Cochrane Park Brings Storybooks Alive

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In late spring, Yelm Timberland Regional Library Manager Erica McCaleb loaded her car with foam boards and enlarged storybook pages and set off to Cochrane Memorial Park.

Together, she and the Yelm Public Services team posted the pages along the park’s main trail to construct one of the Timberland Regional Library system’s “story trails,” an attraction of the summer library program.

“Story trails are a way to get folks, our library patrons, to get outdoors,” said Stefan Abuan, public services specialist with the Yelm Timberland Regional Library. “I think the Olympia library started them because we’ve all been locked inside for the past year and half. It’s a way for our library to get people … to enjoy being outside and still do something library-related.”

Librarian Elizabeth Kalen selected the book used for the trail, which has the pages of the book spread out across the park for folks on a stroll to peruse. The featured book, “The Hike,” was written by Alison Farrell.

“It’s a little kid’s book. It’s from our picture book section,” Abuan said. “It’s basically a kid going on a hike and naming things along the way.”

And Kalen went above and beyond the call of duty for the project, Abuan said.

“She put activities at the bottom of each page,” he said. “That wasn’t part of the original story, but Elizabeth added a few components to it (so it’s) interactive.”

In a previous interview with the Nisqually Valley News, McCaleb said the activities mirror what’s happening on the book’s pages.

“They are geared toward children so maybe one of the activities is: ‘Look around — do you see any birds? How many different kinds of birds can you see?’” McCaleb said.

Abuan said McCaleb worked with the greater Timberland Library system to get funding for the trail and did extensive footwork to make it a reality.

“They basically took the book and took a snapshot of every page,” Abuan said. “They enlarged it. And (the pages) are all laminated ... so they’re protected from the weather. Every page from the book is mounted on its own sign holder, and so they’re on little stakes that go in the ground. They’re securely mounted.”

He said that as people walk the trail, they’ll come to each page in turn, eventually traversing the entire park.

“(The story trail) gets them to see the book in a really large format,” Abuan said. “Because it’s outside at a park, it allows them to walk around the park (and) do the activities. They stand at a kid’s height, so they can look right at it.”

And he put himself in the shoes of those who the trail targets.

“You might imagine if you had a little child, and you brought them there, they would say, ‘There’s a book. I wonder what the next page is. Well, let’s go find it,’” Abuan said. “I guess it’s a sort of magical experience. Instead of sitting, reading a book, you get to walk around and come upon a page, read it aloud to each other and be outdoors.”

He said the trail helps him feel like Timberland’s Yelm branch is doing everything it can for its patrons.

“We have a lot of folks that use the library, and as a staff member, I see the other libraries, like Olympia, Lacey, who have bigger staff and they do a lot more stuff like this,” Abuan said. “So it’s really important for the Yelm community to have something like this, and also for our staff to have something like this that gets people engaged in the library without always having to be here. We’re reaching outwards.”

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