Not Your Grandma’s Quiet Public Library

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I have vivid memories of the public library growing up. I remember making the half-mile trek from my elementary school in kindergarten down the semi-busy street to our local library. Once there, we all piled into a small classroom with red carpet and wood-paneled walls to listen to the librarian read a few stories. Then we ventured out to pick a book or two to take home. It was a big deal to get your own library card!

I still remember the smell, bright florescent lighting, and sounds of the old wood floor creaking and the plastic cover crinkling as I opened a book. I remember going over to the big index catalog searching for a book I was looking for. But, as much as I loved the library, it was just a place to go every once in a while to pick up a few new things to read and hoping when you got there they had them in stock.

Not anymore!

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I rediscovered the public library about seven years ago, shortly after we bought our first house. My husband had a book he wanted to read about business so we went to our local branch. It. Was. Tiny. They didn’t have the book he was looking for at that location, but that day we learned about the fantastic ways the public library has really changed with the times.

Online Book Requests

Since the book wasn’t available the librarian showed us how to request a book online. With their new portal, she showed us how to search, request, and even see how many other people were in line for a hold on the book. She showed us some books could even be rented digitally and download to their app in seconds. Not only could you request and download books, you could also renew from online. No more going into the library with the book and asking for it to be renewed!

Children's books with one featuring a baby lamb with a flowered headband lined up in a row at the Reading branch of the Hamilton County Library

Classes for Kids and Adults

We ended up getting a brand new library in our community about two years after our initial visit. Since they had more space, there was now a dedicated classroom. Our branch, as well as many other branches in the area, offer free classes for kids, such as age-appropriate story times, kindergarten readiness, and a song and dance class to get the kids up and moving. The public library is committed to helping every child learn to read, so you can also find through them resources to help with early literacy as well as homework help.

They also offer services and classes to adults. Lynda.com offers online video tutorials in areas such as software, technology, and business skills. Classes to help people get their GED or to learn the English language are also offered.

A Resource for the Community

Each public library has public computers for your use. That’s pretty common knowledge! Most computers come equipt with software like Microsoft Word, and for a small fee, you can print, copy, and fax. Some kid’s areas even offer ABC Mouse, Smartboards, and iPad banks.

Some locations have an area called MakerSpace. This unique and free area features sewing machines, audio recording stations, 3D printers, photography and video stations, a large format printer, laser cutter/engraver, and media conversation spaces (think podcats!). If additional materials are required, you can purchase them for a fee.

Windows looking into the MakerSpace at the Reading Library Branch of the Hamilton County Public Library

Make sure to check out the free after school meal program. A simple meal is served at certain public library branches to children 18 years and younger. Some branches also offer snacks and meals during the summer as well. The more kids that use this program the more funding they get, so stop by and take advantage!

The public library also offers assistance with things you might not think of such as government paperwork. Unemployment, SNAP and WIC, and even tax preparation are all things they can help with. Need a proctor for an online exam? They’ve got you covered!

A brown and orange multi-use kid's table for trains, building blocks, and Legos at the Reading Branch of the Hamilton County Library

I love taking my daughter to our local branch whenever I get the chance. Our branch, as well as many others in our area, also offers activities such as a train table, blocks, and coloring. It’s a great place to meet up with friends for a fun excursion. As much as I love the memories of the public library of my youth, I’m so thankful my daughter will be able to enjoy a much more updated version!

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