People with special needs take center stage in Hillsborough with a new program at the public library.

The program is called Special Needs Social Hour: Arts and Crafts.

“This is a system wide initiative. Each branch of the Somerset County Library system will be providing this type of programming on a monthly basis,” said Karen Pifher, manager of the Hillsborough Public Library. “This month’s program here in Hillsborough with be an art activity called agamograph.”

Agamograph art is a series of images, as a drawing or painting, that change at different angles.

The program is designed for adults with special needs –ages 21 and up– to meet new people and explore fun and interesting activities, according to library officials.

“This program falls into our branch’s strategic priorities and core services. These programs provide an opportunity for meaningful interactions with the participants,” she said. “It also helps make a personalized connection between the participants and our materials. We also help people who participate explore our resources and communities.”

Officials said this is the first year of the program at the Hillsborough branch, which is located on 379 S. Branch Road in Hillsborough.

The social hour takes place each month, with July 18 being the next installment of the program. Those who attend will participate in activities from 7 to 8 p.m.

“Here in Hillsborough activities will differ from month to month. Sometimes it will be a craft such as the one on July 18 other times it will be jigsaw puzzles, book bingo, and book discussions,” Pifher said. “The activities will definitely be varied. It won’t be the same thing every month.”

She said the program will be open to all adults with special needs in Somerset County and is not restricted for just Hillsborough adults.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for get to know the members of this particular community. We provide them a space to social interact and develop new skills,” Pifher said.

The idea for this program to be in public libraries county-wide began in 2018 from a special needs job fair initiative.

“We had multiple vendors seeking job applicants from the special needs community. We had more than 160 people attend that job fair. The response was really incredible,” said Chris Korenowsky, director of public services for the Somerset County Library system. “That led us to 2019, where we replicated the fair again in the early spring. This year we had 21 businesses up from the 13 that participated last year and we had almost 200 attendees.”

He said after the fairs officials realized they had tapped into a need in the community in terms of a public library service.

“Our Special Needs Social Hour creates meaningful interaction and connections something we pride ourselves on as an institution. We thought that this program was a fantastic way of achieving that interaction and connection,” Korenowsky said. “So, the program grew out of our special needs job fair initiative.”

Officials said they will look at the rest of 2019 to measure the success of the program.

“We are already seeing interest continue throughout our 10 branches for this program. Each having a different activity or craft each month,” he said. “It is critical to have programs such as this for people with special needs.”

Officials said they believe the basic guiding principle is that public libraries are open to all.

“Two of our strategic priorities here at the Somerset County Library of New Jersey, are one creating meaningful interactions and connections. The second being addressing the needs of shifting demographics,” Korenowsky said. “We have seen that this is a community we want to put staff and financial means behind.”

For people interested in attending they are asked to register by visiting www.sclsnj.org.

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