March 18, 2016: Gather ’round the campfire (guitar & marshmallows optional), by Denise deRochefort-Reynolds

March 18, 2016 by

Denise deRochefort-Reynolds

Denise deRochefort-Reynolds

Imagine if Concordia had a community campfire. All kinds of people would probably come: families, neighbors, friends. It would attract people from all parts of town. Someone would bring a guitar. Another would bring marshmallows to toast over the flames. People would get to talking, swapping stories, opinions, and songs. The event would cost next to nothing but would be remembered and talked about for years. Wouldn’t you participate?

Concordia has a (flame-free) community campfire and you can find it at the Frank Carlson Library, six days a week.

Spring break fun. Community jigsaw puzzles. “Singing the Cattle North.” Author visits, book discussion groups. Wii parties. Magic shows. Such entertaining, informative activities draw our community together.

Our library touches lives near and far. The same public access computers used to file taxes electronically also connect us to Facebook. Lots of places in Concordia offer free Wi-Fi, but you have to bring your own device. The Library is the only place that provides computers for anyone to use, library card holder or not. For free.

Where else can you sit at a table for an hour without buying anything? On cold days, the library provides coffee. That’s free, too. Read a newspaper or magazine. Make yourself at home.

If your air conditioner is broken, where can you and your kids escape the heat and not spend a fortune? The public library, of course.

Play a board game, put on a puppet show, build a castle, read a story, travel back in time, pretend to be a cowboy. All the tools you need are at the library. Just add imagination.

For a few hours each day, your library offers an environment of companionable quiet. If that’s what you’re seeking, avoid Tuesday mornings. Then the library erupts with the kind of positive energy only preschoolers possess. Come on in and witness the joy of little kids sitting around their pretend campfire listening to stories and making new friends. Brainy Kids storytime creates community for a new generation.

Activities, free access to collections and quiet reading areas, access to technology…these are hallmarks of modern public library service. The very first Carnegie Library ever built, located in Braddock, Pa., opened in 1889 with billiard tables on the first floor. Four years later, that library expanded to include an indoor swimming pool and other amenities.

Although Andrew Carnegie wanted public libraries to provide books so individuals could better themselves by reading edifying works of non-fiction, the public demanded something more. Library users didn’t want to be molded by the public library; they wanted the public library to be responsive to their needs. They wanted recreational reading, especially popular novels. They wanted a space where they could discuss the books they read with others. They wanted activities (and a place to play games). We still do.

Public libraries have never been simply storehouses for books. Instead, they are community spaces, built and maintained for the common good. Library users of tomorrow will continue to shape the services provided by their public libraries. Books might be delivered electronically, but people will never cease desiring to exchange ideas about what they have read or viewed. Public libraries will continue to encourage lifelong learning, early literacy and self-improvement using new techniques to bring people together and build community.

Nobody is required to go to the public library. People want to come through our doors, drawn to the continual community campfire that all can enjoy.

 

— Denise de Rochefort-Reynolds is the director of the Frank Carlson Library in Concordia.

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