Stories from Pioneer Libraries

The Norman Central Library received PLS Foundation support for its Junior Botball team.  The purpose of this STEAM-focused project was to create a competitive robotics team and recruit “left behind” kids:  1) kids whose schools did not offer robotics teams, 2) kids who were not accepted on their schools’ robotics teams, or 3) kids who were homeschooled.  In its rookie competition at the Oklahoma City Challenge Day in the spring, Norman Central’s Junior Botball team successfully completed five difficult robotics challenges.  The formerly “left behind” students on the spring team went on to lead and mentor the robotics teams in the summer!  The student retention in this program was 100%.

The PLS Foundation provided funds and supplies in 2019 for the Newcastle Library’s Book-N-Cook program, which features picture books and recipes highlighting traditions of cultures from around the world.  In addition to encouraging reading, the program requires children to use math skills to convert the measurements of the ingredients needed to provide the appropriate amount of food for the number of participants.  A grandparent complimented the program, stating that the children were learning cooking skills as well as science (chemistry) and math.  During the program, participants prepared dishes from various cuisines and cultures, including Mexican, African-American, Filipino, Chinese, and Korean cultures.

Donors to the PLS Foundation funded eleven environmentally-focused programs for the Norman East Public Library in 2019, including the Seeds of Kindness program. While learning about the lifecycle of seeds, children in the Seeds of Kindness program decorated terra cotta pots, planted flowers, and wrote heartfelt letters of kindness, then donated these items to seniors at local senior centers.  Parents of the participants thanked library staff for providing their children with the opportunity to give back to the community and encouraged the library to offer the program again.  As a result, the library offered Seeds of Kindness to children attending the Irving Middle School Summer Camp and donated the decorated planters to the Norman Veterans Center.

The PLS Foundation also supports programs for adults.  The Purcell Library purchased Ozobots for Senior Outreach program, which provides brain-boosting activities for older adults.  The Noble Public Library provided a Tinker Tuesdays program, which teaches adults to use power tools to build a project.  One participant, who admitted that she had never used a hammer prior to participating in this project, completed a spice rack and planned to build a second spice rack for her mother.


Yolanda is grateful for the ESL tutoring that opened doors for her family.
Yolanda is grateful for the ESL tutoring that opened doors for her family.

Yolanda Can Tell You a Story

When her husband was deployed in Iraq, Yolanda found out she was pregnant with her first child. Months later, her son was born with four heart defects – requiring multiple surgeries to repair his tiny heart. After his recovery, the challenges continued as he was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Yolanda, a native Spanish-speaker, wanted to make sure communication was never a barrier to getting her little boy the extra help he needed to succeed. Determined to learn to read and write fluent English, she turned to her local library for help.

Yolanda is one of hundreds who have benefited from the Pioneer Library System’s Adult Literacy Services (ESL) program, funded by a grant from the Oklahoma Department of Library and other caring donors to Pioneer Library System Foundation. Pioneer libraries offer one-on-one tutoring services for both English as a Second Language students as well as native speakers of English needing practice.

“It changed my life,” she says, sitting inside the Noble Public Library. “I was desperate when I came here to the library.”

Little by little, word by word, Yolanda learned to read and speak English – opening a new world. Yolanda’s son is now getting the most out of his education because she can articulate his special needs to the school district. He is healthy, happy, and enjoys playing games with his younger brother. Yolanda also achieved her dream of becoming a U.S. citizen. She even became a tutor to help other ESL students.

There are many more success stories like Yolanda and her family. If you would like to make a difference in someone’s life by volunteering as a tutor, please send an email to