When was the last time you visited your local library? You may be surprised to learn that libraries are making a comeback. By embracing new technology and hosting incredibly creative community events, libraries can serve as amazing pillars for their local neighborhoods.
Since September is Library Card Sign Up Month, I sat down with librarian Joyce Baker (of Arizona’s Coolidge Public Library) to learn more about this new wave of library services.
For some of us, we haven’t been to our library in quite a while. What have we been missing?
Many thought Google and e-readers were going to render libraries obsolete. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Library services have grown alongside the Internet as this technology has redefined our society. While it’s true you can still borrow books, you can also attend special events spanning across a huge spectrum of topics. You might find speakers present how to home-brew kombucha, raise chickens or wrap elaborate gifts. They may cover the history of your favorite band, the origins of Route 66, life in internment camps, bird-watching, gardening, robotics, nutrition or virtually any topic you can imagine.
Also, the library isn’t just for kids. Many adults-only community groups gather there. There are baby-wearing groups; with their own lending library of baby carriers available for exchange at the library. People gather to teach needlecrafts and quilting. There are monthly gaming competitions of chess or Dungeon and Dragons. People meet for trivia nights, speed dating or even escape rooms.
Many thought Google and e-readers were going to render libraries obsolete. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Story Times” have changed too. While leaders still read stories, there’s much more purpose to the gatherings. Children learn pre-literacy skills and their parents are equipped to continue teaching those skills at home. There’s emphasis on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). Children as young as five learn computer coding and even younger children receive hands-on STEAM education through “Learn ‘N’ Play” programs. Children also learn about community helpers like firefighters, police officers, health care professionals or trash-truck drivers–everyone can be a guest at Story Time. This increases children’s comfortability with these helpers when they meet them in the community.
How are libraries embracing technology when it comes to checking out material?
Technology is everywhere within the library. People who don’t have access to wi-fi can use the library’s free wi-fi for their smart devices. Some libraries even lend wi-fi hotspots, granting people internet access when they’re away from the library.
Libraries obviously provide computers for use within the building, but sometimes they lend laptops or tablets that can be taken home for personal use.
People can get a virtual library card without stepping foot into a library and then borrow items digitally. Check with your own local library to see which services they offer. The most common services include:
- E-books provided by Overdrive (Libby), Axis 360 and Your Cloud Library. Each option can be downloaded as a smart device app.
- Magazines are available for free at many libraries on your smart device through RB Digital. Sign up first through your library website for free magazine access going forward.
- Audiobooks are available from multiple sources as well, including Overdrive (Libby).
- You can even stream movies and music or download comics from Hoopla.
How are libraries engaging in their community in ways beyond just books?
Libraries care about so much more than books. Some have hired social workers and healthcare professionals. They recognize that many regular library users might not seek social/health services elsewhere. Libraries are also reaching outside of their buildings to provide literacy services to local preschools, schools, head starts and healthcare agencies.
Libraries stay busy building community partnerships. They work with school districts, politicians, businesses and local service groups engaging to serve the entire community at large.
Other than books, what else can be borrowed from a library?
Collections have expanded far beyond books. Most lend movies on DVDs and Blu-ray; movies now reflect about 40% of all items circulated. Audiobooks have also become much more popular, allowing people to listen to books while driving or working out.
Libraries have added some fascinating items for people to borrow. Some of the most interesting items include:
- Musical instruments
- Cake pans
- Sewing machines
- Smart tablets
- STEAM kits for teachers and homeschooling families
- 3D printers
September is Library Card Sign Up Month. Is it hard to acquire a library card if you don’t yet have one?
It’s usually very easy to get a library card. Simply provide photo ID and maybe a piece of mail showing your current address. Check with your local library to find out what they require. Most want to make it as easy as possible for you to get a card.
We can’t think of a better time to revisit your library. Check yours out and perhaps you’ll be surprised by the creative ways your local library is serving your community!