State College

Regional libraries to make some noise with ukulele initiative

The sound of a ukulele quickly conjures images of floral print shirts, coconut-flavored drinks and the crash of the Hawaiian surf.

Which is the complete opposite picture of a central Pennsylvanian winter. Nevertheless, the ukulele flourishes no matter the climate.

The small, four-stringed instrument will soon be available at four Centre County libraries thanks to the initiative of the Allegheny Ukulele Kollective, an Altoona-based ukulele club. The Kollective is seeking to make the instruments available to 32 regional libraries.

The Kollective was started in 2010 by Penn State Altoona professor Steven Sherrill, Kollective co-director Mike Holzer said Sunday. The club holds ukulele jams twice a month and the annual Allegheny Ukulele Soiree.

The program got its roots at the Hollidaysburg Area Public Library, he said, which had been given some of the instruments for use in their children’s room. Twenty ukuleles were donated to the club by Ohana Ukuleles, and a grant through the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts covered the remaining accessories.

“They’re free to libraries,” Holzer said. “All we’re asking is that one of the librarians come to be trained on the instrument so they know enough to show one of their patrons what to do to get started.”

Holzer, club member Louise Troxell and Melanie Ramsey, Hollidaysburg library director of youth and children services, gathered with librarians from Centre County for an impromptu ukulele lesson and jam Sunday at Schlow Centre Region Library in order to familiarize them with the instrument.

The event covered the basics — tuning, how to hold the instrument and strumming. The group then learned a few basic chords and by the end were playing full songs.

The library program will cover four area counties, he said — Blair, Bedford, Centre and Cambria. The Kollective has supplies to cover the first three counties, and hopefully after the spring soiree, will be able to provide instruments for the remaining county.

A ukulele kit will come with the instrument, a bag, a tuner and an instruction book, Holzer said, giving everything an aspiring player needs to get started. Two kits each will become available at Schlow in State College, the Centre County Library in Bellefonte, the Centre Hall Area Branch Library in Centre Hall and the Holt Memorial Library in Philipsburg.

“There are so many people who said, ‘I never would have picked this thing up if you hadn’t had it at the library to take home,’ ” Ramsey said.

According to Schlow children’s librarian Paula Bannon, the instruments will be stored in the children’s department, but will be available to the community as a whole. The ukuleles will likely be available for lending within the month.

“I’ll probably spend some time practicing on one,” she said. “I’d like to use it in the storytime for the kids.”

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews