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Rediscovering the Carnegie Library: Making the most of resources, looking to the future

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Food shelf

Patrons of the Carnegie Public Library in Trinidad may be unaware of the abundance of information available anytime at their fingertips with their library card, even beyond what’s available on the library’s shelves; a library within the library of sorts, says Trinidad Library Director Mallory Pillard.

As the world around us becomes more hyper-connected and people look to the Internet for more information they seek, libraries are being forced to evaluate how they are serving the communities they’re a part of. In a 2016 Shareable article, Head of the Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries in Washington, D.C. Amy Garmer even went so far as to say “the Carnegie Library-style layout—with a reference desk here, copy machine there, and so forth—is on its way out.”

This does not however mean libraries are no longer necessary in communities. In fact, another study in 2015 presented by Pew Research stated 90 percent of Americans say closing their library would have a significant impact on their town.

One way in which libraries remain relevant has to do with the quality of knowledge they provide, Pillard explains.

“Part of a librarian’s job is to help people navigate the world of information and misinformation and find trusted or reliable sources,” said Pillard. “We have several databases online through EBSCO which searches peer reviewed scholarly journals and magazine articles for students for their reports, or for anybody’s use to find trusted information.”

The resources available to patrons online are more extensive than some may have realized, Pillard explained, noting access to everything from auto repair manuals to in-depth genealogy databases to resources geared directly towards kids for homework help and research.

“All of this is available on all the computers here as well as from home with your library card,” said Pillard. “So if you go to our website, you’ll have access to a whole different library of resources wherever you are with your card.”

Other great resources for those who may not have the time to physically go to the library are the apps Overdrive and Cloud Library, which each have an extensive list of e-books and audio books as well as movies and videos available for online checkout with a library card.

“You can even download it on your device and take it with you on a road trip,” Pillard noted, “and it will automatically return itself in three weeks or so. We share those spaces on the apps with other libraries so we can pool our resources to purchase those books for our patrons. It’s like accessing a whole other library.”

For Pillard, she sees these free information services for the public a great alternative to having to pay monthly subscriptions.

“I always tell people there’s no reason why they should be spending money on a subscription because we could probably get it for you,” she said. “If we don’t have a title you have in mind on our shelves or online, we have ways to find it for you.”

There’s also easier access to quite a few old issues of the Chronicle-News, Pillard said.

“We’ve also been able to digitize a snippet of time around the Ludlow Massacre online,” she said, “so people can access it online instead of coming to the library and looking at the micro film and having to make an appointment for our history room. People can go to the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection on our website and find the Trinidad Chronicle News from 1914 to 1918.”

The public’s need or desires for information and the library’s role in retrieving that information are part of what librarians see as a big part of their role that hasn’t changed since the beginning.

“There are a lot of options to find what people need, whether it’s My Little Pony Season 1 or a specific book on whatever, librarians view all requests as needs,” said Pillard. “From an arts and entertainment need to an information need, or anything people are wanting to know more about, we do our best to meet those needs.”

Additionally, because of the nature of the role of libraries filling the needs of their patrons, libraries in many areas are beginning to see philanthropy as part of their responsibilities in this paradigm of evolving public services.

Pillard said they would be assembling care kits on the fourth Fridays of every month except December to hand out to those in need. She also noted the food shelf available for everyone in the community.

“It’s not uncommon for libraries to provide food programs of some kind for their patrons,” said Pillard. “Especially in rural areas like ours that’s kind of a food desert and it’s a little bit harder to come by.”

Pillard said she does her best to give people access to resources they may not otherwise have the means to attain, including access to legal advice.

“We provide legal assistance where people can schedule an appointment and come have a free video session with an attorney about whatever they may need assistance with,” she said.

Pillard has been the director for the library for almost six years now and says, though it comes with some difficulties at times, she loves what she does and is glad to be in Trinidad.

“I love it here,” Pillard said with a smile. “There’s a lot of joy and excitement, always meeting new people getting to know new people and spending time trying to get to know our patrons a little bit more every time they come in is fulfilling for me. It’s not a dusty old place anymore and that’s kudos to the team here that really values this community and values the gears that make the public library turn. We still have a long way to go and a lot to do but I’m happy with what we’ve been able to achieve so far.”

Trinidad’s public library searches out underutilized resources as facility expands relevancy in the 21st century

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