Libraries: Evolving with the Times and Still Full of Treasure

Like many things in Georgetown, our Library is an award-winning organization and it has so much more to offer than books on shelves, which—to begin with—is very powerful. Thanks to Director Eric Lashley and Friends Of the Library (FOL) volunteers, the Georgetown Library is a place of myriad educational and community-related services, some of which don’t even require that you go there… and in some cases, the books will come to you. 

RELEVANCY IN THE INTERNET AGE

Our modern library allows you to reserve a book online and it will be waiting for you when you arrive. Or you can check out an audio or digital book and have it sent to your device temporarily. If you do decide to visit in person, before you go in (or leave), you may want to stop for coffee and sandwiches at the Red Poppy Café. The café is adjacent to and inside the library interior, so you can relax with a latté and read your new book right away. 

Inside, things get serious. As the world becomes more and more virtual, Eric has been looking around and re-defining what the mission of a local library could be. In addition to providing knowledge and entertainment, he found ways to solve problems for people with particular needs. 

When Eric noticed there were homeless individuals spending time in the library, safe from the elements, he secured a grant to hire a part-time social worker to provide case management assistance, and also installed lockers for them to store their precious personal items securely. 

Eric has made it his habit to look at what the big city libraries are doing and figure a way he can replicate those programs. Our library is now a Family Place; a safe and welcoming environment to help families nurture their children’s development and early learning. There is a specially designed space for families with young children to relax, play, share books, and meet other families; workshops and play-based activities for toddlers and their parents or caregivers, including toys and child development specialists. Aside from the benefits to their development, this is an economical option for indoor play in the summertime. Ricki adds, “You would be stunned by the number of teenagers and young people, separate from the children’s library, who spend time here in study or book clubs and discussion. And we have age-appropriate book clubs for everyone; from kindergarten to retirement.” 

Book Club in a Bag: Friends of the Library provide 10 copies of your club’s latest selection so the group can read together…

Eric and his staff make every effort to address a current or emerging need based on the time, talent, and treasure available from the City or his many volunteers. It is this kind of thinking that made Eric the Texas Librarian of the Year. 

FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY

The 1,000-plus members of the Friends of the Library are true BFFs. They raise money and generate a lot of revenue to fund unbudgeted projects at the library; things not covered by tax dollars. 

Ricki McMillian provides publicity for the FOL and is quite proud to be part of this group nicknamed “Fairy Godmothers and Godfathers” because the work they do provides for the frills in the library.  

FOL provide resources for many things you might expect; Children and Teen Summer Reading programs, couches and shelving, and more. But they also fund live music programs on third Sundays, an online audio book program, and a bookmobile that delivers reading materials to patrons’ homes. 

Believe it or not, online books are more expensive than printed books. When a digital book is checked out a certain number of times, the library has to purchase the license again. FOL covers that cost. 

If you are a purist who loves printed books and you find you are #36 in the queue to check out the new John Grisham, rest assured the FOL has already begun purchasing more copies to put on the shelves; they start buying them up when the wait list gets above #7. 

Later, when those extra books are no longer in high demand, they go to the Second-Hand Prose Used Book Store on the second floor where again, the FOL sell them at greatly reduced prices. For some time, Second-Hand was Georgetown’s only book store and—open seven days a week—it is still the FOL’s second biggest revenue generator.

But wait, there’s more…

At the front entrance, there is a cart with books that are absolutely free to take home forever; patrons are welcome to leave a donation at the front desk if they choose. 

They are also launching a new fundraising campaign to bring another big city program to Georgetown. In an effort to keep up with home delivery, they are working toward a “Words-On-Wheels” industrial-sized vehicle that will deliver books, DVDs, CDs, audiobooks and magazines to residents unable to come to the library due to illness, recovery, or lack of transportation. “Everything you can do at the library, you’ll be able to do at home thanks to the WOW-mobile,” Ricki adds.  This new van will enable the Friends to manage the 1,000 or so items they retrieve, sort, and deliver on a monthly basis, which is challenging to organize in a mini-van or sedan. And they already have a volunteer driver!

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