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Recently I had a discussion with a colleague that focused on how people perceive libraries. We both had experienced situations where the conversations kept describing libraries as if it were still the 1960s or 70s. This week, I saw a credit card commercial that depicted the stereotypical library from the past; everyone was reading or studying and nobody was talking or interacting with each other. In fact, the character playing the Librarian was an elderly, white female with her gray-haired tied up neatly in a bun, who shushed the actress. I rolled my eyes and shook my head and asked “Company A, really? Have you even stepped foot inside a library in 20 years”?

Through my conversations and observations, I came to realize that these folks may not be the only people who hold these stereotypes about libraries. Many people may be unaware that we now have 21st century libraries and that libraries are leading the changes in innovation, technology growth, and STEM learning. Through transformation and transcendence, many of today’s libraries are no longer the dark, quiet, stifling environments where you get shushed 10 times and are afraid to interact with your friends or peers. Today, libraries are more of a community hub.

For example, did you know that here at Keene Memorial Library, you can drop by with your family and friends and play a game of Monopoly, Risk, Scrabble, Chess, or Chutes and Ladders? You can do this right out in the main library area or swing over to the permanent Lego table and build extravagant buildings with our superhero Lego people? If nothing else, you and your crocheting or knitting friends can sit upstairs in our seating area and have a good chat.

Not only are we welcoming of families, groups, and comradery, we also have computers available for any of your tech needs, we rent Kindles to folks who wish to read eBooks, children can watch our new mini-DVD players called Playaway Views and check them out to take on any journey with the family.

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Besides activities in the main library, we also offer tons of programming for children, teens, and adults. We have after-school chess, Wednesday Teen Tech Time, Baby/Toddler time, lots of story times, and author visits. Just check out our calendars online anytime.

Going forward we will be adding more programs and activities, including more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs, makerspace activities, adult computer classes, and teen programs. We are currently working on developing a Teen Advisory Board to make sure teens have a voice in choosing materials and planning activities.

As you can see from the last four paragraphs, we do more than just provide books to people. Although literacy is a major focus, we are here to serve as the community hub and to provide education and other outlets! Stop by sometime and take a tour or go online and tour the electronic resources. You may be pleasantly surprised how much we have changed.

Tina Walker is Director of Keene Memorial Library in Fremont.

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