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Beyond books: Hereford library offers a wide variety of programs for post-holiday enrichment

Hereford branch librarian Mandi Coffeen, of White Hall, helps Ranger Genakos, 6, and his sister Reeves Genakos, 4, decorate an ugly holiday sweater during the first event to make ugly sweaters.
Hereford branch librarian Mandi Coffeen, of White Hall, helps Ranger Genakos, 6, and his sister Reeves Genakos, 4, decorate an ugly holiday sweater during the first event to make ugly sweaters. (Karen Jackson / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Ugly Christmas sweater making is just one of the programs marking the holiday season at the Hereford branch of the Baltimore County Public Library.

As much as anything, it showed the willingness of the library staff, headed by branch manager Samantha O’Heren, to accommodate — and welcome — community members with a wide swath of interests into the building located on York Road in the heart of Hereford.

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“Libraries have changed a lot in the last 20 years,” O’Heren said. “It might be because people are used to [getting much of their information from] the internet. So we’re functioning in a lot of different ways. We try to respond to what people in the community want. The library has become a place where people come to connect with each other.”

The expansion of services is a vital part of the community it serves while introducing, for instance, a live performance by the Baltimore Concert Opera late next month. The opera presentation, made possible by a Baltimore County grant, highlights a list of events at the library after the holidays. It will feature principal artists accompanied by a piano performing a variety of opera pieces and then describing the storylines to listeners.

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Other examples of the eclectic nature of the library’s January offerings include bridge and photography clubs, an emergency preparation class and smoking cessation classes.

The library staff also will aid seniors with technological help for new gadgets accrued during the holidays, O’Heren said.

On Jan. 8, plant-based food educator Robin Coart will dispense advice on the merits of “Veganuary,” an international movement to promote vegan living in January with the theme of overcoming unhealthy holiday eating habits. Coarts, who holds a master’s degree in humane education, said that she first offered the program at the Hereford Library about a year ago, as “an educational platform” that has built a fairly strong following.

“We’ve had a good turnout at Hereford,” said Coarts, who has also appeared at several other BCPL branches. “It was great to connect with people face to face. And it feels good to be asked back.”

She said that she has offered a wide variety of plant-based topics in a casual style, with the December gathering being focused on foods, recipes and success stories for holiday fare and January’s program centered on post-holiday, plant-based eating strategies.

“I want people to know that it’s not about the foods you can’t eat,” she said. “It’s about all the foods you can eat. I try to get people to understand that you can eat healthy food and still enjoy yourself.”

While the idea that offering a plant-based food program at a public library might have been outside-the-box thinking not that long ago, it checks a lot of boxes today.

"Public libraries are about so much more than just books these days, and the Hereford branch is a perfect example of Baltimore County Public Library’s mission to provide opportunities for our customers to explore, learn, create and connect,” said Cynthia Webber, a librarian and adult and community engagement coordinator for the Hereford branch.

“In our largely rural area that has seen increasing growth the past 10 years, our renovated branch has emerged as a dynamic community center. We provide not only free, high-quality programming for all ages, but also access to health and wellness classes, tax preparation, Lawyers in the Library, monthly visits by a Baltimore County police officer and more."

Ugly-sweater making was another of the seasonal offerings the Hereford staff provides its customers.

And while the event hardly drew a crowd — Hereford High School grad Sam Walker, her nephew, Ranger Genakos, 6, and her niece, Reeves Genakos, 4, were the only participants on Dec. 7 in to the library’s crafts room known as “the Hive” — DIY (Do It Yourself) director Mandi Coffeen still appeared to enjoy her interaction with the kids. Even so, White Hall resident Coffeen, sporting a green sweater with a large red reindeer emblazoned on the front, began by asking Ranger if he thought her sweater was ugly.

“It’s pretty ugly,” he said matter of factly about the thrift store bargain purchased for ugly Christmas sweater parties that Coffeen has been attending for the past decade.

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Nevertheless, Walker helped Ranger design a sweater that could only be described as gaudy, although he seemed to have a lot of fun during the process while his little sister quietly observed.

And when he left with his aunt and the oversized sweater, the Sparks Elementary School student was all smiles.

