Increasingly in the last two decades, libraries have made huge efforts to redefine themselves, their services, and what they offer. In the face of an increasingly digital world, a financial crisis, and annoying questions like “Aren’t you guys just going to be replaced by Google?” libraries are finding new and dynamic ways to engage with their patrons and improve their communities.
Library buildings are no longer just warehouses for books. Instead, many aim to serve as community centers where people can read, study, learn, come together, and do all kinds of things. Recently, the media has picked up on this trend, highlighting libraries who feature creative programming, including meat butchering demonstrations, foreclosure workshops, and even pole dancing classes.
While some may choose to complain that such activities represent the desperate attempt of libraries to stay relevant, I have to disagree. I think that such programming events represent diverse learning opportunities for the communities they serve. They are also usually free programs for information/services that would normally cost patrons money. I think that, realistically, in order to stay relevant in our patrons’ lives, we must appeal to their sense of curiosity and thirst for lifelong learning. These classes and programs are the adult equivalent of craft-time in the kids section or movie night for the teens: while not always explicitly related to books/literature, they offer a fun and unique experience that brings people into the library and helps them enrich their minds and lives.