More than just books and computers, the modern library is a place where citizens engage, interact and discover. The library is truly a reflection of the community it serves, and a robust, diverse and bustling library is the sign of a healthy and invested community. For many, libraries are the gateway to the wider world, a source of entertainment and information, a place where connections to the community are formed.
In today’s digital age, a huge part of forming connections comes from the internet. Individuals are increasingly required to have internet access in order to apply for jobs. This has been a difficult transition for some, and our technology instruction and skilled staff have made employment possible for many of our residents. In addition to employment, individuals are also affected by the online demands of social services. Veterans Affairs, Social Security and the IRS, to name just a few, all have online components. Community members who lack internet access at home or the skills to navigate this online world count on us to meet these needs.
It may be surprising to some outside of library service, but it is not uncommon for us to meet new residents within the first week of their arrival. Every staff member has a story to tell of the excited young family, the retired couple or the expectant college students who said brightly, “We just moved a few days ago. We had to get our library cards!” We have even had visitors stop in to see the library who have not yet committed to moving to Flagstaff. Recently, a retired couple visited while traveling to cities trying to decide where to settle. They said a good library was on their list of requirements. While the anecdote is charming, the truth behind it is relevant: for many, a quality library equates with a quality lifestyle, and reflects the potential of a city to be a home.
The library plays a vital role in the tourism industry in Flagstaff. Across cultures and languages, a library is known to be a welcoming space with computers, local information and friendly staff. We see visitors from all over the world and from all 50 states. From printing out boarding passes to recommending a favorite local restaurant, the library acts as the “Face of Flagstaff” for tourists.
The library also continues to fill many traditional roles in the community and research will always be an important part of what we do. Our Arizona Collection contains many rare and out-of-print books related to our home state. Our subscription to the Foundation Directory Online provides access to grants for local non-profits. We have copies of the Arizona Daily Sun on microfilm dating back to 1952. Our archive is home to maps and historical documents that tell the story of Flagstaff.
Today’s library is limitless and isn’t just a building; the digital library has been a game changer. It allows access to a myriad of content and includes ebooks, downloadable audiobooks, magazines, streaming movies, language instruction and preparation for the GED or other occupational exams. The world has become a much smaller place in so many ways; digital content is one of the ways in which this is reflected.
It is exciting for us to see the library continue to flourish in the 21st century. Far from being a dusty, quiet spot for solemn reading, the library has evolved into a dynamic space where people engage with their community. The misconception that the library would somehow fade away has been proven wrong time and again. Recent statistics from the Pew Research Center show that “millennials in America are more likely to have visited a public library in the past year than any other adult generation.” Libraries have a long tradition of being at the forefront of innovation and leading their communities.
We are, and continue to be, an evolving space that reflects the ideals of diversity, education and community that make Flagstaff a great city. FBN
By Michele Brosseau, Claudine Taillac and Holland Christie
Michele Brosseau, Claudine Taillac and Holland Christie are librarians with the City of Flagstaff.