By Max Johnston
Listen Up Lansing Staff Reporter
The first floor of the Downtown Lansing Public Library is unlikely to raise any eyebrows. Outdated computers between cramped book aisles are standard fare for public libraries. However, on the third floor in the faculty offices, plans are being hatched and ideas are being exchanged that challenge the notion of what a public library can offer.
Now Jolee Hamlin, Associate Director of Public Service for Capital Area District Libraries, just needs people to know about them.
“It’s not an uncommon thing at all for people to say: ‘You know the library should have resume workshops, the library should have a streaming movie service, the library should have automatic music downloads,'” Hamlin said. “And it’s amazing to me how of all of those things people ask about, we do have. People’s perception of the library hasn’t kept up with what the library has.”
The Capital Area District Libraries have maintained a strong relationship with the Lansing community through numerous programs for adults and kids alike. The Downtown Lansing Library’s summer reading program in particular has been key to the library’s community outreach. According to Thais Rousseau, Program Director at the Downtown Lansing Library, the program isn’t only successful but distinct from others like it.
“The summer reading program is our biggest program all year long, last year we had over 9,000 people, that’s kids and adults, participate in summer reading,” Rousseau said. “And it’s unique because it appeals to goals for different reading styles and we have integrated apps and online functions as well.”
In addition to reading programs, the CADL have made a conscious effort to diversify what they can offer to the Lansing community outside of used books and DVDs. The new pillar of that effort is an initiative slated for the fall called “The Library of Things,” which Hamlin says will offer previously unavailable resources to the Lansing community.
“There was a similar service out of Sacramento Public Library, so we’re looking to get some things out to the public to check out,” Hamlin said. “People can rent out things that they need in everyday life but maybe don’t have the money to put into, things like: microscopes, sewing machines, maybe a scientific calculator, maybe a radon detector.”
Zenia Kotval, Professor of Urban Studies at Michigan State University, said that the CADL’s initiatives are not only ensuring the community’s success but the library’s success as well.
“They’re becoming a community asset, more so for the mass than just for someone who wants to rent a book,” Kotval said. “In a time where we’re closing facilities because of budget cuts, they’re making themselves more valuable to the city and to the community.”
Christina Poynter, a mother of four, said her children benefited from the most recent summer reading program.
“We did the program last summer and we liked it, the kids liked the goals and seeing what they could accomplish,” Poynter said. “We’ll be doing it next summer, it was really useful.”