As published in The Islander on Feb. 6, 2018.
The narrative of the day so often centers on the ways that social media, politics and other forces drive people apart. The Islands have a fantastic opportunity to focus on the opposite in 2018: bringing our community together. The South Hero Library aims to accomplish that mission and more, when it moves into its new, soon-to-be-built space.
Through many months of conversations, direct requests, and results from a 2017 survey, the Library has gathered answers to important questions about how well it’s meeting current needs, and how this public resource and destination can improve, heading into the future.
By far the largest voiced concern has been the public Library’s restrictive hours during the school year, due to its location in the Folsom School building. The new Library will have an expanded schedule, making it more readily accessible for retirees, young children, homeschoolers, remote workers, and others who have expressed a need for more daytime hours. Also resolved will be the space limitations in the Folsom School that have made it challenging for both the school library and the public library to address differing needs for the K-8 student population and the Island community at large, in terms of books, resources, creative space and programming.
The new building will have a welcoming atmosphere that includes a sitting area with a fireplace, better lighting and big windows, computers, work tables, and a community room that can be accessed from a separate entrance even when the library is closed, which will better accommodate larger programs and events. And not least importantly, it will have plenty of space to grow its collection, from books to snowshoes and more!
What have we learned about how people are currently using the South Hero Library? Unsurprisingly, the most popular use is borrowing books, with 81% of survey respondents reporting that they borrow print books from the Library. Other top uses include attending adult programs and events, borrowing through Inter-Library Loan, reading magazines and periodicals, and using the computers and printer.
Perhaps more surprising: fewer survey respondents gave “the latest books and movies” a top rating on a scale of importance than they did “WIFI access” and “events and programs for children.” Though the survey represents just a sampling of community members, this is right in line with a growing national trend. Traditionally, libraries have had a primary purpose of providing books and resources to the public; however, the definition of “resources” has vastly expanded in this electronic age, and libraries are becoming more of a community center, offering programs and assistance to the community in new and unexpected ways.
To cite an example, the South Hero Library’s computers and printer are available to help people search for and apply to jobs. Also, the DVD collection allows easy access to entertainment without needing a streaming video or cable subscription. Museum discounts and State Park passes provide additional access to learning opportunities. Weekly Mah Jongg games, monthly book discussions, and frequent events for kids and adults put ongoing learning, fun and companionship within reach for all members of the community. It’s clear that the Island community also values the Library as a place nearby where they can go to spend time outside the house, and maybe bump into people they know.
As plans for the new building take shape, the Library will provide updates, accept donations, and continue to collect ideas and feedback from the community through https://soherolibrary.wordpress.com/. The goal of funding the new building through private donations and grants has been made achievable, in large, part by the community that the Library will serve. You can help bring it to the finish line! Please visit https://southherolibrary.org/ to donate financially, and consider joining the Friends of the Library group to get involved with current and future Library efforts.