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Editorial: Help chart future of local public libraries

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A generation ago, public library patrons searched for books using the card catalog.

They borrowed music on cassette tapes and movies in VHS format. (Sorry, Beta owners, libraries couldn’t afford to buy movies in both formats.)

Children attended story times, and their parents and other adults attended lectures, workshops and other special programs.

Library users today search for materials using an online database. They can download e-books without even visiting the library, and in many areas can download music and videos, too.

But children still attend story time, and adults still listen to lectures and attend workshops.

So while technology changes, certain aspects of library life remain largely unchanged. And mapping a route forward that accommodates modern tastes and practices and more traditional activities is what the Johnson County Public Library District is seeking to do as it draws up its strategic plan.

During the next five years, the district wants to get more children reading and using the library, become a social hub for the community, provide more digital services to residents and establish a library foundation.

Walk into the library in the next five years and you might find books about gardening or the Civil War or children’s books about princesses displayed together in a section like you might find in a bookstore instead of arranged by Dewey decimal numbers. Or when people come in who are in need of some type of service, whether it’s applying for unemployment or finding food aid, staff will connect them with local agencies such as the Interchurch Food Pantry or WorkOne.

However, library leaders can’t develop an effective long-range plan in a vacuum. They need to know what people really want in the way of materials, services and programs. And that’s where you, the public, come in.

By offering your ideas and opinions, the library’s plan can be adjusted. Are there aspects you like and don’t want to see change or disappear? Are there things the library could do that it isn’t?

You can offer your ideas when the library board meets at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Franklin branch, 401 State St., or you drop off comment cards at any of the four branches or email comments to nextchapter@jcplin.org.

The library is a public asset; but to be most effective, it needs to know what you want from it. So take the time to speak up.

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