Library program encourages participants to step out of their literary comfort zone

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News
Melisa Pressley, branch manager of the Black Mountain-Tyson Library, introduced Winter Challenge Bingo in January. The program encourages visitors to explore more of the what the library has to offer.

A new program at the Black Mountain-Tyson Library encourages visitors to expand their interests by exploring more of what their local branch has to offer.

Winter Challenge Bingo requires participants to utilize various offerings from the library in an effort to fill up their cards in order to be eligible for prizes.

The program, which was introduced by branch manager Melisa Pressley on Jan. 2, concludes its inaugural run on Thursday, March 30. On Saturday, April 1, cards with two rows completed will be drawn and winners will receive $25 gift cards to downtown bookstore Sassafras On Sutton, which were provided by the Friends of the Black Mountain Library.

Similar contests can be found at other libraries, but this is the first time in Pressley’s two years at the branch that one has been offered in Black Mountain.

“We’ve had a good response,” Pressley said. “It’s really common for libraries to have an annual reading challenge for the new year, so this is like a shorter version of that. We’ve given out almost 200 cards.”

Library staff have stamped “quite a few” of the cards, Pressley said, and the feedback from those participating in the challenge has been positive.

“A lot of the people who have completed some of the challenges have expressed that they’re reading different genres than they normally read and trying out different authors,” Pressley said. “I think we all get stuck in the rut of having our favorite authors and that’s just what we read.”

Bill Henderson has been an occasional visitor to the library in the past, but the quiet environment isn’t always what he prefers. However, that changed after the Winter Challenge Bingo flyer caught his eye.

He saw the program as an opportunity to combat the “winter blues.”

“Too many people, like me, are just reading one kind of book,” Henderson said.

He was eager to explore genres on the card like graphic novels, Westerns, urban fantasy, N.C. fiction and science fiction.

“I’m grabbing a story told of the land seized from settlers to make our national parks,” he said. I saw a true story of a 14-year-old Dutch townboy who defied the Nazi storm troopers when they walked in and took over his school, town and nation.”

As of the middle of March, Henderson had 13 blocks stamped on his card.

One of the most popular boxes stamped on the bingo cards, which were designed by library assistant Brittany McDonald, are books that were later made into movies.

It’s encouraging to hear from people, who like Henderson, are enthusiastic about utilizing more of what the library has to offer, Pressley said.

“It feels so good to see people really embrace this challenge,” she said. “We have so many things to offer here, this program is designed to introduce some of it to people.”

The interest in the winter reading program prompted the branch to plan a similar one for the summer.

“The library system typically participates in summer reading programs, and typically that’s geared toward children,” she said. “This year’s theme is ‘A Universe of Stories” and we are going to also offer programs for adults along this theme. We’ll still have our wonderful children’s programming, but we’re also going to try to engage adults.”

The library has a full slate of programs on tap for the remainder of the year, Pressley continued.

“We’re going to do a couple of date paint nights, with wine and cheese,” she said. “We’re going to have an Apollo party to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. We’ll have a moon bounce for kids, crafts for kids and a NASA engineer will come and speak. It will be a family event and that’s set for July 20.”