Without books, what is a library? According to Port Jefferson Library board member Laura Hill Timpanaro, it’s a lot of things and it seems that people agree with her.
“If you look at the history of libraries in America what you find is that they were not always the book repositories we see today,” she told Patch in a recent Q&A. “In fact, the books were set up around the periphery for use by those working collaboratively in open meeting spaces.”
RELATED: Read the full Q&A with Timpanaro on Patch by clicking here.
Aside from books, modern libraries offer music, movies and most have a full slate of programs from history lessons to quilting bees. One of the most popular seems to be the children’s programs.
“The children's programs are a great (free!) resource for parents,” said Lisa Dooley Rufle when we asked people to comment about the subject on our Facebook page.
Janice Haunss agreed saying that she uses the children’s' programs at her library too.
“We use the library all the time,” said April Campbell Quiggle. “When my daughter was a toddler we took advantage of the programs the children's department ran.”
Susan Guerin said she likes the toddler programs.
Danielle Gleason who runs Port Jefferson Macaroni Kid says she likes the museum passes along with the children’s programs.
Many said that as the kids grow they evolve their usage of the library, and the technology offered by the library has evolved as well. Books for kids graduate into e-books and audio books.
“I also use the library from home, e-books and great databases, like Consumer Reports,” said Guerin.
Allan Varela said that his family doesn’t use the programs as much because of time constraints but in addition to books they take advantage of other options.
“The family takes out books, music and DVDs,” he said. “We are, however, using a new iPad to download books and watch movies…”
Quiggle said she takes out audio books for her husband for his commute. Kathy Devlin-Huber said she does the same for herself.
“My commute is too long not to have the company,” Devlin-Huber said.
Of course, books are what everyone thinks about when they go to the library.
Prerona Mukherjee said that she thinks the Port Jefferson Library has “a very rich collection of books to borrow and a lovely place to sit and read.”
Using the Suffolk County Library web she says she also borrows books from other libraries.
Instead of destroying libraries, modern technology is making them ever more important, according to Timpanaro.
“Libraries are creating collaborative spaces utilizing science and technology, comfortable browsing parlors, and open and beautiful program and meeting spaces for small and large groups,” she said.
She pointed out some examples from all over the world. In one case a librarian in North Carolina set up three-dimensional printers for her constituents to make usable replacement parts for farm equipment.
“A library in Europe created a prejudice library in which you could freely ask questions of people of different race and lifestyle to overcome prejudice,” she said. And at Brooklyn Public Library huge crowds turned out to see local book illustrators during a month of diversified programming.
“The library of today is a free community space in a world where community and free has lost its place,” Timpanaro said.
“You can find and request them online and they are brought to my local library,” said Mukherjee. “I read a lot and have rarely not found a book I wanted.”
For some, like Ann Moran-Smith, that love of the library was ingrained in childhood.
“’You mean I can read all of these books for FREE?’ I asked my parents,” said Moran-Smith. “And today with trips, discount train fares, downloading e-books and using other library resources from home ... what a gift a library is!”