"Any strong 21st century library needs to have a strong connection to the community, needs to understand what the community needs are so they can position themselves in a place to-- to fill those needs,” said Steven Bachman, executive director of Four County Library System. “The modern 21st century library is more than a building."
Modern libraries provide more than just books to the community. Many have tax forms available to the public, microfilms to look up articles and pictures from the past and also serve as a general meeting place.
"We need to be a community meeting place, gathering place, that offers a whole lot of different things to them outside of just books,” said Vestal Public Library Director Carol Boyce.
The shelves may be lined with books, but libraries also draw people in with technology.
According to the American Library Association, 97.5 percent of the nation’s libraries offer free internet service with which people can do research or look for a job online.
"Go over and look at the computers. They aren't teenagers, these are elderly people, but a lot of them can't afford a computer,” said Gordon Allen, vice president of the Vestal Public Library Board of Trustees.
Although society is becoming increasingly paperless, libraries also make sure children are exposed to books from an early age.
“It's just a completely different sensation than using a tablet or a computer. It's just a different level of learning,” said Kelsey Matoushek, the Vestal Public Library’s youth services librarian.
A study of test scores in 42 nations indicate having more books in the home can have a profound impact on academic achievement-- books which can be checked out for free at the library.
"Once they're into it as a child-- which is the future of the library-- they're not going to leave it,” Boyce said. “They'll keep coming back. They are the future."
Despite recent funding decreases for the Vestal Public Library, Allen believes the future of the library is positive,
"We think it's vibrant and the community center here for meeting, introducing people face to face, bring in speakers,” Allen said. “I think that we're surviving."
A Pew Research study show 69 percent of Americans feel libraries improve the quality of life in communities. About half of Americans also believe libraries provide services people cannot receive elsewhere.
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