When I think about some of my childhood experiences with books there are a few things that stand out. I fondly remember hiding under the covers with Bunnicula, writing my name on the inside of Charlotte’s Web, sitting outside in awe of A Secret Garden… and of course–chowmein noodles, the manapua man, and Pearl City Library. The last three are synonymous.

Pearl City Chargers PeeWee Football (#51 is my little bro!)

It might seem odd to think of fried noodles and mobile snack wagons in conjunction with your childhood library but to me, it’s heaven.  For years, my little brother played Pop Warner football with the Pearl City Chargers. Half the year we’d spend our weekday afternoons (and sometimes our Saturdays) at Pacheco Park waiting for him to get through with practice. My sister and I didn’t mind waiting as long as we were allowed to visit the public library just up the hill. I loved it there. Freedom to me was hanging out in the luxury of limitless books. The time would race by and too soon we’d have to walk back. It wasn’t so bad because just as we’d arrive, the manapua man would drive in and Mom would buy chow-mein noodles in little paper bags, one for each of us. My brother would hop up onto the rock wall where we’d sit and eat with those tiny plastic forks, watching the sun go down behind the trees.

Given my history there, I was very excited to visit and speak with a librarian for our Library Tour Challenge. Before we even had a chance to look around and take notes they snagged us and began telling us about all the wonderful things they do and offer. Branch Manager Floriana Cofman and librarians Joyce Felmet and Les Yanagi were even more excited than I was and Alex and I were writing a mile a minute to keep up with everything they wanted to share with us!

The Building & Collection

Although the architect wasn’t a student of  Frank Lloyd Wright, the Pearl City Public Library (PCPL) is unique in that it’s a single story, multi-level building designed specifically to hold a lot of material. They house both hard copies and microfilm versions of the Advertiser and Star Bulletin from 1929 to the present, as well as archived brochures, community bulletins and State publications.  They’re maintaining the large collection in spite of budget struggles in order to help lessen the burden for LCC and other surrounding libraries. It’s one of their commitments— to use their resources to best serve the community and public library system as a whole. Historically they’ve had a good budget and that’s very well reflected in the staff, materials and resources that they make available.

Pearl City Library is a depository for environmental impact reports and they receive crop updates and other agricultural statements, EIS papers and documents on Community Board meetings …anything and everything to do with the civic and ecological concerns of Central and Western O’ahu.  Two of the most popular reports requested are regarding Makua Valley and the Mass Transit Line.  They feel it’s their obligation to have these things available for the public. As the former regional library, they have the space to store and display them when others do not. Some of those reports are really thick! They can be found on the bulletin boards near the street entrance and Joyce works hard to make sure all the reports on display are up to date and that there is supplemental material nearby with more information on what’s going on in our state and city government.

There are two entrances to this library. One from the street and one from the parking lot. When you enter from the parking lot you see the usual community bulletin boards, bus routes and Friends of the Library books  for sale.  What we love about PC Library is how it’s organized! “The library’s biggest asset is space. It’s a building built for librarians.”

To the left is a very large keiki reading area separated from the rest of the library by the long bulletin board with library news, community events, and cultural announcements. Tucked behind the board the kids can really feel like it’s their area. The YA section is fairly average and unfortunately they don’t exactly have an area to themselves but the children’s librarian  tries to make the bulletin board engaging for all, and while we were there she had book covers displayed for films based on popular childrens novels and books.

Just off the circulation desk is the “mid-level” lounge where patrons can sit in cozy chairs and read magazines, newspapers and other publications.

On the main level you can’t miss the large section in the middle dedicated to internet stations, which are very popular. They have nine stations that are all very well used but what’s unique is that the first terminal has special software installed so that patrons who are blind or have difficulty seeing can use the computer too.The Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped chose Pearl City to use the computer as part of their outreach and satellite program. The librarians are happy to help train people on how to use the zoom text and JAWS (Job Access with Speech Screen Reading software)… all you need is a library card.

The Foreign Language section takes up a whole wall on the lower level. There isn’t a big focus in any one area, but there is a LOT of diversity. They also have the strongest collection of foreign movies on the West side of the island.  They have DVDs from Israel, Japan, Korea, Spain, England, France, and even several South American countries.

Another distinctive characteristic of the main floor is the large area dedicated to reference and career advancement. There’s a pretty big education (test prep) section with a noticeable selection of computer and career titles. You can tell that this library is meant to be a place for finding information quickly and easily. Adult Librarian Les Yanagi showed us how they pull books from the stacks and reorganize them in the center display areas so that people can get to sets of books like the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series (which are usually spread out by topic) with little effort.

PCPL is currently undergoing a renovation of their parking lot. Construction is not affecting their hours of operation or their programs, but parking may be limited.

Services & Programs

"Get Creative" display by PCPL staff featuring their favorite books

If I had to pick one thing about the Pearl City Library to focus on, it would be that their staff is more interactive and hands on than any other we’ve visited. They have 4 librarians (Child/YA/Adult/Senior) which  allows them to create programming that hits all age groups. One of their most successful is the adult summer reading program. In fact, they actually offer two adult reading programs and was among the first public libraries to offer them specifically for adults and seniors (in addition to their keiki  and teen summer reading programs of course). Especially in the summer time, the staff like to get together and discuss what they will do for their main display case. Everyone including the tech-staff and bookmobile drivers pitch in to make the display creative and fun— sometimes with intricate and detailed work. Everything is handmade and it’s their way of showing the community that they’re involved and invested in their library.

Pearl City is also one of the only libraries in the system that’s able to employ a Senior Librarian. Joyce hopes to be able to do even more outreach this year and create  senior programs that suit their lifestyle and needs. Every Sunday and Wednesday, by appointment, they even provide one-on-one classes on using the library resources, internet and computer applications.  Anyone is welcome, all you need to do is call ahead and one staff member will be available for one hour to assist you individually. Another unique thing about their services is that they consistently have TWO research librarians available so that lines are shorter and patrons can be assisted quickly.

They’re the only “Sunday library” open on the west side (10:00am–5:00pm) and they’re very proud of being able to stay open on Sundays  since 1990. Given all the budgetary issues, they realize how fortunate they’ve been to be able to keep relatively the same amount of staff and hours. That’s not to say they haven’t had to make a few sacrifices as well. They still have furlough days like the rest of the public libraries, and they’ve had to significantly cut down on the various magazine and newspaper subscriptions by more than 80%. The magazine and newspaper reading area is one of their most popular. Aside from a monetary donation, Alex and I have realized that gifting a magazine subscription to this library, or any of them, would also be something useful.

The staff at Pearl City Library do a million little things that make a difference in serving the community and making the best of a tight fiscal situation. Their commitment to helping their patrons and neighbors is admirable. Everybody lends their kokua and they have more fun there because of it!

Reading Recommendation

We talked about so many books that I wasn’t quite sure which one we settled on! In honor of celebrating childrens books that turn into feature films, I’ll pick a keiki Hawaiiana book that we think should be made into a movie, Forever Buster by Martin Rabbett. I’ll post a review on that soon!

Many mahalos to the librarians and staff at Pearl City Public Library for taking the time to show us around and for your patience with our overdue write-up. We really enjoyed talking to you guys and want to say ‘keep up the great work!’

For those of you who remember him, the manapua man in the bus’ up beige van doesn’t come around Pacheco Park anymore 🙁