With the chaos of the world around us, it’s become increasingly important for societies to have a safe place where people can gather. The need for connectedness has become even more vital in this era of social media, where people may be connecting 24-7 through Tweets and posts but also report feeling more alone than ever.
Enter our public libraries. These established institutions have long been intertwined with their communities, with the community funding the library and the library providing programming and access to books and other resources. But libraries are evolving to more actively care for and cater to their community in a number of important ways.
- They are offering a safe haven. Current political and social climates can feel uncertain, and libraries are working hard to remind the public that they welcome the entire community and provide a safe space, even posting signs prominently declaring “Libraries are for everyone” and “You’re welcome here.”
- They are providing hands-on experiences known as makerspaces. Makerspaces are places where people with shared interests can gather to share ideas and work on projects together. Read this article to learn about how Oceanside Library in New York plans for its monthly Science Cafe.
- They are partnering with schools. Libraries are adding a new dimension to their outreach to younger readers by serving as a classroom for students when school is not in session. Johnson County schools were struggling to provide e-content to students for continued studies outside the classroom so local libraries tapped Baker & Taylor’s Community Sharing Program, powered by B&T’s Axis 360 platform, to provide students with direct access to eBooks. Students and patrons were able to use one digital app to access local school materials and to borrow eBooks, audiobooks and other content. Thanks to the school-library partnership, community readership grew and circulation for children’s and teen content rose sharply.
- They provide equitable access to technology, particularly helpful for students and jobseekers who don’t have Internet capability at home.
- They are encouraging lifelong learning by bringing in experts on a range of topics to speak with patrons.
- They are providing solace and relief in crisis. When natural disasters or other tragedies strike, libraries are often among the first to open their doors. After Hurricane Sandy, storm victims found Internet connection, comfort and tools such as free financial-planning seminars at New York libraries.
Providing access to books and other content will always be a treasured and vital role for the local library, but it is clear their position at the heart of the community offers so much more to patrons.