Libraries save families and communities money

Published: Monday, Oct. 29 2012 4:00 p.m. MDT

Libraries have business programs loaded on their computers. Some libraries have digital media labs where people can create music, edit videos or create graphics using the latest software.

Bringing in youths

Many libraries have teen rooms with large-screen televisions and video gaming systems such as the Wii or PlayStation. "They can play with their friends and have social interaction," King says.

San Mateo County Library in California has 15 guitars it lends out to youth like books. Back at the library, youths can learn about music and even, Abram says, be directed toward poetry books as sources for possible lyrics. "If you told (a teenage boy) to read poetry, he wouldn't do it," Abram says. "Tell them it is a source for lyrics and they will."

Other libraries have "makerspaces" — multipurpose rooms where staff and community experts help people create and explore things from model airplanes to gardening.

King's library in Kansas holds 7,000 programs and events a year. There are summer reading programs, author lectures and other community events.

Hall loves to take his children to events at the Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County libraries. His daughter attends a girls-only reading club with her grandmother. Hall takes his son to a similar reading club. They read the books and do the crafts and have a blast. "Not only is it educational," Hall says, "it is fun and something they look forward to."

Hall is also a self-confessed political junkie and looks forward to candidate nights at the Salt Lake City Public Library's Main branch.

Saving city money

Abram says libraries may help municipalities trying to save money. As services go online, libraries provide a place where the public can access those services without having to build any new infrastructure.

Ultimately, Abram says libraries are not as much about collections as they are about experiences. Problems come, however, when politicians and the public think about libraries as merely being places where there are old, dusty books that nobody wants to read. Instead, Abram says they should think about how libraries are spread throughout communities and how they have highly trained staff members who can engage with the needs of their particular communities.

"We become facilitators for what the community needs," says Julianne Hancock, Salt Lake City Public Library's manager of communications and library innovation. "Libraries can be used in so many ways."

Hancock says some of their most active users never come into the libraries but access library resources — such as e-books, music, movies and databases — online.

What Hall needs occasionally is leverage to motivate his two children. So he tells them if they do a such-and-such task or chore, they can pick a DVD from the library to watch as a family. The only downside is if they do what he says, this means he has to watch two hours of Scooby-Doo or Hannah Montana.

At least it saves him money, he says.

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