A library card can be a passport to new worlds, experiences, and cultures. Now through a partnership with the Friends of the WNC Nature Center, local libraries are also introducing the plants and animals of the South Appalachian Mountains to their patrons. Through the Friends’ Library Pass Program, cardholders at participating libraries in nine counties across the region can check out a pass to visit the WNC Nature Center and gain free access to the wildlife park for a day.
The WNC Nature Center originally partnered with the Buncombe County Library System in 2017 when the County established the ZOOM Library Pass program. Originally funded by the Buncombe County Friends of the Library, the program allows Buncombe County Library card holders to visit participating ZOOM partners at no cost by reserving a day pass online with their library card.
According to Jesse Figuera, Branch Manager at the Weaverville Public Library, “‘Zoom’ reflects a combination of the words ZOO and Museum and was inspired by similar programs nationwide. Its purpose is to create and sustain new library card users while providing free access to area attractions that are participating ZOOM partners.”
Five years later, this program continues to open doors and introduce new experiences to Buncombe County residents. “The WNC Nature Center was a founding partner and participant in this exciting program,” says Figuera. “Since 2017, over 6,380 Buncombe County library card holders have used the ZOOM program to visit the WNC Nature Center. Buncombe County Public Libraries is honored and grateful for this partnership!”
In 2022, Friends of the WNC Nature Center Membership Manager Kristen Schweikert expanded the Friends’ Library Pass Program to nine area county library systems, including Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Graham, Cherokee, Madison, Clay, and Polk in North Carolina, and Pickens in South Carolina.
“We are excited to partner with Public Libraries in Western North Carolina to offer the opportunity for their patrons to visit the Nature Center. This is an important outreach opportunity for us to share our mission to inspire a passion to know more, care more, and do more for the wildlife of the Southern Appalachian mountains,” said Schweikert. “We are proud to offer this resource and encourage the community to connect with their local library to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Through the Friends’ Library Pass Program, each library pass admits up to two adults and up to four children (ages three to 17). Children ages two and under receive free admission to the wildlife park. For more information about checking out a pass to visit the WNC Nature Center, call or visit your participating county’s local library branch.