Phoenix Rogers, 7, follows along with the audiobook “Aladdin” at Mexico Public Library’s new listening center. Looking on are T.J. Williams and library Director Heather Rogers.

MEXICO — The Mexico Public Library recently introduced a new listening center.

The TJ Williams Children’s Listening Center opened about a month ago and features more than 40 new audiobooks, including read-alongs, and space for up to six people at once.

When Heather Rogers began as director nearly two years, one of her goals was to update the read-along cassette tapes offered to young patrons. But when she posted a request at the circulation desk for sponsors for the new audiobooks, “no one was getting onboard with it,” she said.

Enter TJ Williams, 27, who became a member of the Mexico Board of Selectmen in June. During his campaign, he promised to take an active role in his community, and to find ways to get more young people involved.

It wasn’t long before he saw the notice about the new audiobooks and he promptly sponsored a couple of books.

“At that time, it had been two weeks since I first heard about it,” Williams said. “No other books were sponsored, so I asked Heather for the sponsorship list so I could go out and collect sponsorships.”

Williams ended up collecting enough for about half of the books. The remaining sponsorships were collected after Williams attended the Dixfield Main Street Market in August.

“With $20 in my pocket, I said if I find something awesome, OK,” Williams said. “I didn’t find anything I wanted, so I entered the golf ball drop event and I happened to win over $200. So I finished sponsoring the rest of the books.”

“Having TJ go and ask people directly to be a little more involved did a lot,” Rogers said.

It became an obvious choice to name the listening center after Williams.

“I wasn’t expecting this to be named after me,” Williams said. “Heather surprised me with that one. I try to get in here a couple of times a week, to make sure things are going OK. I’m so happy to be involved with the library.”

Each of the audiobooks has a label on it noting who donated it or who it’s dedicated to.

Rogers’ daughter, Phoenix, 7, said she has listened to nearly all the audiobooks. “There’s so many good ones,” she said.

Rogers said, “It’s about the younger kids, listening and hearing the different voices, telling the stories, and being able to connect it themselves.”

She said for the reluctant readers, they have the audiobooks and the full Magic Tree House audiobook collection.

“These really help the kids, without anyone having to help do it with them,” Rogers said. “It really encourages some independent reading and interest.”

Williams added, “It’s so important to raise that literacy level in young children. This is a great opportunity for parents to get involved, sort of with a hands-off approach. They can load the CD, sit back and watch the children and help if they need it. But children really have the opportunity to come in and do their own thing.”

Rogers said people are asked to request headphones at the circulation desk for listening in the library, or check out an audioback for listening at home.

Audiobooks and read-alongs have a two-week checkout period.

She said the library has added board games as another activity for young people to enjoy.

There is a six-member advisory board that fundraises for the library. Through them, the library is again doing the holiday basket raffle this fall. To become an advisory board member, contact the library at 364-3281 or visit the library’s Facebook page for more information.

[email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: