Libraries build communities

Regular library patrons certainly know that libraries are more than a warehouse for books and other nearly obsolete media.

In earlier posts I have highlighted  some other aspects of a library collection as well as the vital services that professional librarians offer to the community.

Today I want to call attention to what a public library building itself offers. The city or county that sponsors a public library is the community it serves. Within that larger community, the library builds smaller communities based on common interests.

Obviously the library is home to reading groups from preschool story times to discussions of both fiction and non-fiction for adult. Therefore I am devoting this post to some less obvious library events.

Many libraries have auditoriums and offer various kinds of concerts, plays, or lectures. Many libraries have space for exhibiting art and perhaps a collection to display in it. Whether it has its own art collection or  not, it can offer its exhibit space to both local and traveling arts organizations.

Libraries usually have meeting rooms, where all sorts of clubs and interest groups can gather.  In today’s economy, workshops on various aspects of job hunting may draw people in to the library who otherwise may not have thought to use it.

Here is a selection of events on the calendar of the Greensboro Public Library (both the central library and branches)  for the first week of April 2011 that are not related to reading or literature.

  • Chess club meetings
  • “What is White?” (a discussion about the economics of race relations)
  • Workshops on writing resumes and cover letters
  • Movies for various age groups
  • Class on conserving native plant communities
  • Introductory class on using computers, and another on email.
  • Teen game night
  • Kite making class for school-age children
  • Art class for school-age children, another for teens, and another for all ages
  • Building with Kapla blocks, for families
  • Networking opportunity for parents of preschoolers
  • Safety education for preschool children, with another for young children

Here are some other events at the Greensboro Pubic Library (both the central library and branches) over the past four years unrelated to reading or literature:

  • A seminar on family law as it relates to fathers
  • Facilitator training
  • Lecture on preventing childhood obesity
  • Suicide  prevention training
  • Meetings about Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia
  • Workshops on marketing and business building
  • Concert by a traveling music education team

Greensboro, North Carolina is a medium-sized city. Libraries that serve a larger population very likely offer a wider variety of events. Suburban and small-town libraries may offer fewer events (although not necessarily less varied).

Typically library events are free and open to the public. Especially for events that recur regularly, they offer an opportunity for people to get to know other people they would not have otherwise met. Probably no other institution in America plays a more important role in building so many varied communities.

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