Libraries store thousands and thousands of stories.
In fact, so much so that the library’s own history can be ignored.
“For many years, we have struggled to tell our own 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 the Johnson City Public Library.
Many may think of the library only as a place to borrow books and movies or to print documents, but it is much more than that. The library is highly adaptable and its services continue to evolve and change according to the needs of the community.
Many resources go beyond what people can expect.
Of course, most of us are familiar with “typical” library services such as borrowing materials and offering access to a computer and printer. Some are aware of the library’s online resources and the range of events that the building facilitates.
But they know less about these resources and how active the library is.
The library is for everyone, Turpin said. “From birth to the grave, we provide services to people – and I think we are unique in that.”
The library hosts many early literacy activities that have the dual purpose of cultivating children’s reading skills and offering guidance and support to children’s guardians as they try to continue to promote these skills at home. Turpin said the library is working closely with local school systems to support and complement the learning that is already being done in the classroom.
A safe place for teenagers
The library serves as a safe place for teenagers to do their homework or meet friends and go out. There are also many volunteer and community participation programs through the Teen Services Department.
In addition to computer and printing facilities, the library offers materials for the preparation of tests and proctor exams. Teenagers who are ready to take ACT or SAT can learn and be better prepared using these free materials. Adults who have to take a voter exam can also study and have their exam in the library.
Many of the services that 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 Talk Group helps build the community, and Spanish Adult Language Classes help remove 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. It also hosts blood disks, vaccination clinics, family yoga classes and life skills lessons.
“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 strong public library is only part of that. “
Perhaps the greatest service that many take for granted is free access to many resources for both education and entertainment. Families with young children who are hungry for knowledge and reading can satisfy this hunger for free through the library.
Researchers interested in local history can make use of the Tennessee Room, which has a wide collection of local history. Just being in the library and connected to its WiFi gives guests free access to Ancestry.com.
The library even has digital resources through the Tennessee Electronic Library, which allows digital access to resources, whether or not you have a library card. There are also programs such as Liby and Hoopla that allow library visitors to access multiple digital copies of books, movies, and TV shows.
Open public space
In addition to the many ways in which the library helps build community, it is also a physical place where community is encouraged.
“Public libraries are important because they are one of the few remaining truly free and open public spaces that exist in our communities,” Turpin said. “It’s a gathering place … that doesn’t come up with an agenda or sell something.”
The Public Library continues to partner with other agencies in the community to offer a safe and non-threatening environment where people can come together and grow. Public libraries function as safe havens for homeless neighbors and teenagers living in difficult or dangerous home conditions.
Public libraries continue to be the cornerstones of their communities, despite the many changes that these communities are experiencing. There is something for everyone and even those who are not currently fans of the library may be surprised by the variety of services they offer.
“I would really encourage people to come and visit,” Turpin said. “Because it’s a great way to fully understand how much is going on here. It’s not just about checking out the new bestseller … there’s more to it than that. “
More information about what the library does and the services it provides can be found on its website jcpl.org.