Oswego Writes New Chapter For StoryWalk Project

OSWEGO, NY – Young people taking a walk in one of Oswego’s scenic parks next year will be able to pause and read a good book

At this week’s meeting of the Physical Services Committee, councilors approved a request from Karen Swartz, children’s program coordinator at the Oswego Public Library, regarding the possibility of placing a “StoryWalk” kit in one of Oswego’s parks.

The councilors put off making a decision on the project two weeks ago when Swartz first approached them.

The roadblock then was the liability issue.

“Basically, the bottom line is that the library doesn’t have the insurance for a hold harmless agreement with the city,” Councilor Connie Cosemento, committee chair, pointed out.

That’s true, Swartz confirmed.

Monday night the council agreed the city would sponsor the project, and it would be covered under the city’s insurance.

“I, myself, don’t think there’d be a problem with a few signs,” said Councilor Shawn Walker.

He said he’d agree to the city taking responsibility for the project, with assistance from the library.

StoryWalk kits consist of a children’s book which has been separated and laminated page-by-page. It is then mounted on wooden stakes, placed at regular intervals along the walk, Swartz told the committee.

She said she’d like to initiate the project in the spring of 2010, in conjunction with the Reading is Recreation project.

North Country Library Services has received a Special Legislative Grant of $15,000 from the NYS Assembly.

“These funds will be used for Reading is Recreation, which will allow libraries to promote healthy activity while encouraging reading and raising awareness of the library at the same time,” she said.

The grant activities will center of StoryWalk, she added.

“The books are placed so kids can walk along and read them. It encourages reading as well as walking and exercise,” Swartz said. “The money is already there to provide for them; we just need permission to be able to put them into a park.”

The books could be placed in one part or various parks, she pointed out.

“You can put them in a single park, rotate them from one park to another,” she said.

The program is already in place in other areas in the Northeast. She showed the committee photos of children walking through snowbanks to get to the books.

“I think in our community, it would be easier to have them put up in the good weather,” she said.

The signs will be at a height that allows elementary aged children to easily read the books, she added.

The StoryWalk kits can include extra pages “if something does happen to the books,” Swartz pointed out. “We know that (vandalism) is part of the problem with this. It’s something we have to be aware of and hope it doesn’t happen.”

The schools could utilize the StoryWalk by taking classes on a reading field trip.

The city will install the first StoryWalk in Breitbeck Park.

Later it can be moved to East Park, and then other locations if so desired.

The full council will vote on the matter next week.