Let’s face it. There are a lot of stereotypes about Libraries. Many people picture a dimly lit building with dusty shelves of ancient books and stodgy librarians in frumpy outfits who “shhh” at people all day. Little kids and folks who are aging. Due dates and late fees. The good news is that practically none of this is true! The Library is so much more than it was back in the mid-1900s, which is probably the last time any of these stereotypes were even remotely relevant.
Today, the Library is a technology hub, a community center, a social service, a playgroup, a streaming platform, and so much more. We’ve rounded up some of the Library myths that make us cringe the most. Here's what's really going on instead.
The Library is all about books, books, books
If there’s one myth we really want to get out of people’s heads, it’s this one. Yes, we love books, that much should be obvious from our 4.2 million volume collection. But the Library is about so much more than books.
‘When people find out I’m a librarian, they always think I chose this profession because I love books,” says West End Children’s Librarian Jill Keller. “I really do love books! But, Libraries are about so much more than that. We provide information and entertainment in a multitude of formats now. Even more than the physical and digital items we provide, we’re about the communities we serve.”
Connecting folks with social services, resume and job application assistance, learning a new language…there’s so much more the Library does. Need to get kids out of your hair for an hour? We have daily storytimes, crafting events, and science experiments. In the summertime, we offer week-long camps like STEAM Adventure and Brain Camps as part of our Summer Adventure , opens a new windowprogram. Older kids can get help with homework, opens a new window. There’s exhibits, speaking series, classes, and events for adults.
“Libraries have become community hubs where people can gather and connect with neighbors,” says Library Customer Specialist, Sierra McKenzie. “[They] are a place where people in need can come to connect with social services that could improve their quality of life. Libraries also provide access to many forms of technology, from button makers to 3D printers and laptops. In reality, Libraries keep constant vigilance on what services benefit the communities we serve.”
You have to be quiet in the Library or you’ll get in trouble
Sure, if you’re screaming at the top of your lungs or blasting music that’s rattling the windows, a Library staff member is definitely going to ask you to lower the decibels. But there are so many different reasons why the Library encourages unzipped lips. For one thing, speaking is one of the major forms of communication and communication builds community. We want you to talk to your friend, or neighbor, or the person sitting next to you at a table. That’s how information and ideas are exchanged.
During Community Conversation events, we want you chiming in for lively debate. During kids activities, we want to hear all the fun being had. While there are certainly noise level limits, and we want to keep our spaces conducive to people engaging of a variety of activities, we aim to create an environment where people can engage with each other, and using your (indoor) voice is a part of that.
Librarians get to read all day long
Librarians pretty much have one of two reactions to this one: Laughing out loud or a hard eye-roll.
As West End Branch Manager Keloni Parks points out, one of the unique offerings of the Library is all of the individualized assistance. “Our staff often spends extended periods of time with customers to help them with something as small as making a photocopy, to something as big as navigating Social Security’s website or applying for a job,” says Parks. “I never imagined that I would be helping people with so many technical difficulties.” In short, Librarians are lucky if they have time to grab lunch, much less sit around and read a book on the job.
The Library is only for small children
Many people have fond memories of visiting the Library as a kid. Whether it was attending storytimes, participating in fun crafts and activities, or the annual Summer Adventure program, there is usually nostalgia attached to Library memories. And we love that! But sometimes we don’t see those kids again until they are all grown up and start bringing children of their own to the Library. Their minds are often blown by how much has changed and how much they didn’t know we offered.
For one, teenagers love the Library. “A lot of the teens come into the library looking for social interaction,” says Library Customer Adviser Renee Roberson. “We have teens who come in for gaming (Roadblox or Magic the Gathering); we have teens who come here to participate in our programs like Teen Chef or to make music with the group Triiibe at Raising the Barz. There are teens who live for our Anime/Manga club and those who love to volunteer and help other kids with reading and science. [Some] just come here to meet with friends and chill.”
Roberson Tecco has seen strong friendships form between kids who meet each other at the library. They may attend schools on different sides of the city but their shared interest in art, music, or books create a bond. “It’s an accepting place for teens,” she notes. “We are a no-judgment zone and they respond to that.”
Adults come in for special programming like our Stern Lecture Series, opens a new window, English to Speakers of Other Languages classes, Genealogy research department, and more. The Library is a lifelong long friend, and that’s a secret we want you to share with everyone you know!
Libraries are low-tech
Today, Libraries are the future, with the tech to match. Some of our Branches offer laptop kiosks, tablets, high-tech holds lockers, Tech Centers and more. The Downtown Main Library’s MakerSpace, opens a new window is stocked with state-of-the-art equipment like UV and 3D printers, laser cutters, a recording booth, and more. It’s a huge resource for small businesses, non-profits, and hobbyists.
Our eBranch, opens a new window brings digital Library resources right to your fingertips through partnerships with streaming and learning apps that can be used wherever you are. eBooks can be downloaded to your device with ease and audiobooks are a click away.
The Library is behind on the times
The Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library is one of 147 libraries signed onto the Urban Library Council’s Statement on Race and Social Equity, opens a new window. This statement serves as a baseline upon which libraries can build policies and actions that make their communities more inclusive and just.
We've doubled down on our efforts to offer diverse materials that are representative of the communities we serve. We offer special programming that addresses social justice issues from mass incarceration and homelessness to racism and transgender rights. The Library today provides services no matter what color your skin is, what size you are, who you vote for, who you pray to, who you love, or how much money you have.
“At the most basic level, the Library is a place where people can congregate, have access to Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and bathrooms without having to spend money to utilize them”, says Library Services Floater, Robert Macke. “I love that we offer help with resumes, our extensive lists of databases, our variety of programs and outreach, but I’ve grown a fuller appreciation for this basic level [of service] because I didn’t realize how many people need a free place to just be until I started working at the Library.”
Long gone are the days of hefty late fines for overdue books! Since September 26, 2021 the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library have removed late fine fees, leading to more materials being returned, supporting customers who are ill or had a life event from receiving fines, and assisting customers on a fixed income.
While there’s still lots of work to be done, the Library is committed to growth and change to remain a space where everyone feels welcome, safe, and supported. Whether that’s simply cooling off on a hot day or checking out the latest best-seller, we hope that when you’re here, it feels like home.