Beyond the Books

Libraries have been in the news lately, which is rarely good news. Grumpy, ill-informed politicians are angry about books filling people’s heads with ideas. Perhaps they might be less grumpy and more informed if they actually took the time to read the books. In order to circumvent a judge’s decision against the book ban declared by these grumpy politicians, they have decided to defund libraries, instead. Do these elected officials know libraries are way more important than a couple dozen books on their banned book list? If anyone were to defund our library, let me tell you what else would be impacted.

For the longest time, when I thought about libraries, I thought it was a place filled with books they would let you borrow and return after a couple of weeks…and that’s about all I knew for the longest time. To be honest, I rarely gave libraries much though, because I was probably too busy playing video games. It was not until I got more involved with the library that I started learning more about all the cool things libraries have to offer.

Yes, I could borrow books. I could also borrow audiobooks, DVDs, and CDs, all with no monthly subscription. Plus, there are digital books. I have no idea how many books our library has. I think it is somewhere between lots and a plethora. If our library does not have a book I want out of all those books, there is a chance they could help me borrow the book I want from another library. So, yes, the library has books and other media. Yes, there are reading challenges, book clubs, and story times (available in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language). There is even a writers guild if you have ever wanted to write your own books. Enough about books! What about the other cool things?

Without proper funding, our library would not be able to provide technological services to the community. For one, the library provides a free wireless hotspot to use with your own laptops, tablets, or smart phones. If you can’t afford such fancy tech, there is a computer lab available during library hours. Our family started using the library’s printing and copying services when we got tired of purchasing new ink cartridges. Earlier this week, I even needed their fax machine to send an important document to my wife who is out of town for work. Maybe your internet service and home office are fine. What else does the library have to offer?

Other news stories circulating earlier this year involved major corporations and their massive layoffs. Don’t get me started on how a company intends to perform better with fewer employees, but anyway… The library has services for the unemployed, too. They may not be able to provide a work placement service, but they do provide services to help people get back into the working world. The library holds the occasional resume workshop. Their website provides several links for job search resources and other unemployment assistance. They offer courses to learn computer skills. With the recent tax season, the library can’t file your taxes for you, but they can provide the necessary form(s). Maybe you need a document notarized. The library can help with that, too.

The other day, the librarian told me, “If you have ever wanted to try something, the library could probably help you do it…for free.” I know libraries can’t do everything, but I understand what she meant. There are no stoves or ovens for baking or cooking lessons, but they probably do have recipes you could try. You might not be able to skydive at the library, but you may be able to find a video about skydiving or look up skydiving businesses in their computer lab. They have classes to teach yoga…and game nights…and arts and crafts…and a Maker’s Lab…And, these are the things I can think of off the top of my head. There are still so many other things I am still discovering about our library.

Not all libraries are well funded. I am glad our community agreed to provide a portion of local sales taxes to support the Wells Branch Library. Every time we support the community, the community supports the library, who then gives back all these services and more to the community. Because the library has so much to offer, that is why it is also important for the Friends of the Library to help find ways to better connect the people in our community to the opportunities available to them. We especially need to connect to the underprivileged portions of the community who have no idea the benefits of the library. People like the clueless, younger me who only knew about book borrowing. Now, my head is not just filled with ideas, but with possibilities, thanks to my local library.

About Doug Schwartz

Not only is Doug an active member of the Wells Branch Friends of the Library group, he is also a local author of whimsical fiction. You can learn more about him at While he is not making up stuff, he makes up other stuff, like designing tabletop games or preparing delicious meals for his family. Introduce yourself to him at the next neighborhood event.

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