Library’s StoryWalk combines leisure, imagination

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
The Lebanon Public Library held a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, Aug. 26, at Academy Square for its new, permanent installation of StoryWalk, an outdoor activity that exhibits storybook pages along a path for families to read.
“It’s encouraging parents and children to read together, to get outside together,” said Kendra Antila, library director.
The concept was originally developed by Anne Ferguson of Vermont in 2007, and has since spread nationwide. Last year it arrived in Lebanon when Library Assistant Darcy Smith launched the first StoryWalk along the paths that wind through the grassy field near the library building.
“During the (COVID-19) closure, I said, ‘This is a great way to keep early literacy going. It’s a great way to get people out of their house, and it’s 24/365’,’” Smith said.
Last year, Smith used cardboard picket signs with book pages attached, and replaced the story once a month.
“Once I put it out and I saw the reactions from people, I almost within the first month thought I wanted to push forward for a permanent one,” she said.
The new permanent posts are made of metal, with glass to protect the pages from weather.
Currently, the StoryWalk features “Señorita Mariposa,” a story about the journey of monarch butterflies by Ben Gundersheimer. It is the fifth StoryWalk presented since Smith started the project.
The library plans to change books every two months, with some “special surprises” in between, Smith said.
Hanna Brownell, who took her four children to the Aug. 26 ceremony, appreciated that the concept encouraged walking.

BRANDI GADDIS, right, reads “Señorita Mariposa” with her children, Andrew and Taya McDaniel.

“I think it’s great, combining the activity with learning,” Brownell said.
The installation was funded by a donation from Dale and Val Hall, and grant monies that couldn’t be used as originally intended due to the pandemic.
“We see people going out and walking the StoryWalk,” Smith said. “We have people come in the library, especially parents and grandparents; they come and tell us they like the new story and that they come excited to see it, excited to walk the StoryWalk.”
A guestbook waits at the end of the walk for patrons to share their thoughts.
“This started during the pandemic when everyone was kind of locked in,” Antila said. “Kids, especially, were on their screens all the time, going to school online, all their interactions were online. This is a way to get people outside. We always want to encourage reading with your child; that’s important.” www.lebanonoregon.gov/library.