Libraries today are about people, not books – part two

Becky Kempf, Public Relations Coordinator
This is part two of a blog post on how the main focus of libraries has changed from books to being primarily about people (read part one here). Libraries today are changing almost as fast as technology. Part of it is because we’ve always been in the business of information and our mission is to provide you with the most accurate, up-to-date information available. This includes keeping up with the latest technology. Library catalogs are no longer on cards in drawers and there aren’t pockets for checkout slips in our books anymore. These days, because of RFD technology, you just scan your books and card at our self-check stations and you are good go!  You can still check out traditional books at Boone County Public Library, but you can also check out eBooks, Nooks, iPads, laptops and video games. You can even download free music and stream videos. (Did you know that some libraries check out fishing poles, cake pans, and tools?)

Library buildings are getting bigger too and if you’ve been in one lately, you know it’s not to hold more books. Libraries are getting bigger to hold more people!  We aren’t just in the business of books and information anymore, we’re in the business of people – of communities. Libraries today look hard at their communities and seek to fill in the gaps. Each library is a little different because they reflect the needs and wants of the people in their community. That’s what we do at Boone County Public Library, we look at what you want and try to provide it for you, whether it is answers to questions, resume-writing help or even fishing poles!  I asked some of my co-workers why they like working at the Library – what keeps them coming back day after day. If you‘ve been following this blog, you know that all of their answers lead back to people – serving people – serving you!

Shaun Davidson, Adult Programmer
I love that the Library brings people together to experience activities and events that are unique to Boone County. There is truly always something going on! I especially enjoy our free concert series, which is one of the very few places, if not the ONLY place in the county, to hear high caliber live music in styles ranging from classical to bluegrass. 

Jasbir Chahal, Branch Manager, Florence Branch
I love working at the Library because I find helping people very satisfying and rewarding. When a  customer walks in the door with a confused and scared look because he has been told that the only way he can apply for a job is online and he has no idea how to do it – we help him. We sit down and walk through the job application process together. Then when he comes back in, a few weeks or months later, and tells us he got the job – it makes it all worthwhile.

Another example –A veteran visited our branch and he was down, physically and mentally. We provided a little TLC and told him about agencies that could help him. The customer returned a year later and told us that he got the help he needed at the VA hospital and now has a job and an apartment. He just stopped by to say “Thank you.”

I remember one time, a young man stopped by the branch and asked to see me. As he talked, I kept trying to figure out where I knew him from. He told me that he had just returned from an international conference where he had the opportunity to present his project. He just wanted to let me know that he achieved this goal because of his love of reading. When I apologized for not recognizing him, I was touched to hear him say: “Don’t worry, I have grown up since you last saw me, but you know what, I will never forget your voice.” This young man was in my preschool story time some 20 or so years ago. When just doing your job impacts lives it is hard to not love it.

Candace Clarke and Carol Freytag, Youth Services – Outreach
Candace and Carol visit local preschools, daycares and communities with the library bus (Community Center on Wheels).

Carol: I work with small children and I like to ask them funny questions to hear their funny answers. They have a different view of the world than adults do. This is my favorite part of the job – talking to the children.  I remember one day when we were out, there was a boy checking out 25 books with his library card. His friend was amazed that he could check out so many books with his card and he said, “That card is power!” The outreach part of the job is so rewarding. We bring families things that they might otherwise not be exposed to.

Candace: There is an exchange happening – it’s not just us bringing stuff to the kids, they are giving back to us, too. We share in their excitements and disappointments – their joys and their sorrows. One day there will be a child so excited to be off of school for a day and then another child sharing how his father died six months ago and he’s still sad about it.

Carol: The children become comfortable with us, we develop a relationship. We try to be another positive influence in their lives. It’s rewarding that they trust us, we are usually at each stop once a month.

Candace: We are something different and exciting that the kids can count on. I wish I could be out all day long with the kids. I enjoy being out in the community. I like to talk to people and get to know them.  I meet people where they go to school, where they do business and where they relax. I like getting to know them better and hearing what’s important to them.

