A library is so much more than books

Want to download music? Maybe take a book or movie home for a few days? Need some extra math tutoring? How about a few minutes with a staffer who can help you set up an e-mail account, program your Kindle and iPad, or find a kernel of information in the vast sea of the internet? Need to brush up on your German but don’t want to shell out several hundred dollars for that Rosetta Stone program? Or, maybe you just want a quiet place to curl up and read the latest issue of Alaska Magazine or Time.

You can do any of these things, for free, at your local library, and if a library is any reflection of the community that builds it, central Kenai Peninsula residents look good.

The price of a bad library is an ignorant community, but the reward of a good library is education, personal enrichment and a thriving democracy.

The recent renovation and grand opening of the Joyce K. Carver Soldotna Public Library added another multimedia hub, community meeting place and knowledge repository to the Kenai Peninsula.

It’s comforting to know that our local libraries have met the challenge of adapting to the digital world with a continued commitment to bring knowledge, free of charge, to anyone who applies for a library card.

Now, you can walk into the Kenai library and meet someone on the other end of the computer who will help you with your taxes; or, bring your laptop and stretch out by the fire at the Soldotna library.

High school and college students plugging their way through research papers can work through the library’s vast array of database subscriptions next to fourth graders who can browse tutor.com for one-on-one help with basic math, alongside community members who need free legal aid or a place to build a resume.

As they have always been, the local libraries are the great equalizers in the community. First, they brought books and community gathering space and knowledge to those who couldn’t afford to access those things on their own. Now, libraries offer consistent access to a digital world for people from all walks of life who don’t have computers and mobile devices and find themselves struggling to stay relevant.

Still, local libraries are finding themselves stretching budgets to accommodate the dazzling array of mediums available to convey the print message.

“If I buy a title, I’m buying the book, the audiobook, the DVD or the e-book and the e-audio,” said Mary Jo Joiner, Library Director at Kenai’s library. “We’re talking about buying the same title four, maybe five different ways.”

If you haven’t been in one lately, check it out. Even the most curmudgeonly of non-readers are bound to find something useful.

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