This is a question I’ve heard many times while working at Rapid City Public Library — sometimes from the simply inquisitive or from job seekers, and infrequently from people surprised that libraries still exist.
As a librarian, it can be a difficult question to hear. During my years of working in a library I have repeatedly seen a library’s need and value to the community. However, I realize there are myths and misunderstandings surrounding libraries, and I hope to dispel some of them below.
First, a disclaimer: I don’t speak for all libraries or librarians. What you’re about to read is based on my library experience.
1. Librarians don’t read books at work. For all the job seekers who have ever told me they love reading, please understand that while that’s great, it’s not what you will do as a librarian. To be clear, you must be able to read and you’ll spend a lot of time reading manuals, reports, invoices, book reviews and articles about libraries, but not your favorite novel.
2. Yes, libraries have books, and so much more than books. Today's library offers: audiobooks, concerts, computer skills training, 3D printers, Wi-Fi, print and digital magazines and newspapers, research databases, story times, robots, eBooks, historical photos, streaming music and movies, board games, a laser engraver, art supplies, computers, test proctoring, a vinyl cutter, and the occasional visit from an alpaca. We also have skilled staff to help find that book with a blue cover about a detective that may or may not have had a title starting with the letter “S.”
3. More than anywhere else I can think of, libraries are here to help with a huge variety of questions. No question is silly, and if we can’t help directly, we can point you to someone who can.
4. I have never “shushed” someone. Libraries are active, and at times noisy, places. We have concerts here. We have kids dancing during story time. We also have quieter areas so you can study.
5. Libraries provide access to resources, information and entertainment in support of lifelong learning for everyone. If you can’t afford the internet, to buy a book, see a movie, or even read about today’s news, we’re here for you. There’s also an environmental value to sharing these resources even if you can buy them.
6. Libraries are unique community hubs. The diversity of people, information and interactions that you’ll find here is immense. All are welcome so long as all are welcoming to others.
7. We’re a learning institution. Not only do we support education, we’re also constantly looking for ways to learn from you. What do you need from your library? Let us know.
8. We aren’t the guardians of books, but are facilitators of knowledge vital to our society. As a result, we are constantly renewing the library's collections with carefully selected and updated information.
If you haven't visited the Rapid City Library for a while, stop in and find out what the library can offer for you.