The Library's Changing Role in the Community
posted June 20, 2012 3:05 PM by Julie Steenson
I have many career ambitions for my library degree, and to be honest, working in a small, public library is not one of them, but since the opportunity presented itself, here I am. I suddenly find myself at the circulation desk and preparing movie nights for the adult summer reading program.
My first library job back in 1993 was in a children’s public library, and I absolutely loved it. If I had had the same opportunities then, I would have become a Children’s Librarian. I did, in fact, check out Simmons in the early 1990s, but as a single mom who lived far from Boston, it didn’t seem realistic at the time. Credible distance learning opportunities like West campus, and online/blended classes did not exist.
One of my duties so many years ago was an evening storytime, complete with kids in PJs with teddy bears, usually accompanied by working dads who were having quality time while moms enjoyed an hour or two to themselves after dinner. We had our regular afterschool moms and kids, too, as the library was the go-to place for school research projects in the pre-Google age. The library was a place for books and information, a place to learn to read, and do arts and crafts.
It still is, but it has also evolved into a community center. With the onset of technology, our library offers Wi-Fi, iPads, and even loaner Nooks and Kindles! Try one out before you buy…and when you do buy, come to free lessons on how to use it. Download free books to your new device, courtesy of your library. Attend book parties, foreign films, and chick flick nights. The traditional storytimes still exist…but reading here has also gone to the dogs who come in to our attached community room for children to read to them! That same room hosts the local Scout troops, political organizations, and town groups and committees. Join the knitting group or quilting bee, or how about a yoga class? Search for a job on the public access computers, or listen to a talk by a visiting author…or just chat and read newspapers by the fireplace.
And we still have books, too. Somehow, when we weren’t looking, the role of public libraries changed from a place that housed books to a place that is home to a community.