JCPL Column: How libraries impact our community

In a digital world, libraries and their paper books can be easily overlooked. Your local public library is a vibrant part of your community because it is far more than books. Two years ago, I accepted the Library’s Marketing and Communications Manager position, and I now see daily all the things we do that help our community.

No-Cost Meeting Rooms: If you need a place for a baby shower, your HOA’s annual meeting or your quilting club, we can help. All four Branches and the administration building in downtown Franklin offer no-cost meeting rooms.

Informational and Entertainment Opportunities: From international relations to outdoor movies, JCPL offers a variety of programs. JCPL recently hosted a program on the Ukraine and Russia war presented by Franklin College professors. Our program gave perspective on the events and reminded people that even when news media drifts away from a topic it does not mean it is not important.

The Read to Me Jamboree, an early literacy festival, brought award-winning children’s author and illustrator Oge Mora to Johnson County. Fifty families received a copy of her latest book. Kids also met a police K-9 officer and saw a fire truck.

The following week, we hosted an outdoor showing of a family movie at Independence Park. The Historic Artcraft Theatre provided popcorn and our partner at the event, Johnson County Parks, kept the park open longer than normal so everyone could enjoy a beautiful evening outdoors.

Literacy: Our Adult Learning Center (ALC) helps people get their GED, improve their adult basic education skills and even learn English as a second language. For example, when Juan moved to Johnson County, he had a dream of opening a restaurant, but he didn’t speak English. The ALC and their tutors were available to help. Now Juan owns and operates two restaurants, one in Whiteland and one in Nineveh, providing food and opportunities to area residents.

Focus on Health: Healthy lifestyles come in many forms with many challenges. JCPL does things as simple and fun as Preschool Yoga Storytime. We help address serious issues as well. We recently installed Naloxboxes outside all our branches funded by a grant received by Upstream Prevention. Next up is a grant from the Johnson County Community Foundation that will allow us to install AEDs, or automated external defibrillators, in our buildings. Over the next 12 months, we will roll out community health initiatives and programs to improve the health of Johnson County residents.

Boost the Economy: Our services help small businesses and save people money. If you need to fax or scan a document, if you need a notary, if you want to take training on more than 18,000 topics, or just pick up the latest bestseller on how to improve your business, all you need is a library card. And when a patron borrows a book, instead of buying a book, it leaves money in their pocket to spend elsewhere in the community.

A recent American Library Association survey found that 71% of voters and parents hold librarians in high regard and have confidence in their libraries to make good decisions. Perhaps, if everyone knew how much libraries contribute to the community, that impressive number would even be higher.

Jody Veldkamp is Johnson County Public Library’s Marketing and Communications Manager. JCPL staff members share in writing this bi-monthly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected]