Libraries contain thousands and thousands of stories.
So many, in fact, that the very history of the library can be overlooked.
“We have struggled for many years to tell our story about all the things that are happening here because there is such a huge variety of services and collections,” said Julia Turpin, director of Johnson City Public Library.
Many might think of the library solely as a place to borrow books and films or to print documents, but it is much more than that. The library has been highly adaptive 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 “typical” library services such as lending materials and providing access to computers and printers. Some are familiar with the library’s online resources and the range of events the building facilitates.
But the less they know the extent of these resources and how much a resource the library is.
The library “is for everyone,” Turpin said. “From birth to grave, we are providing services to people and I think we are unique in that too.”
The library hosts many early literacy activities that serve the dual purpose of cultivating reading skills in children and offering guidance and support to children’s guardians as they try to continue encouraging such skills at home. Turpin said the library works closely with local school systems to support and complement learning already done in the classroom.
A safe place for teenagers
The library serves as a safe place for teens to do their homework or meet with friends and relax. There are also numerous volunteer and community involvement programs through the Teen Services Department.
In addition to the computer and printing facilities, the library offers test preparation materials and supervisor exams. Teens who are ready to take the ACT or SAT can study and be better prepared using these free materials. Adults who have to take the grade exam can study and be followed by the exam even in the library.
Many of the services the library offers to adults are often forgotten or taken for granted.
The Adult Services department works to meet a wide range of needs in the area, the Community Conversation group helps build community, and Spanish classes for adults help break down language barriers in the community.
The library has worked with other community partners over the years to address public health and well-being. The Johnson City Public Library facilitates information sessions on stress management, dental health and blood pressure management. It has also hosted blood collections, vaccination clinics, family yoga classes, and life skills classes.
“Supporting a library means supporting your community,” Turpin said. “All of this makes us a stronger community and we want Johnson City to be the best it can be. Having a solid public library is only part of this ”.
Perhaps the most important service many people take for granted is free access to a wealth of resources for both education and entertainment. Families who have young children who are hungry for knowledge and reading can satiate this hunger for free through the library.
Researchers interested in local history can take advantage of the Tennessee Room, which features a large collection of local history. Simply being in the library and connected to its WiFi gives guests free access to Ancestry.com.
The library also has digital assets through the Tennessee Electronic Library which allows digital access to the assets regardless of whether you have a library card. There are also programs like Liby and Hoopla that allow library users to have access to numerous digital copies of books, films and television shows.
An open public space
In addition to these many ways the library helps build a community, it is also a physical place where the community is encouraged.
“Public libraries are important because they are one of the few truly free and open public spaces that exist in our communities,” Turpin said. “(It’s) a gathering space … that doesn’t come with an agenda or sell anything.”
The public library continues to partner with other community agencies to provide a safe, non-threatening environment where people can come together and grow. Public libraries serve as a safe haven for homeless neighbors and teenagers living in difficult or unsafe home environments.
Public libraries continue to be cornerstones of their communities despite the many changes these communities experience. There is something for everyone and even those who are not currently library advocates might be surprised at the variety of services they offer.
“I would really encourage people to come and see us,” Turpin said. “Because it’s a great way to fully understand what’s going on here. It’s not just about taking a look at the new best seller … there’s so much more.
More information on what the library is doing and the services it is providing can be found on its website, jcpl.org.