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3 libraries to benefit from $16,500 Cargill donation
Suzan Norman uses one of the computers at the Blackshear Place Library of the Hall County Library System. Cargill has donated $16,000 to provide more computers at the branch and special-needs toys at the East Hall Branch. The money also will be used to complete the Born Learning Trail at Spout Springs Library. - photo by Tom Reed

The Hall County Library System is getting a much-needed financial boost for projects at three of its branches.

A $16,500 donation from Cargill will pay for computers at the Blackshear Place Library, special-needs toys for the East Hall Branch and the completion of the Born Learning Trail at Spout Springs Library.

“These are three projects we’ve been trying to find funding for for some time,” said Library Director Adrian Mixson. “We’re excited about it.”

Kathryn Lindstrand, an accountant for Cargill, said the company’s corporate giving focuses on three areas — education, environment and health.

“When we heard that the library had some projects in our focus areas we jumped at the opportunity to provide financial support,” Lindstrand said.

The trail “is focused around educating the younger generation as well as using recycled material. What a great way to tie together these two focus areas. By helping the local library system we are able to give back to the community in which we live and work.”

Mixson said the library system has had a hard time finding additional funding to supplement its budget from Hall County and the state of Georgia.

Both budgets have been unable to increase since the recession began, yet demand for library services has increased significantly, Mixson said.

“It’s been a rough year and a half or two years. I’ve seen nothing but letters of rejection,” Mixson said. “The market’s turned and soured on a lot of foundations.”

A portion of the funding will help expand the toy collection at the East Hall Branch, which is an important resource for people with special needs.

“There’s not a lot in the community geared toward that group,” he said. “A number of special-needs classes come over there and use that library.”

Branch Manager Kathy Evans said the toys help with development of motor skills, communication and hand-eye coordination.

“We say toys but there’s no age limit,” Evans said. “It’s fun, educational and therapeutic.”

Evans said there is a blind woman who frequently checks out a volleyball that beeps so she can play with her grandson. Another popular toy is an adapted “Hungry Hungry Hippos” game board.

“We’re going to use this money to expand because they are coming out with new things every year,” Evans said. “Money is tight everywhere, so it’s a way of extending our resources and there is a need.”

Evans said East Hall’s program is pretty unique — she does not know of any other library system that circulates educational toys.

“We have a lot of parents who really appreciate it because all their money is going to medical care or education,” Evans said.

“There’s not a lot leftover for toys.”

Mixson said almost half the money will be used to add a hard surface that will be made out of recycled materials to the trail at Spout Springs.

The Born Learning Trail includes a series of signs with tips for interactive learning activities for children and caregivers.

The trail targets children 5 and younger and offers opportunities to learn alphabets, numbers and activities such as hopscotch.

There are two other Hall County trails located at Wilshire Trails Park and the Interactive Neighborhood for Kids.

“It’s been a grass trail,” Mixson said of the Spout Springs location, which isn’t as suitable for strollers or wheelchairs. “Once I get this matting down I’ll be able to include activities like I’ve done on the sidewalks in Gainesville.”

The Blackshear Place branch will get a cluster of computers designed for 3- to 5-year-olds.

“Probably the biggest change I’ve seen in libraries over the last few years is how young the folks are using your Internet connection or using the computers for educational gaming,” Mixson said.