The ImaginOn children's library and theater has become a magnet drawing people to downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, with strong programs and special events.
The New York Times recently reported a major upswing in library patronage, attributed to the country's economic downturn. As discretionary incomes take a hit and families have less money to buy piles of new books and videos, people are rediscovering libraries as important gathering places.
In addition to offering free access to books and videos of all sorts, modern libraries are a central place to access the internet. Job searchers and researchers alike have been crowding the computer stations.
Libraries offer other opportunities as well. Often, as is the case in Bryant Park in New York City, a local library will turn itself "inside out," offering outdoor spaces for people to read quietly and creating a seamless connection to a public park. Other libraries partner with local organizations to offer free programming - classes, seminars, performances - to further create a public place where people are encouraged to gather, mingle, interact and learn.
Our country's current economic situation has created a ripe opportunity for the local library. In a time when people are staying close to home, saving money and looking to connect with one another, libraries have the power to provide the breadth of services and resources the public needs, acting as important cornerstones of the communities they serve.