REGIONAL - An age-old social destination has been redefined. No more, are libraries places where patrons are told to “shush” by women sporting hair buns. Although the attire of some may compare, the mindset of those who enforce the rules have evolved with the times. Instead, the modern-day community centers embrace what patrons have to offer, by hosting a collection of programs and providing a vast selection of books, DVDs, newspapers and more.

Today, Marie Zaccone the director of the Carbondale Public Library, said libraries have evolved from being book holders to the holders of technology. Despite the changes and focus on the modern technological world, Zaccone doesn’t feel books will ever die.

Through the resources and programs at libraries, the Director of the Honesdale Public Library Tracy Schwarz said it’s all about “ongoing lifelong learning.” If people are qualified and there’s an interest, programs can be created and flourish, such was the case with comic-con in October where 400 people participated. With such programs, connections are created and people receive help if its needed, which Schwarz feels is part of her job. 

AVAILABLE RESOURCES

While books are still the “backbone of the library,” the Director of the Hawley Library Deborah Corcoran said the definition of books has expanded beyond what can be held in one’s hand; instead, there’s eBooks, audio books, DVDS and more. She figured patrons use books and DVDS 50 percent of the time, with eBooks, audio books, online and programs coming close behind, because people want to learn how to do things and meet others.

With “literacy magic” remaining as the library’s core, the Director of the Pike County Public Library Rose Chiocchi said books are still the basis of everything, but it’s about people having access to the information they seek, by using additional options to obtain what they’re looking for. Audio books for example, offer a different experience of reading a book through a narrator who will tell the story. While some narrators may just read the book, others will use different voices or there may be multiple narrators. In Pike County there are many commuters who use audio books, so Chiocchi said the library’s collection is “massive and widely circulated.”  

Once the door to a library is opened, Zaccone said a whole new world will be discovered, because so much more can be accessed through the library’s resources. Computers for one, may aid someone hoping to obtain their driver’s license, by enabling them to register online.

Years ago, Schwarz said it was about protecting the books and following the rules. In the modern-day public library however, what exists must reflect the community being served she feels, and so, the staff partakes in the programs happening in town if able, offering another chance for the staff to get to know people.  

LIBRARIES TODAY

By offering educational, cultural and fun experiences, Chiocchi said libraries then become community centers, because there’s something for everyone. As a social hub, Chiocchi believes it keeps the library “relevant” and in business, while also ensuring patrons learn what they need because Google may provide information, but it’s not necessarily accurate.

The major revolution of the library to include families, programs and such only came about in the 90s said Schwarz. At the Honesdale Library for instance, there is a culinary book club and those who like food and recipes are welcome to share their dishes.

Schwarz said the changes have happened because of the community and ideas they embrace, as well as realizing what people need. Almost daily, people seek help for their phones or computers, so Tech Tuesdays were created where appointments can be made with a tech tutor and questions can be answered. The reality Schwarz said, is that “digital literacy” is a problem in the area, which transcends to functioning in the world because of needing to know how to apply for a job online. 

With patrons and staff talking about the books and more, Zaccone said it has brought the library out of the dark ages and made the center a part of the community. But, one challenge every library faces, each director noted is financial because they are nonprofit and the cost of living continues to increase.

MANAGING FINANCIALLY

In Lackawanna County, Zaccone said the library is fortunate that there is a county tax, that authorizes a certain percentage of taxes for the library, but the business does rely on donations and the “generosity of people” and grants.

To maintain financially, a few years ago it was decided the Hawley Library would be closed on Mondays. Since then, Corcoran said the library’s hours have lessened even more because prices keep going up, but building maintenance hasn’t diminished; snow removal for the parking lot and sidewalks for instance, cost $5,000 last year.  

Corcoran said cutting hours of operation had to be done, because finances are needed across the board, leading her to learn masonry work so she could repair broken bricks on the sidewalk, so patrons don’t trip. Without a library tax, donations, fundraisers and the Wayne County commissioners support is essential. Most recently, the annual soup sale during Winterfest brought in $1,730 by patrons who sold their homemade soups.  

Schwarz said a portion of the library’s budget is based on the population served, with 51 percent from the state and the county commissioners, and 49 percent from money raised through private donors since there isn’t a library tax and no tourism money. The donors are “incredible,” but money is always needed because the building is a “monster money pit” and about $30,000 is needed every month to operate from paying staff to ensuring the elevator is safe or plumbing is set. Those who give, more often than not, she said don’t even use the library, it’s just that they believe in the library; those who do use the library, support however they can.

Chiocchi said funding was cut by 17 percent 10 years ago, and since then, the library has seen less than a 2 percent increase. But, while the library continues to maintain, they can’t grow. While not in business to make money, the goal is to “provide services” despite the limited funding. Chiocchi praised the community for its generosity, through donations that make up over 20 percent of the library’s budget. 

LIBRARY CARDS

Many who visit the library today, have done so, since they were a child and they continue to return with their family. Schwarz said others are tired of buying a book and reading it once or paying for cable and internet so they visit the library and use the Wi-Fi or DVDs.

For a while, Schwarz saw a patron at the computers daily, later she learned he was taking practice tests for his nursing degree. Seeing those success stories, is why Schwarz said she does her job.

Library cards, Corcoran said simply, offer a person the world because of the endless amount of resources that one can choose to read or watch, whether while at the library or at home.  

Every patron is free to use the library how they wish, and Schwarz said one man learned to speak German fluently, after learning 62 levels of German from a language program that offers 70 different languages. Or, if logged in at home and help with homework is needed, tutor.com can help with any subject. The library card’s power continues outside of the actual library, since all aspects, but Ancestry.com are available. Schwarz said, the library and the library card offer much, but in the end its “whatever people make of it.”

All ages use the library, some more often than others, but Chiocchi said not enough embrace what is available to them, because everyone should have a library card. It’s just that some don’t realize that there’s more to the library then books. The truth is, she feels, everyone can find something at their local library.

A library card is free to any resident of Pennsylvania and there is a cost for nonresidents. For more information about the Wayne County Public Library, that includes the Honesdale Library visit http://www.waynelibraries.org/; to learn more about the Carbondale Public Library visit http://lclshome.org/b/carbondale-public-library/ and to learn more about the Pike County Public Library in Milford visit http://www.pcpl.org/.