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Public libraries: Changing with the times

By Abigail Hardison

Rowan Public Library

Many of us who work at Rowan Public Library hear the same question regularly: “Libraries are going extinct; why would you want to work there?” And many of us reply with something like, “When was the last time you were in a public library?”

Anyone who has been in Rowan’s headquarters on West Fisher Street in Salisbury would hold their tongue before uttering such a statement. Why? Because our library gets used by a lot of people.

The morning after the heavy storm a few weeks ago, every single computer station was occupied on three different occasions. Some of the people were there because they did not have power. Some of them had just moseyed over from the Farmers’ Market, and others were just the normal traffic of residents and patrons who use the resources we provide six days a week, rain or shine.

Most people know that we are a convenient and inexpensive place to access fax, copy and digital scanning services, and RPL has been checking out laptops for use on the premises for years now. But what about the other programs and services we provide?

In their July 4 edition, the New York Times extensively reported on the public library system in New York’s five boroughs and the burgeoning popularity of their new programs, stating that “All libraries are having a renaissance.” The enormous and well-funded libraries of New York City are showing the world what the potential of public libraries is, but what it means for the rest of the country and specifically the residents of Rowan County is yet to be determined.

But mostly it depends on what the patrons want. We want successful programs, so we need to know what will get people in the door. What kinds of classes, seminars and resources would you want to see in your library? What would people find useful?

New York Public Library offers a huge variety of free or low-cost courses such as sewing, computer coding, crafting, cooking and gardening, while also providing access to valuable equipment such as a recording studio, Skype stations, and even portable Wi-Fi hotspots.

Some libraries around the country are even checking out construction tools and appliances to patrons so that home repairs and crafts are accessible without requiring a large financial investment for something that is only used occasionally.

The future of your public library is up to the residents and patrons, and we want to make your library exactly what you want. We can grow and evolve into a community resource center, where people can come to either get what they need or find out where to get it, and how to use it to grow and prosper in their lives.

Soon we plan to open our own “makerspace,” with a 3D printer and some other pieces of equipment for patrons to use. We are very excited to be able to offer our patrons access the tools to inspire, create and learn.

There is no substitute for feedback, though, so come see us, come talk to us, and come share with us what you want to see in your library. We can all learn and grow together.

Summer movie series: Headquarters, Tuesdays, starting at 6:30 p.m. Free popcorn and lemonade served. Aug. 2, “Stick It” (PG) — Haley is a naturally gifted athlete but, with her social behavior, the teen seems intent on squandering her abilities. After a final brush with the law, a judge sentences her to an elite gymnastics academy run by a legendary, hard-nosed coach. “Ice Castles” (PG13) — A young skater with Olympic dreams is blinded in an accident and attempts to overcome the tragedy with the help of her loving boyfriend.

Book Bites Book Club: South (China Grove), Tuesday, Aug. 30, 6-7 p.m. Free, open to the public. We discuss a different book each month and serve refreshments loosely related to the theme. “Peter Pan.” Need a copy? Call 704-216-7731.

Displays: Headquarters, Communities in Schools and Anime; East, pottery collection by Lennie Cooper; South, dolls, by Rowan County Doll Society.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second  language.

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