Drawing inspiration from Martin Luther King Jr.

By By LINDA KELLETT/For the Recorder

How can we make a difference in the world?

For Amsterdam middle schoolers Jonathan Perez, Cameron Hughes, Thomas Ryan and Ira York, the answers were varied: They could make a difference by recycling, volunteering at the library, cleaning up the street, being helpful to other people, showing caring to others, making their school a better place, and donating toys, clothes and “lots of stuff” to worthy causes.

They came up with their responses on Saturday, four days after the actual birth date of Civil Rights activist, minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King Jr.

King, a believer in the use of nonviolent means to bring about change, was recognized during the inaugural teen and pre-teen program at the Amsterdam Free Library.

As noted by Library Youth Services Specialist Katie Capel, the kickoff program had an emphasis on personal and social responsibility.

She said, “These are ‘my kids’ who come every weekend. This is the first Saturday that we’re trying to do something formal like this. Since Martin Luther King Day is Monday, we read a story about him: “Martin’s Big Words,” by Doreen Rappaport.”

An educator with a master’s degree in elementary education, Capel said she mimicked an activity she did with her students while student teaching. “I familiarized them with an information sheet, then we stopped and talked about different parts of the story. Martin Luther King Jr. was one man who made a huge difference in the world. After the story, we brainstormed some ideas about how we can make a difference.”

As part of the Helping Hands project, the students traced their hands onto colored paper, wrote their comments on the cut-outs, and tacked them to the bulletin board in the library’s second-floor student education center. Cameron, whom Capel said is “very good on the computer,” created the heading for the display.

Other activities for program participants included coloring pages and a word search about the African-American leader.

When asked what drew them to the library on Saturdays, Cameron said, “The resources are useful. I like to read and use the computer.”

Thomas said he likes to use the computer and talk to Ms. Capel.

Ira said he likes to listen to music; and Jonathan said he likes to “use the computer, look around and read some books.”

All were enthusiastic about next week’s program, which library Trustee Thom Georgia said will feature a presentation by the Walter Elwood Museum.

Museum representatives “will be joining us next Saturday to do Inuit art,” he said.

As noted in a news release from the library, the Jan. 19 event will begin at 10:30 and will feature native Eskimo art during a celebration of national “Inspire Your Heart with Art Day” at the library.

“Robert Frothingham’s collection of Alaskan artifacts gives us a snapshot look into the life of a locally born collector, traveler, hunter, outdoorsman, writer and mentor of Walter Elwood, the museum’s founder,” the release notes. “Enjoy an up-close view of items from his travels to the North Country and beyond. After strolling through the life of an Eskimo, ice fisherman and Arctic hunter, we try our hand collectively at Alaskan Inuit art.”

John Boschi of Amsterdam, the president of the Friends of the Library group, also highlighted other upcoming events.

He said the spring book sale, which normally takes place over two days, is scheduled to be held for a full week in mid-April in connection with National Library Week.

Planners are thinking about offering daily discounts during the week-long event. For example, mysteries might be discounted one day, while sports or history books, children’s and families’ books or books about science and education might be discounted the next.

Because of the extended period of the sale, he suggested organizers might even feature discounts on particular styles or authors of general fiction books.

“You don’t often get a chance to play around with different ideas,” Boschi said.

Other upcoming activities sponsored by the library include the spring segment of the Amsterdam Reads program and the kickoff of the library’s 110th anniversary in September.

Boschi said the library’s official opening date was Nov. 3, 1903.