults who know what libraries are all about and to impress young people who will pass on the tradition of reading and learning to the next generation.”
To keep pace with changing reading habits, Tairov said the Livingston Parish Library system now has about 14,000 book titles available as e-books. E-magazines also are available for patrons, he said.
Perhaps the most popular attraction at the festival, and another manifestation of the library’s “keeping up with the times,” was the 3-D printer that drew a steady stream of onlookers. Caillyn Duncan, who was operating the machine, answered questions as she assisted in creating a small plastic statue.
“Everyone wants to know how it works,” Duncan said. “I can tell them that a plastic string is fed into the printer and once we program what we want to create, the machine does the rest. It works kind of like a glue gun. The machine melts the plastic into the shape of the image fed into it.”
Tairov said the library has a collection of about 400,000 hardbound volumes at its five branches, and more than 60,000 people use one of the libraries in Livingston Parish. Tairov said the library has about 22,000 active patrons — those who have checked materials out of the library at least once in the previous year.
Tairov gave credit to his staff of about 85 who man the five branches.
“They put everything into this festival, and they deserve the credit,” he said.
Tairov said Sarah Colombo, head of adult services, and Tammy Mulhearn, head of children’s services, spearhead the festival.
“This festival is just one way to show what we mean to the citizens of Livingston Parish who support the library with taxes they pay each year,” he said. “We want to do all that we can to show our loyal citizens what a special gift they have with the library system.”