Libraries store thousands and thousands of stories.
So much so, in fact, that the story of the library itself can be dismissed.
“We’ve struggled for many years to tell our story about all the things that are happening here because there are so many services and collections,” said Julia Turpin, director of Johnson City Public Library.
Many believe that the library is a place to borrow books and movies or to print documents, but it is much more than that. The library has been highly adaptable and its services continue to evolve and change according to the needs of the community.
Many resources go beyond what people might expect.
Of course, most of us are familiar with “regular” library services, such as borrowing materials and providing access to computers and printers. Some are familiar with the library’s network resources and the range of events that facilitate the building.
But fewer know the extent of these resources and the extent of the library.
The library is “for everyone,” Turpine said. “From the grave to the grave, we are providing services to the people, and I think we are the only ones in that.”
The library organizes many initial literacy activities with the dual goal of developing children’s reading skills and providing guidance and support to children’s tutors as they try to continue to foster these skills at home. Turpin said the library works closely with local school systems to support and complement the learning that is already being done in the classroom.
A safe place for teenagers
The library is a safe place for teenagers to do their homework or hang out with friends. There are also a number of volunteer and community participation programs through the Youth Services Department.
In addition to computer and printing facilities, the library provides test preparation material and proctor exams. Adolescents who are willing to take ACT or SAT are able to learn and prepare better using these free materials. Adults who need to take the elective exam can do their studies and they can also study in the library.
Many of the services that the library offers to adults are forgotten or taken for granted.
The Adult Services Department works to address many of the needs of the area, the Community Dialogue team helps build the community, and adult Spanish classes help break down language barriers in the community.
The library has worked with other community members over the years to address public health and wellness. The Johnson City Public Library facilitates information sessions to manage stress, dental health, and blood pressure. He has also organized blood drives, vaccination clinics, family yoga classes and life skills classes.
“Supporting a library means that you are helping your community,” Turpine said. “All of this makes us a stronger community, and we want Johnson City to be the best it can be. Having a strong public library is just part of it.”
Perhaps the biggest service many people take for granted is free access to a wide range of educational and entertainment resources. Families with young children who are hungry for knowledge and reading can satisfy this hunger for free through the library.
Researchers interested in local history can take advantage of the Tennessee Room, which has an extensive collection of local history. Staying in the library and connecting to WiFi gives guests free access to Ancestry.com.
The library has digital resources through the Tennessee Electronic Library, which allows digital access to resources, whether or not you have a library card. There are also programs like Liby and Hoopla, which allow library customers to access a wide range of digital copies of books, movies, and TV shows.
Open public space
In addition to the many ways in which the library helps build the community, it is also a physical place where the community is promoted.
“Public libraries are important because they are one of the few truly free and open public spaces in our communities,” Turpine said. “(This) is a gathering place … not presenting itself with an agenda or selling something.”
The public library continues to work with other community agencies to provide a safe and secure environment where people can gather and grow. Public libraries serve as a safe haven for homeless residents and teens living in difficult or dangerous housing environments.
Public libraries remain the foundation of their communities despite the many changes that these communities experience. There is something for everyone, and even those who are not in favor of libraries today may be amazed at the variety of services they offer.
“I would really encourage people to come and visit,” Turpine said. “It’s a great way to understand what’s going on here. It’s not just about reporting new sales … it’s much more than that. “
More information on what the library does and the services it provides can be found on its website, jcpl.org.