Makawao Public Library celebrates 50 years

Library encourages the joy of learning, even if it means a little noise

Makawao Public Library, among the busiest in the county, celebrated its 50th anniversary over the weekend with activities and entertainment. The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

Makawao Public Library is not the shushing kind.

Longtime librarian Sheri Akuna said quiet isn’t required there, especially when it comes to the joy of learning.

“The whole thing about librarians shushing people . . . I mean, I understand if it’s an older group of kids getting loud for no reason, but to squash a 2-year-old’s energy just seems mean,” she said last week. “You want to see them curious and wanting to learn. And you want to talk with them.”

From grandparents learning how to use a laptop to children learning to read for the first time, the public library provides key resources for the community. The Makawao town anchor building celebrated its 50th anniversary Saturday, and staff members reflected on its changes over the years.

Little slips that borrowers had to fill out were once used in place of actual library cards. The facility went through four different systems to find the library catalog it uses now. The library evolved from one computer in the mid-’90s to about 10 laptops and desktops that exist today.

Akuna also recalls the days when the library card could only access the facility. Today, the card allows people to get online resources, such as e-books and audiobooks.

The Wi-Fi is another free feature, where residents, especially those who live in rural areas or who can’t afford it, may visit the library to do tax returns, apply for benefits or do homework.

Akuna, who has lived most of her life in Makawao, started as a library student helper in 1987. Two years later, she took a permanent position there as a library assistant. She became library technician in the mid-’90s and has served in that capacity ever since, eventually becoming the most veteran staff member.

“Makawao library is my home,” Akuna said, recalling using it as a child for Girl Scout meetings or for watching movies during the Summer Fun program at the nearby Eddie Tam Memorial Center. “This is where I grew up. To be a part of something that is helping the next generation . . . it’s mind blowing.”

The library has six staff members and is often the second busiest library on the island despite its small size, according to Laurie Barker-Perez, branch manager. Kahului is first, and Kihei and Makawao vie for second most visited per month.

With several programs that range from poetry readings to chess games and book clubs, the most popular is the toddler story time at 10 a.m. Thursdays, where children are led through reading, singing and crafts.

Stacey A. Aldrich, state librarian, said Hawaii’s libraries are more than just books.

“Technology is another tool for connecting the world of information,” she said. “Our libraries not only help people connect to the digital world through computers and Wi-Fi access, we ensure equitable access to e-books and online learning and resources that are not free to the public.”

Makawao features 10 computers, Wi-Fi, free computer classes, photocopying, test proctoring services, magazines and newspapers, among other services, according to the state library website.

“Love the Makawao Public Library,” Jayma Martin Kessing said in an online review. “I’ve been going there for over forty years. Staff is always so nice, I always find something fun, and it’s a backbone to the community.”

While methods of learning have changed with technology, the community element has stayed the same.

“The health of our communities is enhanced when we have strong libraries that provide opportunities for learning 21st century skills and literacies, connecting people to the world of information and ideas, and creating spaces for community engagement,” Aldrich said. “Makawao is an amazing library and we look forward to continuing to serve the community for another 50 years plus.”

Makawao Public Library, at 1159 Makawao Ave., is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and from noon to 8 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. It is closed Fridays and Sundays. For library programs and schedules, visit www.librarieshawaii.org/branch/makawao-public-library or call 573-8785.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.