Library has 21st-century relevance

Published 9:57 pm Thursday, December 11, 2014

If you haven’t been in a library in a decade or more, you probably have a conception about what they do there that is largely inaccurate.

Yes, libraries still have books you can check out and have programming such as the summer reading program for children.

But those things are only a small part of what being a library is all about these days. Not only do they now have programs for adults as part of an ongoing focus on life-long learning and digital resources to check out using all of the latest technology, but also libraries are increasingly becoming problem-solvers and the nexus of community initiatives.

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There’s no better example of that than Suffolk Public Library, which has recently started a number of programs designed to connect community members not only to the library and its resources but also to each other.

Earlier this year there was the tech petting zoo, which was designed to teach folks how to use their mobile devices; in particular, how to use them to access digital library resources like e-books.

Also this year, the library started the Pop-Up Library initiative. Many years ago, the farthest from the library you could access library resources was the drop box in front of the building. But now the Pop-Up Library goes wherever lots of people are likely to be — big events like National Night Out or big neighborhoods like Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority communities — and allows folks to check out books, sign up for a library card, do crafts, participate in story time and find out more about what goes on in today’s libraries.

The Pop-Up Library program by itself is likely to draw in a lot more interest to the library as people sign up for cards and learn about what the libraries offer.

Last but not least, the library was named one of 10 library systems nationwide to participate in the Libraries Transforming Communities program this year. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and organized through the American Library Association, the program seeks to help libraries create stronger relationships with the communities they serve and become agents of positive community change.

Already, the libraries have done so by holding “community conversations” at various spots around town, seeking input from the community about what they want and need from their library and how it can help them be connected not just to books and story time but also to their neighbors and the world.

At a time when some are predicting the demise of the public library as the world becomes more digital and information becomes more readily available than ever before, the Suffolk Public Library is proving its relevance to a new generation.