The Magic of North Branch

Toddlers dance in a magical world filled with bubbles; an entrepreneur creates a website; and a retired couple enjoys comfy chairs, camaraderie, and a great view while reading their favorites for free.

These are just a few pictures inside North Branch, a centerpiece of the Northwest Canton’s Ridgewood neighborhood on 25th Street since 1962. The branch is one of Stark Library’s oldest.  Many bike or walk here, drive through the pick-up window with a dog in tow or take a break after baseball practice at the park to find their next great read.

Ashley Gladysz began coming here in 1995 as a young girl with her Mom. Now, on Wednesday mornings, she brings her four-year-old daughter, Callie, through the door from the parking lot straight into Miss Mary’s world, where pink snakes jump out of books (figuratively, of course), a book about rhythm inspires movement, and tunes get all the little kids dancing with shaker eggs in their fists, keeping time. 

Callie and her Mom call their library “super-friendly.”  In the newly remodeled children’s section, they check out “Pinkalicious” books, along with “Magic Treehouse” books for Callie’s three older brothers. The renovated space was unveiled last summer (part of Stark Library’s Re|imagine project).

Sun streams past paper flowers on a huge, windowed wall overlooking 25th Street, where almost three-year-old Joanna Von Hollingsworth asks her grandpa to “paint please.” Using an interactive table with a monitor as the surface, she asks him to select “my favorite, green” as she uses her finger to smudge digital paint on a black and white character.

Nearby, almost-two-year-old Sophia giggles as she carefully builds a house for a tiny blue elephant, using the Lego table. Her dad, Patrick Kelly, says, “The friendliness, the inclusion here… You just feel at home. Someone is always saying ‘Hello!’”

Creativity is not limited to kids. In the adult section, branch manager, Katie Ferrero points out beautiful, intricate drawings of mushrooms doodled on paper pads affixed to round tables. Katie says. “We have patrons we see daily… They feel a sense of ownership. North Branch isn’t just any library, it’s THEIR library.”

It's the perfect place for John Shaheen to get work done. He is not isolated here, as he builds a website for his mobile bartending service. “I love sitting in the desk, being in this environment, an office environment with better lighting and fast, powerful WiFi.”

There are also laptops patrons can use anywhere in the library, including in the meeting room and new study rooms.

Larry and Rebecca Libster’s home computer is broken, but that’s not the only reason they visit the North Branch. The couple no longer pays for home delivery of the paper, preferring to read articles and their favorite books for free in comfortable chairs near the huge picture window overlooking the park. Rebecca has an informal book group of sorts with library assistant, Judy Talbott, where they continually debate their favorite authors’ latest works.

Rebecca comments, “The staff is wonderful, with any information you need to get, copies you need to make. . .”

“It’s really convenient,” Larry adds.

Since the library’s reopening in July, combined with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, more families are finding their way back to their branch. In a time of rising inflation, enrichment is here for free, with a warm greeting, often by your first name, when you enter.

Patrick Kelly, who has lived in the area for 12 years, sums it up nicely, “It is just your friendly neighborhood library.”