By Joe Steck
I remember the days of going to the Carnegie Library, sitting in a chair and letting my mind drift away to distant countries and make believe places that the authors took me. The library was a treat for me as a youth. It was an extension of school, but a fun extension. It was an inexpensive vacation that my family could afford since all you had to do was present your orange library card and you could be taken anywhere that the author wanted you to go.
Back in those days, the library was full of books and vinyl records. It was before the era of computers, compact discs and countless movies on demand. We had limits, but in those days, you did not realize what you were missing out on. It was a simple time, but one that was appreciated by all.
Today’s modern library has so many advantages over what once was. With the era of computers, you are able access books from the comfort of your own home. There are countless resources that many may not realize exist … I know I did not understand everything that is offered until I sat down with Tim Hayes, the director for the Blue Earth County Library system.
I was worried about the fiscal health of the library since the city of Mankato dropped out of funding the library.
“The library is doing well” said Hayes “with a slight change in how we are funded, it will now be easier to budget and for future planning because we will not have to worry about LGA and will have a single funding source.”
The library will now be funded through the county, instead of in the past where funding came from the city of Mankato and the county. “The city should decrease its expense to the taxpayer and the county should increase its expense to the taxpayer” said Tim “In theory it should be a wash.”
With that question answered I wanted to jump into what is available in the library system, but Mr. Hayes thought it best that I understand the basics of what we have here, sort of a Library 101.
In the state of Minnesota there are 12 regional library systems. The Blue Earth County library is serviced by the Traverse des Sioux Library system (One of the 12). “They give us a lot of support from a shared integrated library system to coordination of programs and events” said Hayes “They are a great asset in making things work well state wide.”
The Blue Earth County library serves the entire county. The cities of Mankato, Mapleton and Lake Crystal have physical buildings while other communities can access books through the utilization of US Mail, online services and mini-library sites located in their communities. The recent change from the bookmobile made sense economically and was supported through surveys and community input.
“The goal is to allow everyone the opportunity to access our system” said Tim “With the costs associated with a bookmobile this made a lot of sense.”
The library system allows anyone to access any book not only in the state, but nationally. “The internet changed the world” said Hayes “We are able to communicate with other systems and get the people what they want.”
With a grasp of library 101 I advanced into learning what is available in our library system. The list of events, coordination and resources is astounding.
There are countless books, audio books, compact discs, tapes and movies. “With today’s active society you people want to multi-task” said Tim “They want to listen to a book while running or lifting weights”
The library in Mankato has Internet and Wi-Fi which Tim said it is a much needed luxury. “People without a job or families that cannot afford the Internet or computer come here and use these features all of the time.” He said “We also have Westlaw, ancestry.com, ELM (electronic data base of Minnesota) and microfilm for the Free Press starting from their first printing.”
The library is not just about books and media items. The library is also about community and helping others learn.
“Locally we coordinate with the schools to find out what books are on the preferred reading list” said Hayes “We want to make sure there are enough copies so kids can get their work completed.”
The library also has a reading program where this last summer, serviced over 3,200 children helping to instill lifelong reading skills. This program has been growing and improving over the years.
“We also try and work with the community getting best seller books in for the pleasure reader and non-fiction books in for the do it yourselfers” he said “There are a lot of people that want to fix their own cars or plan a trip and we can help them.”
There are also adult programs and learning programs to help the community. An example is the upcoming class on how to download library ebooks. Helping people learn and stay entertained through reading is always in the forefront.
The library also is equipped with an auditorium and a conference room which are open to the public (see the library site for fees).
The library is due for some upgrades with the bathrooms and a possible main entrance change in the near future. They are also reviewing kids and adult programs and possible equipment changes to reflect with the ever changing times.
The library is a wonderful asset to our community and one in which everyone can find something to enjoy. Thank you Tim for sharing enlightening me about our library.
Click on the link below to learn more about the library and how they can help you.