By Matthew Grube
Libraries are an important part of any community; they offer far more than what most might expect in the digital age. According to Pew Research, 62 percent of libraries offer programs for careers and 38 percent of people don’t know about them. By adopting new technology, libraries have been made even more useful as assets to any community.
Whiteland School Library Media Specialist Raenell Smith emphasized how libraries remain relevant with new technology.
“Libraries have become more essential since technology has increased. Libraries have been early embracers of emerging technologies and serve as a place to access or learn about those technologies in addition to reading and traditional books,” Smith said.
Smith feels that libraries and the opportunities they provide have been misunderstood as this boring place with just a bunch of books when really they are a lot more than that. Smith explained that there are libraries that lend out tools, clothing, fishing gear, fitness gear, museum passes, musical instruments, board games, toys, video games and more. The WCHS media center offers a board game collection, crafting/creating space, a green screen room and even contests and activities.
Smith also talks about a partnership between the WCHS Media Center and local libraries.
“We also have a super public library partnership that extends the services of our media center to include everything the public library [has] as an extension of our own. Our local public libraries [Johnson County Library & Greenwood Public Library] are renowned in Indiana and beyond for their services and offerings,” Smith said.
Branch manager of the Johnson County Public Library Davin Kolderup agrees with Smith that libraries are misunderstood and underutilized.
“We frequently get people suggesting, you know it’d be really cool if you could offer ‘this’ and it’s usually something we’ve offered for years,” Kolderup said.
Kolderup stressed how the library has wifi hotspots people can check out and take home or on a trip so they can have access to the internet. Additionally, there are plans of building a new branch on U.S. 31 that would have space for activities, private study rooms and even a designated area for teenagers. This new library is estimated to be open by 2020 or 2021 and would be 16,500 square feet while costing $8.8 million, according to the Daily Journal.
As for the role of libraries, Kolderup explained how they can be used for everyone.
“It’s a place people can gather and be together as a community. To be by themselves, to learn, to study. To find information or entertainment or enrichment that they might not otherwise be exposed to,” Kolderup said.
Johnson County library also offers training and tests for people who want to step up their careers. These tests can help people trying to succeed in the workforce.
WCHS senior Austin Mikesell loves libraries for their quiet relaxing environment and goes at least once a week to read and learn something.
“I love them; for the most part, they are quiet. They can be a place to release stress or go to relax, read a book and just calm down,” Mikesell said.
However, according to Pew Research, despite offering a variety of opportunities such as online career training, programs on starting new businesses, and certification programs, libraries face a lack of funding.
Upcoming events in the WCHS Media Center include a Spring Break reads promotion in March and April is School Library Month. To celebrate School Library Month, there will be daily trivia contests, a video submission activity and other opportunities.