"Lives Change @ Your Library" is the theme for this year's National Library Week, which is April 13-19. If it has been a while since you have visited the library, come in and ask for a tour. You will be amazed by the number of services the library offers ... and for free.
Gone are the days of tight-bun librarians clad in monochromatic suits who sit behind a wall of books, shushing folks who pass by. Today's librarians engage with customers to help them to find the resources that best meet their needs. It's great to use a computer to find information about different topics on the Web, but it's even cooler to engage with others who can share in the quest for knowledge.
Topics such as hypertension can be found online, but only in a library can one engage with a librarian to find exercise DVDs, recipe books, audio books, crafting clubs and local agency referrals to bridge the knowledge gap and improve the life of the customer.
Not worried about health topics, but want to get a job or start up a business? Stop by the library. There are resume templates available, interview skill DVDs, a resume review service provided through BrainFuse, sample business plans and referral services to local agencies that mentor potential and new entrepreneurs.
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Got an idea for a new product? Learn how to make a 3-D model at the library. Want to learn how to use the computer to send a friend an email or to create a spreadsheet? The library has classes for these areas and more. Again, all for free.
Have young children at home? Here is the best-kept secret among parents. The library has WeeRead programs and Storytime programs. During the fall and winter, the library system has been promoting the S.C. State Library's Every Child Ready to Read Program, designed to help parents and caregivers use library resources to teach children how to be ready for reading.
Some branches may offer WeeRead programs during the summer with the popular Summer Reading Program, which usually attracts from 350 to 1,600 participants at each library location. Parents who have participated in this program have said their kids knew their alphabet letters, letter sounds, colors and numbers before going to preschool or kindergarten -- some even reported their kids were reading Easy Reader books at age 4. This is a free program that amazes caregivers with the skills the children can achieve.
Teens are not forgotten. They are at the heart of the library, because they can serve as library volunteers starting at age 12. The library has several Teen Advisory Boards that guide the library on the needs and changes that teen are facing. They are the driving force behind the innovation that's happening in the libraries, with MakerSpaces like the CreationStation at the St. Helena Island library and soon at the Bluffton library, Teen Film Festival and lock-in.
One of the positions on the Teen Advisory Board -- an advocate -- allows teens to view library policies and procedures from a teen's perspective and to provide feedback using positive communication skills.
Libraries today are changing lives, and if it has been a while since your life has been touched, stop by. We would love to see you, and we will give you a fresh look on the future that includes you.
For more information on library programs, go to www.beaufortcountylibrary.org or visit your nearest library in Beaufort, Bluffton, Hilton Head Island, Lobeco or St. Helena Island.
Maria Benac is branch manager at the St. Helena Island library.