Myths of the Public Library

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The Norsemen of Michigan Living History Society provided outdoor and indoor programming at the Vicksburg District Library in April 2019.

By Adrianne M. Schinkai,
Head of Reference and Circulation Services, Vicksburg District Library

There are many myths and clichés about libraries that come up more often than most librarians would care to admit. Over the last decade, statements of “you can find everything on Google,” and “the library just houses books,” have become the standard in polite conversation.

But just how correct are these statements? According to librarians at the Vicksburg District Library, they are way off.

Library Director Eric Hansen has some strong feelings when it comes to these assumptions about the entity of the public library. What it comes down to, he believes, is service. “The value of coming to the library is that when a patron speaks with a librarian, the librarian has a goal of providing a tailor-made response that can help that patron the most. However, using Google means relying on a mechanized sorting system that might not provide the best possible answer for the patron’s particular problem.”

Hansen breaks it down further. When a patron receives millions of responses from a search engine, such as Google, the person may not exactly know how to sift through all that information to find the exact answer. Furthermore, if a patron does not understand how to use a computer, let alone a search engine, all that information can quickly turn into a big pile of nonsense. The assistance of the librarian becomes key, and with more data being generated each day, Hansen adds, “it is important to ask a professional to help you navigate that vast quantity of information.”

But “Google versus the library” is not the only myth that shadows the Vicksburg District Library.

Because of constant information and technology updates, the library has to keep up with trends. This busts the myth that “everything at the library is old and/or outdated.” Computers with internet access are available for use to the public with access to online catalogs and databases. The library does not just house old, dusty books. “We don’t want to stock materials that are too dull to check-out,” says Hansen. “We use best-seller lists and common sense to purchase hot new books, movies, and music. The library also provides access to the OverDrive system for ebooks, and we are developing our graphic novel sections.”

Overdrive, part of the Southwest Michigan Digital Library Cooperative, is a downloadable application used to access electronic material as part of Vicksburg’s collection. What this means for the patron is that it can be accessed at home with a wifi connection and patrons don’t have to visit the physical library to access its content.

Aside from materials, the library also provides space. “During our 2018-2019 fiscal year, the library provided 235 meetings of library programs. These include events for children, teens, and adults,” says Hansen proudly. “This means that the library provides a vibrant, safe, not-for-sale space where people can socialize and learn things. How many other places can people meet without having to purchase something?” That space is being utilized greatly for children during the summer as Summer Adventure has just kicked off for the 2019 year.

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