The role of the public library has expanded, not diminished, in the digital age. Libraries are evolving to meet the new needs of the community. A 2016 Pew Research Center Survey and corresponding report found that “53% of Millennials say they used a library in the previous 12 months.” It is worth noting that the survey asked for “public library use,” not “academic library use.” Millennials, those aged 18-35 when the report was completed, were raised in the “Digital Age,” yet they are among the largest group of library patrons.
The Belmont Public Library is thriving in the Digital Age. It serves ALL members of the Town, covering all ages and demographic profiles. As an institution that touches all groups, the Library is uniquely poised to cultivate materials and provide programming that reflect the Town’s interests and needs. For example:
Literacy Programs – From storytimes to music programs to preschool fairs to summer reading programs, the Library gives children a place to start their literacy journey– to read, think, and explore.
Age and Interest-Specific Programming – From teen services such as the Girls who Code programs, Homework and Hot Chocolate sessions, and LGBTQ drop-in meetings, to adult programming like book clubs, knitting groups, author discussions, and technology training, to senior services such as homebound delivery and senior-specific technology training, the Belmont Public Library hosts programs that interest and positively impact resident of all ages.
Circulation Materials Beyond Books & Periodicals – People still want a robust collection of books and periodicals at their library, but they also expect to have other resources available. In addition to books, the Belmont Public Library offers extensive music and movie collections, e-books, e-audiobooks, music, and film downloads, and searchable databases like lynda.com for video tutorials on business and technology, Gale-Cengage for Massachusetts legal forms, and Vocations and Careers Collection, to name a few. The list of resources, both hard-copy and electronic, provided by the Library grows daily.
Technology Services Inside and Outside the Library – While at the Library, patrons can access computers or connect to Wi-Fi on their own device. If patrons need instruction on available technology or on how to access electronic circulation materials, one-on-one technical training is available. In addition, laptops, kindles, rokus, and phone chargers are available for check out, so that patrons can bring technology into their homes.
Space for Social & Community Engagement – Libraries are often the center of social and community engagement, providing a safe place for people to work, study, attend music programs, and engage with other community members.
Evolving Programs that Address Community Needs –Library programming is constantly changing to reflect the needs of the community. Recent Belmont Public Library programmatic additions include: English Language Learning Conversation and Book Groups, Sensory Storytimes for children with autism spectrum disorders, sensory integration issues and other developmental delays, and computer programming classes for middle and high school students.
According to a 2017 Brookings report on Building Healthy Neighborhoods, “Libraries help local people figure out the complexities of life, from navigating the health system to helping those with housing needs.” The Belmont Public Library partners with organizations throughout the town to provide educational programming and meeting space to directly address community needs.
Librarians –Belmont Public Library librarians answered 29,754 reference questions in FY 2019. There is an amazing and dedicated staff at the Library, and they are always poised to assist patrons and to develop engaging and enriching Library programs.
Source of Wellness Programming – Library programs fulfill a wide-array of patron needs — everything from tai chi classes to healthy eating workshops, to mindfulness and meditation workshops, to the successful Be-Well Series.
Library patrons can stop by to pick up a book, and stay to learn a new skill, receive technology training, take a meditation course, search job databases. and so much more. It may be the digital age, but libraries play an even more important role in the lives of community members now than they ever have.