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Libraries serve as the heart of communities

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By Jarrett Boyd

Though almost nine months retired as director of the public library, I continue to be a citizen advocate for libraries throughout the state.  I recently received a copy of an article that appeared in “Planning Commission Journal”, Summer 2009. The cover story for this issue was entitled “Libraries, At the Heart of Our Communities” and the editor of this publication goes on for seven pages to extol  the importance of libraries to vibrant, healthy communities.

To summarize, author Wayne Senville, after traveling throughout the U.S.  says, “There’s been a dramatic change in the mission of a growing number of libraries across the country. No longer just static repositories of books and reference materials, libraries are increasingly at the heart of our communities, providing a broad range of services and activities. They are also becoming important ‘economic engines’ of downtowns and neighborhood districts.”

I don’t like to just quote the article verbatim, but what he says is so relevant to the mission of our own local library. Where else in your community can people go to hear interesting speakers; where comprehensive databases are available free of charge; where you can go to get help applying for a job; where you can stop by and take home a book, CD, or DVD for free? It’s also a place that’s ‘owned’ by everyone in the community and can be counted on day after day to draw people downtown.

When we began planning our new library around 2001, there was no question but that the facility would remain on the square. The Library Foundation had purchased the adjacent property in the 1990s with an eye to future growth. Though some thought the library should be located nearer the Walmart or the interstate — and we could have had more parking out there — the prevailing and prevalent opinion was that the community would be better served by the library remaining a part of the downtown of the county seat.  Each day more than 200 users enter the doors of the Carroll County Public Library.  I know that some businesses get ‘spillover.’   Certainly the Wednesday Farmers Market does.  Imagine an antique store (mall), a small market, an ice cream shop, a coffee shop/bakery, a business specializing in pet supplies around the square, down Main, or up on Highland to supplement the businesses we already have. Our lovely river town at the confluence of the two rivers could be even more of a place where folks would start at the library, then stroll and shop throughout the town.

During the summer, the library staff has planned activities to coordinate with the wonderful First Friday evenings. This week, it’s time for the annual “Hot Wheels Drag Race.”  The library has held this race for about four years now, and now has added a special adult division. So it truly is open to all ages and participants as young as two and three bring hot wheels to the event. Last year nearly 100 came to race. Every ‘driver’ receives a dash plaque with trophies going to the winners. Call the library for times, etc.

I mentioned last month that I would like to have folks interested in writing and sharing their work join together. We are going to start in October and meet each week for two hours for a six week period. If it goes well, of course, we can start up again after the first of the year. We will do some fiction as well as nonfiction writing. There’s no grading or right or wrong, just an opportunity to express yourself—all ages welcome. Call the library at 732-7020 to register for the group.

Jarrett Boyd is a resident of Carrollton, Ky., who retired earlier this year as director of Carroll County Public Library.