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Public Libraries & Special Spaces: Building Community

Girl using a computerLibraries play a unique role in community building – not only through sharing books and information, but also by offering special spaces where people in the community can meet in small groups, classes, workshops, or in large audiences — such as auditoriums and lecture halls. For example, Teton County Library has auditoriums and half-auditoriums available with audio-visual and projection screens, as well as meeting rooms. Providence Public Library hosts a Music Film & Concert Series and Houston Public Library has both poetry events and open-mike poetry nights, while Ann Arbor District Library hosts gaming tournaments.

Libraries provide showcases for local artists, with exhibit and gallery spaces such as at Olean Public Library and Charleston County Library. Libraries also offer spaces for building and creating. such as Chicago Public Library’s digital media youth learning spaces, and Cleveland Public Library’s TechCentral which includes 3-D printing. Some libraries even offer outdoor learning spaces, such as the low-water-use demonstration Botanical Garden at Glendale Public Library and the Children’s Living Library Garden at Huntsville Madison County Public Library.

Libraries provide special Centers for helping with important community needs – Santa Cruz Public Library reserves Homework Center computers for kids’ schoolwork during special hours, with the first 10 pages of homework printed for free. Springfield Free Public Library’s Read/Write/Now Adult Learning Center teaches reading for adults at the Pine Point branch. Nashville Public Library and Seattle Public Library are two among many offering Job Search and Job Resource Centers. Many other libraries offer special research centers such as the A.C. Bilbrew Library’s Black Resource Center, Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History, Belmont Library’s Enrico Fermi Cultural Center for Italian American resources, and the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library.

Some libraries extend special spaces out into the community – for example, Schaumburg Township District Library has ten “deposit sites” in the local community at places such as senior centers, providing collections that rotate every six months. Many libraries operate mobile special spaces via vans, buses, and even bikes – such as Seattle Public Library’s Books on Bikes. Missoula Public Library’s mobile computer lab also offers passport and notary services.

Does your library offer special spaces to the community? Check out our iMapLibraries’ Special Spaces map.

You can also add your library’s information to the map!

To find out more about iMapLibraries, visit us at : http://imaplibraries.org/

– Lorri Mon, Associate Professor at Florida State University, for iMapLibraries