O’Heren said that the low turnout was not fully unexpected. "The holidays are a busy time for people, and sometimes our programs in December are hit or miss,” she said, adding that other recent monthly programs enjoyed much larger followings, such as the bridge club regularly drawing six to eight card players and as many as 15 people on occasion.

O’Heren also noted that a songwriting workshop by artist-in-residence Caleb Stine was another well-attended event.

“Our customers have gotten used to nontraditional events being held here,” she said.

Once the holidays are through, O’Heren and her staff will offer even more programs for the new year.

An in-branch team meets monthly to brainstorm about new programs, O’Heren said.

In addition to a slew of programs for kids, the library’s January calendar includes the following workshops and clubs. Check the library website (bcpl.info) for registration dates.

Thursday, Jan. 2

* Hereford Photographers Club

Share ideas, techniques, photo challenges and other information related to photographic equipment, materials and process — all in an informal atmosphere.

* Adult Writers Group

7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

Hereford Meeting Room Workshop geared toward learning how prospective indie authors, poets or novelists might produce and market their best work.

Saturday, Jan. 4

* B’More Prepared for Emergencies

10 a.m.-11 a.m.

A presentation by Kathleen Long from the Baltimore County Department of Public Health for various types of emergency preparation.

Monday, Jan. 6

* Movie Mondays

Noon-2 p.m.

Different films screen each month. Bag lunches welcome. Inclusive for all abilities.

* In Control: Quit Smoking

6 p.m.-7p.m.

Baltimore County Department of Health presents a free, five-week program to help quit smoking tobacco and e-cigarettes. Dan Young at 410-887-0565 or email tobacco@baltimorecountymd.gov to register.

Tuesday, Jan. 7

* Yoga for Beginners

10 a.m.-11 a.m

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Learn basic yoga postures and breathing exercises to increase fitness, focus and overall wellness. Bring a yoga mat or towel.

* Bridge Club

1 p.m.-3 p.m.

A fun afternoon of bridge and socializing. Participants should come knowing the basics of the game.

* Hereford Poker Club

6:30 p.m.-8 p.m.

Play popular zero stakes or “non-monetary” poker-related card games. Observers welcome.

Wednesday, Jan. 8

* Reset Your Healthy Eating with Plant-Based Foods

6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

Celebrate Veganuary, an international movement to get people to try going vegan for the month of January. Learn how to keep it simple and avoid diet fads.

Saturday, Jan. 11

* How to Be a Magic Wizard

2 p.m.-4 p.m. Learn how to master the tricks of the trade with Hobby Quest and perform them for your family.

Tuesday, Jan. 14

* Arts Access

10 a.m.-11 a.m.

Designed for adults with disabilities. Incorporates stories, descriptive gallery walks, multi-sensory and repetitive arts/craft activities and/or experimentation with materials.

* My Librarian on the Road

1 p.m.-3 p.m.

Seniors’ tech questions answered at the Hereford Senior Center, 510 Monkton Road. 410-887-1923.

Wednesday, Jan. 15

* Bad Art Night

6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

Get creative with a variety of leftover craft supplies to create one-of-a-kind disaster piece.

Saturday, Jan. 18

* Wet Felted Snowmen

10 a.m.-11 a.m.

Make wet felt a snowman from raw wool.

Tuesday, Jan. 21

* Chair Yoga for Beginners

10 a.m.-11a.m.

Learn basic chair yoga techniques and breathing exercises to increase fitness, focus and overall wellness. Yoga mat optional.

Tuesday, Jan. 21

* Needle-Felted Barn Owls

7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

Different fiber arts activity each month, such as spinning, weaving, felting and dyeing.

Tuesday, Jan. 28

* Genealogy Do-Over Meetup

10:30 a.m.-noon

Join other amateur genealogy enthusiasts from the popular online community created by Thomas MacEntee, author of the “Genealogy Do-Over Workbook,” for an informal social meetup to share.

* Brain Games

12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.

Exercise your brain with an assortment of all-in-good fun mind activities and games. No experience necessary. All are welcome.

* World War II Book Club

6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

A discussion of “Why Normandy Was Won: Operation Bagration and the War in the East 1941-1945,” by Kenneth C. Weiler.

Wednesday, Jan. 29

* Baltimore Concert Opera: Stories through Song

2 p.m.-3 p.m.

Baltimore Concert Opera presents a free concert made possible by a grant from Baltimore County.

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