To Poland with love: Marshall Public Library connects locals with Polish pen pals

By Sarah Glenn

POCATELLO –– While a bustling industrial town in Poland sleeps, its library and locals will be the topic of conversation at the Marshall Public Library.

Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. the Marshall library story time will revolve around Pocatello’s new sister library in Stalowa Wola, Poland.

“We have been wanting to have a sister library for a while now and we are so glad it has finally happened,” said Amy Campbell, reference librarian for the Marshall Public Library.

The 6 p.m. story time is open to all ages, including adults. There, people will be encouraged to write letters to library patrons in Poland.

“Kids can write to kids, families can write to families,” Campbell said. “They will include their addresses and then people can just write back and forth.”

The letters will be sent to the Stalowa Wola Library where librarians there will distribute the letters and host similar events.

Language won’t be a barrier when writing. Elementary school students in Poland are required to learn two additional languages. The most popular is English, which is taught three times a week. It is also the language that students must write their secondary school exam in.

The Marshall Public Library is also designing a quilt, with squares that highlight something unique about our area. Those who attend the Tuesday story time will receive a quilt square that they can take home and design.

“It doesn’t have to by anything very elaborate,” said children’s librarian Kathryn Poulter. “Just something that represents Idaho.”

The finished squares will be returned to the library where staff will create a friendship quilt that will be gifted to the Stalowa Wola Public Library.

“Designs can be about Pocatello or anything you feel represents our region,” Campbell said.

The international connection was made when Poulter met Barbara Novak, a Polish librarian who came to Pocatello with an international chorale festival. The pair exchanged information and continued to communicate through e-mail and Facebook.

“When we found out we were both public librarians we cooked up this idea,” Poulter said.

From there, the sister library concept took root in Pocatello.

“The idea is to partner with a library that is similar to you,” Campbell said. “Similar in size, etc. Then we just want to create and foster those international connections.”

The Marshall Public Library staff will be writing their own letters to those in Poland with similar job titles in an effort to broaden local understanding, Campbell said. The Pocatello librarians will share how they do their jobs and the Polish librarians with similar job titles will then share their own methods.

“We want to know how things are different and how they are the same,” Campbell said.

The Polish library was a good sister library fit for Pocatello because of its similar demographics, Campbell said.

Much like Pocatello, Stalowa Wola is a small town of about 60,000 people. Situated in the southeastern part of the country, the city was designed to be a blue collar, industrial working class settlement. The name of the town can be translated into English as “steel will.” The name comes from words of General Tadeusz Kasprzycki, Minister of Military Affairs of Poland, who said that the Central Industrial Area symbolizes the steel will of the Polish nation to modernize itself.

Unlike Pocatello, Stalowa Wola is one of the youngest cities in Poland. It was built from scratch in the late 1930s, in the forests surrounding the village of Pławo. As recently as 2010, about 60 percent of Stalowa Wola was covered by pine forests.

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