Libraries Matter

Carrie Herrmann has 25 years experience in libraries, most of those in Northern Kentucky. A Graduate of University of Kentucky, Carrie is the Public Service Coordinator for Boone County Public Library.

I hear it in the media and I even hear it from family and friends—why do you work in a library? Nobody uses a library anymore.  Why do I work in a library?  I work at Boone County Public Library because libraries matter.  They are important to so many people in our community.

Have you ever been at the Library on a Sunday when we are opening the doors?  There is always a line of people waiting to enter – you would think we were giving away a huge prize!

Maybe that huge prize we are giving away is our trained staff to help answer questions.  You never know what kind of question you will be called upon to answer. My two favorite questions can be found at both ends of the age spectrum.  I once had a little boy and his Mom come up to me at the desk.  Mom needed my help proving to her son that the world is not flat.  When I first heard the issue all I could think was that old poem I learned when I was a little girl, “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”  After a conversation with the five year old I realized the problem was that every time he saw a map of the world it was flat.  No one had shown him a globe or picture of earth from space.  It took some convincing, but I think he left the library with a better understanding of the world he lived in.  And, yes he did know that the world is round.

On another occasion, I was working with an older gentleman I had come to know well over the years.  On this particular day he seemed down and I finally asked him if everything was okay.  After a moment he said he did not think his grandkids liked him.  I was dumbfounded.  He is one of the nicest people I have ever met.  I asked what made him think that his grandkids did not like him.  He told me that he called and left messages and he emailed them but they never answered him back.  After a moment I asked if he could text with his phone.  He said he knew his plan allowed texting but he did not know how to do that.  I told him I bet if he texted his grandkids they would answer him back.  We spent a few moments “playing” with his phone while I showed him how to text and answer back.  His first couple of texts were to my phone so we could make sure he understood.  He left the library with a plan to try texting.

A few weeks later he walked up to me and without a greeting said, “What do you know?  They do love me!  Now I have another problem.  I don’t understand what they are saying most of the time.”  So, I spent some time decoding the texts with him.  The last time I saw him he was heading out the door armed with a link to a website to translate those texts and a big grin.  He was on his way to meet a grandson for lunch.  It may seem small and it may seem insignificant, but the library mattered to him that day.

For a very long time, a library’s primary goal was to make sure its shelves were full of books by every author, and on every subject, so you could find the information and the materials you wanted and needed. In the last twenty-five years, still trying to give you what you want and need, libraries have added magazines, music, DVDs, audiobooks, digital materials, Internet access, classes, workshops, festivals, art shows, concerts and so much more!  Some libraries even offer cake pans and fishing poles for checkout. In keeping with this shift in the library world, BCPL updated its mission statement this year from “working to connect you with the books you love, the information you need and the world you live in” to “discover, explore, experience a lifetime of learning.”  This mission statement is more about what the community can do or become at the Library.  Whether for personal enrichment or professional development, learners can turn to Boone County Public Library to meet their lifelong learning and continuing education needs and goals.

Libraries operate on fiscal year calendars, so I gather statistics every year from July 1 to June 30. These statistics help us measure how well we are doing at meeting the needs of Boone County. They also help us compare our work from one year to the next and  measure how we stack up against the other libraries in Kentucky as well as across the nation.

Looking back over FY Year 2013 – 2014  at Boone County Public Library:

  • The library checked out 1,675,157 items, 48% of which were children’s materials.
  • 1,053,295 visits were made to the Library’s website.
  • 96,607 people were educated and entertained at 5,562 programs. This is a 5% increase over the previous year.
  • For the third year in a row, more than 1 million people (1,107,074) walked through the doors of Boone County Public Library.
  • 2,128 meetings were held by 824 community groups in the Library’s meeting rooms.
  • The Library’s computers and Wi-Fi were used 220,243 times.
  • 169,926 in person, telephone and email reference questions were answered by library staff.

As a library staff member, I am very proud of the work we did to achieve these numbers, but I know the real reason they are so high is because the library matters to you, Boone County! Thank you for allowing us to serve you.

–Carrie

BCPL – Building Skills for Today and Tomorrow

Shaun Davidson has worked in public libraries for seven years, and is currently the adult programmer at Boone County Public Library.

While browsing through the Library’s calendar of events for adults, it is easy to see that we offer plenty of educational workshops, enlightening presentations, and entertaining events. But did you know that these events are also selected to help build the skills that adults need in the 21st century? In 2009, the Institute of Museum and Library Studies (IMLS) identified several skills that are absolutely necessary for individuals to succeed in 21st century life and work.

The 21st Century Skills include:

  • Learning and Innovation Skills
  • Information, Media and Technology Skills
  • Life and Career Skills
  • 21st Century Themes such as Civic Literacy, Health Literacy, and Global Awareness

Boone County Public Library supports the goals of ILMS by ensuring that as many of our activities as possible help build these skills in our adult citizens. As a library, we of course offer plenty of learning opportunities that focus on building information and literacy skills. However, many of our activities promote several other skills as well. Our computer classes cultivate critical thinking skills while fostering technology literacy. Hands on workshops encourage creativity and problem-solving capabilities. Book groups and game clubs foster social interaction and communication within our community. Cultural demonstrations and live concerts introduce new forms of expression and advance global awareness.

But why is this important? First and foremost, today’s world is vastly different than it was only a few years ago. Computers are now mobile and fit in the palm of your hand, access to the Internet is a must, technology changes at what seems to be a daily basis, and the world around us is continually getting smaller. The ability to live and work in today’s world depends on utilizing 21st century skills.

In order to help people obtain these skills, public libraries today, including BCPL, provide free learning opportunities for adults who are no longer in formal education or are currently inP1530977 lo res a transition period in their careers. Obtaining new skills as an adult is important because adults’ cognitive abilities continue to develop after they leave formal education. Furthermore, for older adults, educational activities increase the brain’s ability to compensate for age-related changes and regular social interaction is an important predictor of healthy brain aging. As you can see, the benefits of lifelong learning at the Library go far beyond the few hours of being educated or entertained.

For more information about Institute of Museum and Library Studies and the 21st Century skills, visit http://www.imls.gov.

Sources:

1 – Reder, S. (2009). “The Development of Literacy and Numeracy in Adult Life.” In S. Reder & J. Bynner, Tracking Adult Literacy and Numeracy: Findings from Longitudinal Research (pp. 59–84). New York, NY:

2 – Staying Sharp: Learning as We Age. New York: The Dana Foundation, 2012.

–Shaun