Knowledge is power: an Ideal Library Community Center
by Angela Piccola, Senior Editor
During difficult times, such as a recession, the unemployment rate goes up causing many people to struggle. When hardships are continued for longer periods of time, cases of homelessness occur making it even harder for people to get back on their feet. Communities needs and demographics vary, but libraries can contribute to the community by becoming more of a safe haven to grow and learn without judgment.
The original functionality of a library as a place solely for books will not be enough to satisfy the needs of the community. People need library services to help in times of greater need, as well as general services. Career guidance, skills training, and assistance with government program applications are just some of the examples of how libraries can engage individuals.
Providing basic services such as reference searches for self-help books or addresses for local shelters will also aid in fulfilling their information needs. Libraries also provide the creature comfort of free knowledge. The accessibility of an information institution creates a new level of possibility for everyone. Knowledge is power– providing a free place to relax, learn, and grow will not only help the individual, but also stimulate the community.
Below you will find libraries and organizations that are now contributing towards the idea of providing better services to befit their community needs.
While providing valuable computer skill classes, the Denver library also coordinates visits to local homeless and women shelters. Job skill training reigns paramount to the local needs of the community along with giving them access to the library through a library card. Many of the classes available teach users how to search for jobs and construct resumes.
Self-Employed/Enterprising Day Care (SEED) is a program that provides training on being self-employed, workshops, internships, and other job readiness skills.
The library coordinated with the local health department to administer shots and health checks. They decided to bring on several public health nurses to provide basic care and to educate patrons on different resources.
San Francisco notably was the first in the nation to hire a full-time social worker to keep on staff. Together with the coordination of a homeless and poverty outreach team they help the local community by providing vocational training.
In Portland, Oregon a movement has started where a mobile library is carted around on a bicycle that is used to bring books to the streets. They function as a roaming library with no set due dates. The donations they receive provide inquiring minds the books they crave without any restrictions.
The future library involves everyone in the community. The mission of libraries is to encompass programming and services that will improve the socioeconomic landscape of the local community. Libraries must adopt a new identity that is more than books, ut also a place of shelter for the mind and the body.