Borrowing a common pool of resources is the way of the library. From books, to CD’s, to computers and Internet usage, libraries offer services to their communities free of charge. These services are then funded by the government, and by extension tax revenue. Unfortunately, the funding libraries have received in recent years hasn’t always been enough. In the midst of economic crunch times, the library systems in each state and the services they offer are often seen as societal extras; they’re nice to have when we can, but not necessary. Unfortunately, tough times are exactly when libraries are most relevant, as community access to learning materials, the Internet, and more may be limited for more and more families due to financial burden.
In Columbus, Ohio, however, there’s one library system who isn’t taking the budget cuts lying down. In response to diminished funding, libraries in the area have taken to setting up their own gift shops, selling everything from school and learning supplies to holiday gifts. Much like gift shops at zoos, museums, and aquariums, the stores are not only designed to offer exciting items to younger members of the community, but are made to support extra projects and maintenance. These may be things that don’t make it into the official budget, and items a library might have to go without for years otherwise.
Just last year, for example, the Westerville public library received a custom delivery van along with new meeting room furniture and televisions – and those aren’t cheap wishes either! These shops are often run by popular “Friends of the library” groups, which exist all over the country. They’re volunteers and community members who want to do a little extra for the systems that service the areas in which they live. Friends of Libraries groups often become quite large and influential within their communities as well, and have been known to raise quite a lot of money.
These kinds of groups have become more and more prevalent as legitimate funding and library help organizations in recent years.
In addition to helping to fund the libraries, these organizations are also part of the reinvention of the library as a modern day hub of activity. In the past, libraries had a much more narrow definition – they were the place to go to check out books, and that was about it. Over the years, expanded programming helped to bring new community activities to local libraries. Now, with the rise of the internet and digital media, libraries have been changing again in order to keep up with the demands of their patrons.
Libraries are hoping to be, now more than ever, destinations for young and old community members. This means largely stepping outside of previous molds; these past couple holiday seasons, for example, this has meant that the library has added this gift shop functionality. It will be interesting to see, given the popularity of the holiday stores, if such things become a staple of the modern day library moving forward.