Many people think libraries are dying, according to workers at the Capital Area District Libraries in Ingham County, who shared why libraries are still prominent and growing.
Capital Area has 13 branches, and its mission is to empower diverse communities to learn, imagine and connect.
Scott Duimstra, executive director of the libraries, said “We take the empowerment part very seriously. We are known for reading, but we have so much more to offer.”
The library partnered with Google to help small businesses learn how to make websites. The library’s staff is required to take lessons from Google so they can teach local business owners how to get started.
“The staff we hire need a different type of skill set than 20 years ago,” Duimstra said.
One new quality librarians have today is they curate book collections. They have degrees in library and information science where they learn patterns, literacy language and set books together to help kids who are reluctant readers.
Michele Brussow is the Downtown Lansing head librarian said she wants people, especially small kids, to use the library more. She said showing kids the library at a young age allows it to stick with them, resulting in a lifelong habit.
The library has musical instruments, sewing machines, digital stories, movies, audio tapes and wifi hot spots people can check out. The wifi hot spots are in the biggest demand, according to Duimstra.
“The wifi hot spots allows people to bring connectivity into their home when they need it,” Duimstra said.
The library is funded by taxpayer dollars and has a millage that must be passed every four years. Duimstra and Brussow said funding is the biggest challenge, but community support makes them feel comforted.
“People expect a library to be in their community, but it must be voted on by the county in our millage. The millage was passed by 70 percent, which is exciting,” said Brussow.
“In the United States, there are more public libraries than McDonald’s restaurants,” said Duimstra.
“When people are looking at where they want to live, the two biggest factors are libraries and parks. They may never come to the library, but are very supportive of having one in their community,” Duimstra said.
The library holds family and business events for adults and kids. One event the library is hosting this spring is a small business sell. This is where owners or inventors can sell their products at the library. They have to have a library card to participate..
The “majority of the time we hear what is going to happen to the publishing houses because books won’t exist in the physical format anymore. However, for several years, the largest growing part of the collection has been digital books, but physical books have still outweighed the checkouts,” Brussow said.
“When traveling, it is convenient having digital books because you can have 10 on one device rather than 10 books, but it is nice being able to turn the page on a book,” said Steven Ray, an Ingham County resident.
Ray said the library is a wonderful gift to the community and that he is thankful for the services it provides.
“Being able to have access to different materials right in front of you and having a safe place where you can just relax and grab a book is great. People should throw out their old ways of thinking of how the library used to be because it would surprise them,” Ray said.
Capital Area describes libraries as the people’s university because someone could help a child learn how to read, an adult find a job or a senior learn to use Skype in one day.
Duimstra and Brussow encourage residents to let their library amaze them.
“People always wonder, ‘do people even come to the library, is it needed’? Then we encourage them to come see it,” said Duimstra.
Capital Area hopes to change those who have a negative connotation of a library, continue improving its services and continue to hold community events.
“I think if more people understood what the library was today, we would have many more people come in, and that would be a good thing,” Brussow said.