posted by D.Sueoka

HBLC09 Waimanalo

A few Wednesdays ago, Misty, Alex, and I made the trek over the Pali to visit the Waimānalo Public and School Library. The library is located at 41-1320 Kalaniana‘ole Highway. Stately banyan trees shelter the entrance and parking lot, and there’s a spectacular view of the Ko‘olau Mountains.

waimanalo mural

The Building

One of the first things we noticed was the beautiful mural near the entrance to the building. Painted by artist (and cowboy!) Patrick Ching (, it depicts real members of the Waimānalo community. Stepping into the building, we were happy to see a community bulletin board, pamphlets and newsletters for local organizations, a large stack of outdoors-y magazines (free for the taking), and a display entitled “Be Creative” that featured art made from pipe cleaners, foam, egg cartons and corks; and collages done by preschoolers.

Lisa Elson-Young welcomed us to the library and showed us around. On the wall behind the circulation desk were framed photographs of Waimānalo that were published in a National Geographic magazine feature. She also pointed out a 3-D mural, funded by a Friends of the Library grant and painted by Tara Sullivan, in the children’s section of the library. Its ‘iwa birds, honu, nai‘a, monk seals, and playing children really brighten up the area. During preschool storytime (every Thursday at 10:15), there’s even a special jungle rug–complete with jungle path–for children to sit and play (and of course listen) on.

waimanalo mural2

Though the library’s collection is small, Lisa reminded us that patrons are not limited to materials housed in the building. They can request books, CDs, and DVDs from any library in the state.

The library’s meeting room is available for state and city agencies, non-profits, and for-profit companies to rent.

Finally, we were all very relieved to hear Lisa say that, as far as she knew, the library was not haunted.


The library’s main public program is preschool craft and storytime at 10:15 every Thursday. During the summer, the library hosts more nighttime programs, but during the school year, it is limited by its small budget. Lisa said she would especially like to reach out to young adult and reluctant readers.

Like Hawai‘i’s other libraries, the Waimānalo library lacks funding to put on as many programs as they would like and to stay open as long as they would like. A Verizon grant once paid the electricity bill on the weekends, but now, the library can only stay open from 10 to 2 on Saturday. If only one of the 3.5 employees is present, the library is forced to close for safety reasons.

Lisa explained that the Waimānalo community, which includes the very rich and very poor, is strong, supportive, and mellow. The library offers computers with internet access, hosts adult literacy and computer classes through the Windward School for Adults, and has one of the best Hawaiian CD collections in the system.

One of the great things about being a community and school library, Lisa said, is that the librarians can watch the children grow up and bring their own children to the library. She remembered one student in particular, who visited the library as an elementary school student, worked as a student helper in the library while attending Kailua High School, and is now in the nursing program at HPU!

A benefit of being a small library, she added, is that each staff member gets to perform many different roles—something that doesn’t happen in larger, more compartmentalized libraries. Although this means that they are sometimes overwhelmed by paperwork, it also means that everyone gets to interact with the public—whether at the circulation desk, at the reference desk, or through the library’s programs. “We’re there for people to get what they want or need,” Lisa said. “I love it.”

waimanalo circulation

Lisa Elson-Young’s Hawaiiana Recommendations:

kaitheopihiLisa recommended Kai the ‘Opihi Gets the Point (reviewed October 21) because of its great illustrations—something we’d like to see even more of in local children’s books. She was lucky enough to meet the authors and illustrator at a recent Read to Me conference, and reported that they were great. The book was written through a grant from the Tūtū and Me program (, which helps prepare disadvantaged children to enter school. “It’s about self-esteem,” Lisa said, “and it’s very positive for kids.”

Her second recommendation was Hawaii: The Electric Century, a coffee table book that drew many oohs and ahhs from the HBB crew. Commissioned by the Hawaiian Electric Company, it compares historical photographs from the Bishop Museum Archives to their modern-day counterparts. Lisa’s work in the museum’s photo archives helped her appreciate this book even more. When you look at each pair of photos, the changes “really hit you,” she said.

Many thanks to Lisa and the Waimānalo Public Library staff for a wonderful evening (which Misty, Alex, and I rounded off with Portuguese sausage omelets from the Dillingham Zippy’s)!