Exploring the relevance of libraries in today's changing world

Editor’s note: This is the conclusion to a series of articles exploring the relevance of libraries in the digital age.

Libraries remain portals to the world’s knowledge and library staffs make sure that knowledge continues to be recorded and saved for the future, even as the formats for storing the information are changing.
Only a tiny fraction of the world’s information is available for free on the Internet, but all of it is available through libraries.
Libraries offer basic computer classes for anyone wishing to get up to speed without paying for long-term, expensive classes.
“The library is a center for community learning,” said Mica Hunter, Public Services Librarian at the El Dorado’s Bradford Memorial Library.  “We specialize in being able to get you the resources that you need to learn about, what you want or need to learn.”
Libraries offer basic computer classes for anyone wishing to get up to speed without paying for long-term, expensive classes.
“While we can provide some assistance and training, we just don’t have the staffing level to allow for one-on-one intensive training, but we can help by offering the classes,” explained Lisa Daniels, Director at Augusta’s Public Library.
Daniels also shared that social media is taking more and more of staff time to keep current and updated.  That leaves less time to perform other duties.
Positive support that the majority of Butler County public libraries share are the local Friends of the Library.  These groups can literally make the difference between a budget increase and cut for their libraries.  Since the first American library, Friends groups have been formed by citizens using their collective powers to do everything from running a book sale to ensuring that the American library legacy remains viable.  
“We do have an awesome Friends of the Library group.  They support the library financially, they have bought the library padded folding chairs, roller shades for the new windows, mobile book organizers for the children’s room, an activity cube for the children’s room, a portable sign, supplies, money to purchase books, money for the summer reading program, and they pay for performers for the summer performers for the summer program,” continued Cina Shirley, Director of the Douglass Public Library.  “They donate money for the after school program and the Tween program, and they donated funds for new shelving and the new circulation desk.  All of these things they have done in just the four years that I have been here.  Obviously, without Friends of the Library, we would not have a lot of things.”
Libraries and Friends of the Library groups can make a difference, especially with infants and toddlers. Studies show conclusively that children who experience a book-rich environment prior to pre-school and kindergarten have a significantly greater chance of success in school and in life.
“The Friends of the Library in El Dorado have been consistent and faithful supporters of the library.  They hold a popular book sale twice a  year and dinner that is also well attended.  The Friends support our Summer Reading Program and purchase materials for the Outreach Department,” said Hunter.
The Friends of the Augusta Public Library have been a valuable resource since 1992, formed by Faye Teegarden, Laurel Becker, Dorothie Mahoney, and May Gruver.
“The group supports us by sponsoring activities for the children plus financial support for special services,” advised Daniels.  “They sponsor the Summer Reading Program, Snackin’ With Santa, Fancy Nancy Tea Party, book bags, DVDs and Christmas decorations, as well as decorating at Christmas time, and they have purchased furniture for the children’s department, along with computers.”
Survey shows...
Some interesting and perhaps, surprising research by the Pew Research Center shows that Millennials (those ages 18 to 35 at the time)  in America are more likely to have visited a public library in the past year than any other adult generation.
The analysis shows that 53 percent of Millennials say they used a library or bookmobile in the previous 12 months.  That compares with 45 percent of Gen Xers (born between 1960 and 1980), 43 percent of Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1955), and 36 percent of those in the Silent Generation (those in their 70s, 80s and beyond).
The studies also indicate that members of the youngest adult generation are also more likely than their elders to have used library websites.
Across all generations, use of public library mobile apps is less common than use of libraries and their websites.
Meeting needs
Many public libraries incorporate meeting space for library- and community- sponsored meetings or events. Meeting rooms also serve as staff or library patron training space.  Perhaps that is why libraries are more valued now for their spaces and the opportunities that they create for the community, such as support for education, access to recent technologies and help for local businesses and much more.
Augusta’s library director Lisa Daniels stated, “Our patrons want the library to be lots of things, a place where they can study and meet with friends and attend meetings - and much more.”  
As reported by the National Archives research, libraries reach a much broader range of age groups and social backgrounds compared to other types of cultural activities. Consequently, the library represents something different for each of us.  Still, there is one aspect everyone agrees on: that the library is a neutral and secure public space.
People feel protected knowing they are in a public institution where they can walk around and freely spend a few hours without being questioned.
Libraries have been around for 5,000 years. If they were not essential institutions, they would have faded away long ago.
How Can I Help the Library?
Make use of the library's resources and services
Become a volunteer - Check with one of the librarians about volunteering
Donate books and electronic media for the annual book sale
Purchase book bags and any items that help raise funds
 Join the Friends of the Library
Becoming a Friend is easy.  Membership dues   are different at each library, but all are affordable.  
Visit in El Dorado:  http://bradford.scklf.info/friends-of-the-library, or drop by the library at 611 S. Washington, 316-321-3363.
Visit in Augusta: http://augusta.scklf.info/friends-of-the-library/, the Friends meetings are held September through May  at 1 p.m. in the Community Room at the library, 1609 State.    Everyone is invited to attend!  Call 775-2681 for additional information.
To learn more about the Friends group in Douglass, visit: http://douglass.scklf.info/, contact the library at 319 S. Forrest, 316-746-2600.
Leon Public Library is located at 711 N. West Street.  There is a Little Free Library, a “take a book, return a book” place in front of the Leon Senior Center.
Rose Hill Public Library is located at 306 N. Rose Hill Road, 316-776-3013. http://rosehill.scklf.info/
Whitewater Memorial Library is at 118 E. Topeka, http://whitewater.scklf.info/
Potwin Public Library is located at 126 N. Randall, 620-752-3421, http://potwinks.com/library/
Towanda Public Library at 620 Highland, can be reached at: towandalibrary@gmail.com, 316-536-2464, http://towanda.scklf.info/
Andover Public Library is located at 1511 E. Central Ave., 316-558-3500, contact@andoverlibrary.org/, http://andoverlibrary.org.

Little Free Libraries
Butler County has a number of Little Free Libraries, a “take a book, return a book” locations.  In Leon, one is in front of the Leon Senior Center downtown.
In Augusta, one is located at Lakepoint Nursing, 901 Lakepoint Drive and at 803 W. Clark.
In El Dorado, 121 N. Emporia.
Whitewater has one located at 316 E. Topeka.
A Little Free Library  is located at 327 Oakwood Court in Andover.
To see a map of Butler County’s public libraries go to: www.google.com/maps/search/libraries+in+Butler+County,+KS/@37.738389,-97.5267592,9z