Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, University City Regional in Charlotte, NC

"Improve lives and build a stronger community"

Everybody gather for reading time! (Credit: Everett Blackmon)

The University City Regional Library, one of 20 locations in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system, serves a population of 160,000 and an area that is the most culturally diverse in Charlotte. If the University City area of Charlotte were to be separated into a separate city, it would be the seventh-largest city in North Carolina. The University City Regional branch opened in 1993 and is 24,500 square feet. It is currently the second busiest library in Mecklenburg County in terms of circulation.

As with all locations in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system, creating an essential community destination where everyone feels welcome and included is paramount to the success and mission of the library. The library accomplishes this in many ways through programs for all ages, access to a wide variety of materials that promote diversity and inclusiveness and providing vibrant spaces for members of the community to connect with each other. We are also very pleased to work with University City Partners who has allowed the library the opportunity to serve a wide variety of age groups through community events in our area. The University City Regional Library provides traditional library services such as access to materials for checkout, computers for internet use, children’s story-times and programs, teen and adult programs and space to study or meet with friends. The library has evolved beyond a traditional library setting to encompass the needs of the community as a destination to support collaboration for new business ideas, community groups, pursuit of lifelong education via digital mediums and support of creative thinking. Our one-on-one technology training and book talks to our Senior Living Facilities are great examples of how we how we are supporting digital mediums and literacy.

Story time! (Credit: Everett Blackmon)

Stories About Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, University City Regional

The University City Regional Library values the diverse population and we are proud to say that we serve a large and growing international population. We have welcomed culturally diverse programs into our facility. Latibah Talks and Learn has been an example of that. Latibah talks is a series of programs and exhibits that bring awareness to African American history.

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the library. (Credit: Everett Blackmon)

Materials are provided for adults, teens and children in many different languages, including Hindi, Gujarati, Chinese, Spanish, Russian, German, and Vietnamese. The library provides free English tutoring and conversation, facilitated by library volunteers, offering over 600 tutoring sessions a year. Community members helping community members is one example of how the library brings the community together and supports a friendly and welcoming environment. One volunteer gives 24 hours of his time each week to help ESL learners and international newcomers to Charlotte. This volunteer knows what it is like to live in another country and not have a strong command of the language, having lived in Portugal for over 20 years. In addition, another volunteer gives her time to help ESL learners because she knows the need is great to help and has a passion for helping others learn the mechanics of the English language. We have also provided a citizenship display of information for those coming into this county. These are just a few ways that we have reached out to our diverse population.

University City Regional Library also offers a very robust reading buddy program, supporting the love of literacy in young children ages 3-to-11. Of approximately 40 volunteers, about 25% are reading buddies. Facilitated by community volunteers, this program is designed to support and encourage reading and reducing barriers to reading development. Eleven community volunteers give their time weekly to support this program, offering an average of 40 sessions per week. One volunteer developed a special affinity for working with international populations, especially native Spanish and Korean speakers. She developed such a rapport that a few of the families that she became familiar with each week invited her to their church, they were so touched by her devotion to increasing their child’s reading skills.

Programs at the library attract the entire community. (Credit: Everett Blackmon)

In addition, the University City Regional Library has partnered with Atrium Health-University Hospital to provide services and reach the community in a non-traditional setting. The partnership with the Hospital has allowed library staff to increase awareness of the library. We have done this through programs at the hospital, including providing literacy resources in the Emergency Department of the hospital to engage with patients as a way to provide friendly distraction away from the experience of being in the emergency department. The library will also provide story-times and literacy activities over the summer as a way to engage children during the Kids Eat Free program the hospital will provide for any child 0-to-18 who would like a hot meal over the summer.

The library is centered around trust in the community. It is a place for the free exchange of thoughts and ideas. Everyone has equal status when they enter the doors of the library, so it is a place where people treat each other with dignity and respect and help each other, forming a sense of place.

Kids love libraries. It’s true — they just do. (Credit: Everett Blackmon)