Fun times can be free

By Denise Dick

Check out the library, concerts and more for frugal leisure

Libraries, for example: They aren’t just for books anymore.

The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County also offers a selection of DVDs and compact discs for patrons. Programs such as summer reading, author visits and children’s storytimes round out the list of ways the library works to keep people entertained.

What does a mother of five, April Bryant, like about what the library has to offer?

“That it’s free,” the Boardman woman said.

With the economy facing tough times, more people are looking for inexpensive — or free — and fun ways to spend their time.

Bryant stopped at the township branch on a recent morning to pick up the summer program schedule. Her two youngest, Landon, 5, and Cheyanne, 3, busied themselves exploring the shelves of books while Bryant gathered the materials.

“We always do the summer reading program,” Bryant said.

The family also rents movies, participates in programs and, of course, checks out books.

“We’re here probably three or four days a week,” she said.

Janet Loew, spokeswoman for the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, said that the trend is for library use to go up when the economy goes down.

SDLqBecause everything is free,” she said. That increase doesn’t happen all at once, though, she said. It builds over time.

Last month’s circulation saw a 6 percent increase over May 2007, she said.

The Warren-Trumbull County Public Library has a slate of free summer programs planned as well.

That library system’s summer reading program runs through Aug. 1. Prizes will be awarded based on books read.

Free movies will be shown at the main branch in Warren and the Liberty branch throughout the summer.

At 1 p.m. June 28, the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness,” based on the book by the same name, begins the book to movie discussion group at the Liberty branch.

A fact sheet from the Ohio Public Library Council’s Web site says that libraries saved Ohio residents more than $4 billion in one year, allowing them to borrow instead of buy materials. In addition to materials that may be checked out, area libraries offer several free programs, too.

Jamie Mash, communications and public relations assistant for the Mahoning system, said the summer reading program kicks off this week with visits to different branches from author and illustrator Eileen Christelow. Both children and adults can earn prizes through participation.

“We have a lot of programs and entertainment and it’s all free,” Mash said.

Libraries also offer a wide selection of movies and music for people who don’t want to buy.

Becky Rich thumbed through the DVD collection, selecting “Almost Famous” and “Hairspray” at the Boardman branch.

“I’ve never seen this,” Rich said of “Hairspray.” “This [‘Almost Famous’] is my favorite movie.”

She and her daughter Grace, 10, both of Boardman, visit the library about four times per week. Usually, they go to the township branch, although she occasionally visits the West Side branch, near her sister’s home.

“We love the library,” Rich said.

It’s a nice way for mother and daughter to spend time together.

They also enjoy attractions at Mill Creek MetroParks, Rich said, like the nature trails and activities at Ford Nature Center.

“A lot of it is free or there’s a slight charge,” she said.

If people decide that Internet access is an area where they have to cut back, Mash said the library offers free access for those with library cards.

If music is your forte, many Mahoning Valley communities provide outdoor concerts during summer months.

Austintown’s outdoor music started a few weeks ago and runs from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays through the third week of August at the township park on Kirk Road.

“At the first concert, which is normally pretty light, we had a great attendance number,” said Joyce Gottron, township park superintendent. “We’ve also seen an increased number of people in the park even before school has been out.”

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