Kids of Martindale reaping benefits of Martindale Library￼
By Kyle Mooty
It may still be in its original modest facility – 880 square feet – but the Martindale Library is making giant strides in the programs it offers after a whirlwind 2021 when it received a trio of grants from August to October.
Packed wall-to-wall with books, the library is also under the leadership of Director Ashley Guerrero. There are computers for the public to use, seeds to plant and various programs for various ages.
Sam Forrest’s idea to begin a library in Martindale has evolved into an operation that far exceeds its four walls.
During the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, volunteer Carol Deviney discovered the “large digital divide” that many Martindale residents experienced. Having communication was especially vital during that period as people needed to be aware of testing and vaccination updates.
There was also the February freeze of 2021, which left many without power.
“We kept our Internet on all night long and posted our password on the door,” Deviney recalled. “You could drive by and see people sitting on park benches or sitting in their cars because that was their only way of connectivity.
“Also, we came in and made phone calls to everyone we could about free water giveaways in town because so many didn’t have computers.”
Deviney said that was the least she could do for her adopted hometown. She was in Plano for 39 years, but moved to Martindale with her husband, Rob, who was from the area.
“For him, it’s coming home,” she said. “For me, it’s giving back.”
The library has certainly given back. For the 501(c)3 to operate on just a $150 rent payment at the historic building at 411 Main Street (thanks to owner Carlton Carl), the library has counted on many volunteers, including the Pre-K Storytime, which began on Dec. 16, 2021. There are also AARP Tax Aid Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the only one in Caldwell County.
Deviney has a Library Science Master’s. Guerrero also has a Master’s.
“I love small communities; always have,” Guerrero said. “Carol and I complement each other.”
Deviney replied, “We have the same mindset for what’s good for Martindale.”
Among the good things are the 92 kids under five years old in Martindale. Programs are in place to get the kids off to a good start with their reading.
Not included in the trio of grants from the fall was the Dolly Parton Library Grant. When the grant was first looked into in 2020, no town beyond Austin had received the designation, but Clara Wilson Moss pulled her family together and decided rather than exchanging Christmas gifts, a donation would make a difference in the lives of many kids. Ten families pooled their money — Guerrero also chipped in – and now kids can receive a book monthly at their house to get started up to the age of five. Parents sign their kids up for the program online.
The humanitarian grant opened programming for the Martindale Library.
“For our Oceans of Reading program, we had mermaids come in and read to the kids,” Deviney said. “We will have an April Kite Flying Day that is open for everyone. We will have a Hispanic Heritage Month, and much more. We also received a book drop that cost $5,000. “
The TSLAC grant is a pilot program of which the Martindale Library has taken part. It’s digital navigation where people can take laptops and tablets with Internet and hotspots.
Deviney noted that 50 seniors in Martindale are fiscally responsible for their grandchildren.
“They can’t afford computers but the kids need them to keep up at school,” Deviney said. “We will hand out at least 15 chrome books, 18 tablets, and 25 hotspots. The internet will be paid for on those devices until Dec. 31. We don’t want them to be used as doorstops. We want people to learn on them. We will have pre-tests and post-tests as part of the program that is paying for them. They are also bilingual.”
Finally, Martindale will be among the first in Texas to use the St. David’s Foundation grant.
“The focus is on mental health,ng ” Deviney said. “Libraries are considered a safe spot by most people. They can contact us and be put in touch with a mental health person through St. David’s. They can have confidential talks to folks.”
The Martindale Library was established in 2015 a department of the city. It received shelving, tables, and chairs from the library in Lockhart as it was undertaking a refurnishing project.
“We got our first grant and got a new computer,” Deviney recalled. “Carlton Carl has been our number one supporter since day one. We have all volunteers. They had to pay me one dollar a year to be accredited.”
Guerrero brings 10 years of experience to Martindale, taking over as Library Director on Oct. 1, 2021. She was a library associate in 2012 at Smithville. In 2014, she became a librarian at the Bastrop Public library.
The Martindale Library currently has no restroom, but Deviney said they are “working on that, too.”