A library volunteer recently shared with me the story of an exchange she had with a surprised friend. Upon entering the Ford City library on a busy afternoon, her friend looked around with a perplexed expression. The library was humming with small social groups, chatting, knitting and laughing. Patrons helped themselves to a carafe of coffee in the front of the library. No one whispered.
Taken aback, her friend asked, “What is this?”
“It’s a place to have fun,” said the volunteer with a smile.
This sort of exchange has become commonplace in libraries across the nation. Public libraries have been evolving from centers of information dissemination to fully-realized community centers. The library as a neighborhood activity and social hub is a growing trend.
With the recent economic downturn, communities are re-discovering the high value and low cost of public libraries, fueling the transformation to community-center.
Citizens come together at local libraries to share ideas, learn new skills, partake in entertainment and hold civic group meetings. In one week in October, the following community activities will be available at Armstrong County libraries:
• Friends group book & baked sale
• Two book discussion groups
• Preschool Story Hour to promote kindergarten readiness and foster literacy and social skills
• Crochet Club
• Knotty Knitters Group
• Preschool musical play hour
• A walk in the park with a master gardener, identifying trees
• Children’s money literacy class
Librarians search for fresh and creative ways to meet community needs, while they maintain old standbys in programming. Two staples of library service can always be found locally: story hours and book discussions.
Story hour, for pre-school and early elementary students, is found at each of the state-aided libraries in the county at intervals throughout the year. Library-sponsored sessions are provided at Kittanning, Worthington and Apollo libraries. A community group convenes weekly at Ford City library for Toddler Time. These programs are free and open to the public.
Book discussion groups, in various forms meet at most local libraries. These groups are often facilitated by the library, but groups can – and sometimes are – coordinated by community members with no formal relationship to the library. Local librarians can often locate extra copies of books for discussion group members – defraying costs and promoting convenience.
To inquire about meeting space availability, citizens should call the community library. At Ford City Library membership is not required to reserve library space or attend library programs.
Every day, library programs, community gatherings and spontaneous social get-togethers occur at local libraries. For information about library programs, www.armstronglibraries.org.