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Beyond Books: Libraries Helping the Community

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How do public libraries help communities?  Here are some real-world examples of the wide-ranging ways libraries help people:

Supporting teachers – many libraries offer a special teacher’s library card with extended benefits, plus additional help such as Miami Dade Public Library’s JumpStart Storytime Kit for Pre-K and Kindergarten programs, King County Library’s KidReach Bookboxes with 80 books every 50 kids, or Multnomah Library’s Buckets of Books with 24-30 books on a topic plus a teacher’s guide, as well as help with customized book collections and webliographies; 

Supporting students and helping homeschoolers – beyond all the ways we know libraries already help students, Multnomah County Library has a homeschooling liaison to help homeschooling parents; live online homework tutoring is a special extra support offered on many library web sites – as seen for example at Houston Public Library and Los Angeles Public Library;

Helping jobseekers – libraries provide classes, workshops, resources, and individual assistance to job seekers such as drop-in job club and career coaching sessions at New York Public Library, and Pierce County Library’s “library in a bag briefcases” of job seeking and small business resources.  Some libraries such as Fond du Lac Public Library run computer labs and resource centers for job seekers — Memphis Public Library even operates a JobLinc mobile career/job center bus bringing the help to the job seekers;

Supporting small business – some libraries offer special programs supporting small businesses – for example Grand Rapids Public Library operates a small business research center, and at North Richland Hills Public Library you can schedule individualized small business counseling sessions;

Supporting nonprofits – at Fayetteville Public Library, a Nonprofit Resource Center helps individuals and nonprofit organizations identify potential grant funding sources, while Monroe County Public Library’s  Nonprofit Central offers one-on-one counseling for nonprofits;

Helping seniors – many libraries such as Pikes Peak Library offer special resources and classes for seniors; often libraries will deliver items to homebound seniors, as with Jasper County Library’s “walking books” program; Forsyth Public Library among others provides “BiFolkal Kits” designed to spur reminscence and reflection for seniors;

Helping disabled users – libraries often have accessible computers and programs to help disabled users; at Eugene Public Library, a Braille embosser can print documents in Braille, and Nashville Public Library has special library services for the deaf and hard of hearing;

Providing bilingual and ESL services – Forsyth Public Library operates a Spanish Bookmobile called the “Bibliobus”; Jasper County Library is one of many that teach English as a Second Language and offer bilingual computing stations; Fresno Public Library has staff fluent in Spanish, Russian, Armenian, Punjabi, French, Hindi, Arabic and a variety of Asian dialects and operates a Spanish/English bookmobile service called AprendoVan;

Supporting the local arts community – many libraries offer display and performance spaces for local writers and artists, such as the Art and Display space at Flathead County Library; also the Marin Free Library showcases local Marin poets in a digital archive;

Teaching technology skills  – many libraries teach classes and workshops on computers and technology skills. King County Library System operates a mobile Techlab bus for teaching computer classes “on the go,” and Westport Public Library is among those offering a Makerspace with a 3-D printer.

That’s just a small sampling of how libraries are helping people in local communities.  How does your library help – what special programs and services are offered at your library? 

– Lorri Mon, Associate Professor at Florida State University, for iMapLibraries [Showcase the programs and services at your library – you can put your library on the map for classes and workshops, senior services, Spanish services and special spaces such as homework centers, computer labs, meeting rooms etc. at iMapLibraries]

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