Libraries are places of lifelong learning, from newborns to seniors. Parents bring in their young pre-school children for storytimes and craft activities that inspire creativity and socialization. Middle school kids come in after school to learn how to code and build robots or learn how to play chess. Adults and seniors come in to learn how to use the computer, how to use their laptops or tablets or smartphones. There is one gentleman that comes in who is well into his 90s. He comes in and asks to log on to a computer so he can print. Each time I show him something new, he asks me to go slowly so he can write down all the steps to help him learn how to do it on his own. This man is a rock star. He is in his 90s and wants to learn about technology.
It’s unfortunate that there still exists this dated stereotypical image of libraries as places where you can only (very quietly) check out books when there are so many incredible things happening in libraries. In my library alone, we have an incredibly popular coding program for kids, an equally successful chess club for kids, and a surprisingly, overwhelmingly popular adult art class. We have music and movement classes for preschoolers. Coming up in May we’ll be starting a new robotics workshop for kids as well as a four-week series of art classes for differently abled kids. We offer classes on basic computer skills, Microsoft office, Google Drive, and social media, as well as one-on-one tech tutor sessions. One of our librarians is totally amazing when it comes to genealogy and she’ll be offering a two part genealogy workshop, which will be followed up by a writing your own life story workshop. We have a small, but growing, tech lending program, as well as a museum pass program which provides access to 15 museums in New Jersey and New York City. We have people come in to the library for the first time in years and every single one of them will make some comment about not realizing we had so much going on there.
Jordan Lloyd Bookey writes, “kiss your image of a library as a book warehouse goodbye, and say hello to community spaces and gathering places for the 21st century.” In addition to cultivating an inspiring learning environment, libraries are creating space for people to come together and learn with, and from, each other. There’s a quote from the Bible that I use a lot in my life: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). This means that people need people to learn, to grow, to live. Libraries provide the resources and the opportunities for people to gather and to interact with each other. Brian Mathews writes that, as librarians, “you might have people who can develop novel experiences.” Isn’t this at the heart of what librarians do? From collection development to programming to purchasing new technology to space planning, all of these things have the ability to create a novel experience for users. The things themselves have value individually and independently of each other. Libraries and librarians curate new experiences by pulling these things together and offering them all for free to users. We create programs where users can learn practical skills or develop deeper community ties. We create programs where users can play with new technologies and engage their curiosity. We create programs where users can tap into their artistic abilities and spark their creativity. Sure, users can learn from libraries’ physical book collections, but more and more users are learning through the interactive programs that libraries offer. This is why it’s important to constantly be developing new programs and new approaches to presenting information so that it appeals to all types of library users and nonusers. Let’s draw those nonusers in!
And on a final side note, how awesome would a goat yoga program be at the library?