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Editorial: Event shows how library remains fun, relevant

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With an ever-increasing number of users downloading books, music and movies, the role of libraries is changing.

Instead of the hush-hush world of Marian the Librarian, today’s libraries are becoming bustling, even at times noisy, centers of activity. Clearly, these are not your grandfather’s libraries.

But as the activities change, the mission remains the same. Libraries remain information centers. They just are adapting in how they deliver that information.

For example, staff in Johnson County Public Library branches are being trained in handling requests for social services or emergency help. If someone comes into the library wanting food, staff can direct them to a nearby food pantry. If they need financial help, they will be told about available local programs and how to apply.

On Saturday in Greenwood, library visitors will be able to learn how to ice a cake, to make a proper cup of tea, to recycle just about anything, to give a memorable speech, or about wine, belly dancing and tai chi. The Greenwood Public Library will become a clearinghouse for all sorts of information when it hosts its How-To Fair. The event brings together more than 30 presenters from around central Indiana to give instruction on a wide range of topics.

“We’re just hoping to present a whole bunch of fun, new things to learn,” said Aubrey Watson, reference librarian at the library. “We have a few that are library-related, but mostly it’s a community event to come together with others who can share things they can do.”

The idea for the How-To Fair evolved after library officials heard of a similar program at libraries on the East Coast. Since the library already is a place for learning in the community, why not expand education efforts and include topics people might not be able to find in a book, Watson said.

“Over and over, we kept saying, ‘It would be cool if we could learn to do this. I had no idea how to do this thing,’” Watson said. “Some of it was community members who we knew of, who had this skill we thought would be useful.”

The result is a mix of tangible skills and abstract concepts that people can check out — to use a common library term.

This is at the heart of the new focus for community libraries. There always will be books, just not in traditional printed form. But the library of today and tomorrow will deliver information in a wide variety of ways.

Libraries are a valuable community asset. We commend our local libraries on their flexibility and eagerness to meet the needs of today’s patrons.

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