I really like it when several generations visit the bus at one time. The older generation will say they remember visiting a bookmobile when they were young and they are so glad that we are here for their kids and grandkids. It validates what we are doing to hear that we are important to them and that the service we provide enriches their lives.

Back to Becky
Yes, we still have books in the Library, but today books are just one of the ways we bring people together. This is your Library, Boone County, tell us how we can better serve you, we are listening.

Outreach: It’s What We Do!

Candace Clarke moved to Northern Kentucky almost nine years ago.  A graduate of Franklin and Marshall College, she has worked at BCPL the past four years as a Youth Services Associate for Outreach.

Outreach can be a peculiar thing.  One can easily get stuck thinking that the purpose of outreach is to go out into the community and simply tell people about what we do, but it is so much more than self-promotion.  Outreach is an opportunity for BCPL to share opportunities with the community.  Outreach is a chance for us to get to know you a little better, and in so doing, find out what exactly you want and need from the Library.

The Library is a place where things happen.  As a customer, you know that you can connect online, over the phone, and in person.  The air in and around our buildings hums with a constant exchange of information and experiences.  We are striving to make that hum heard all over the county.  Not everyone is in a position to make it into one of our buildings, so we like to bring the Library experience to your neighborhoods.

Our Youth Services Department is continually expanding the ways we reach out to the young people in Boone County, as well as their families.  We attend back-to-school fests, visit classrooms, take part in community-based events, provide interesting activities at locations throughout the county, and present storytimes both with and without the Community Center on Wheels (CCOW).  CCOW photo nov 2012We get to share and create experiences with some incredible people — your children and neighbors!  Through all of these activities, we are investing in the community by enhancing and instilling a love of learning in the young people of Boone County.

One of the more easily recognized means of delivering the Library experience to you is the Community Center on Wheels.  In a month’s time, we visit almost 1600 children and present an average of 155 early literacy storytimes with the CCOW.  That adds up to a lot of learning!  I could tell you about how incredible it is to see the development of all these classes over the course of a year, but I’d rather let someone else tell you:

“Our students look forward to their visit each month and are sad when we miss our visits around Thanksgiving & Christmas (only because school is closed for the holidays).  It’s very handy to have a monthly field trip that comes to our school!  You don’t know how much we appreciate you all!” –Kim Bell, Director, Conner Middle Child Development Center

“The staff and students at CrossRoads Preschool look forward to their monthly visit from the CCOW with great excitement.  The kids love to pick out books and the story time is extremely enjoyable.  We feel fortunate that the library can come to us for a fun-filled, educational experience.  We are thankful for such a wonderful resource!” –Suzanne Byrns, Director, CrossRoads Preschool

“Our experience with the CCoW has been wonderful and quite enriching for our young learners. They are not only able to locate a story that is of interest to them personally but also listen and experience a story read to them that they otherwise may not have ever chosen on their own.  It is truly a magnificent experience to be involved in the growth and nurturing of our youngest children in their blossoming love of books.”
–Gloria Wagel, Director, The Learning Zone Preschool Inc.

“Boone County Library has been a wonderful asset and resource for our childcare program. We have the monthly visits and books are provided for our monthly themes through our school year. I believe ‘reading is the window to learning’ and the positive experience the children have with the Library leaves a lasting impression and provides the first steps to a solid foundation in early learning!” –Kathy Arnold, Early Childhood Development Director, YMCA of Greater Cincinnati  RC Durr YMCA

Remember that hum we talked about earlier? That hum is created by active minds and hearts.  We invest in the community by investing in our young learners, cultivating curiosity and empowering them with skills to seek knowledge.  Our young learners will grow up equipped with more of the tools necessary to make good choices, cope with disappointments, and imagine the next amazing accomplishment.  Our young learners will grow into adults who will recognize the value of education and community engagement. BCPL reaches out into the community not only because it is a way for us to share what we have to offer, but also to make sure that what we have to offer is shared with all of you.  Every person has a story, and we are privileged to be part of yours.