More Than Books: Libraries Offer Free Meals, 3-D Printers, Counseling and More

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Route Fifty on 2/15/2022 by Sharon O'Malley

Public libraries have evolved to focus on the most-pressing community needs. But not all librarians are embracing the new duties and are leaving the profession.
The public library isn’t just for books anymore.
In San Francisco, public libraries doubled as makeshift classrooms for nearly 200 children without internet access at home so they could participate in online schooling during the worst of the pandemic. At five branches in Denver, library patrons can use 3-D printers to bring their inventions and creations to life. Seattle librarians hand out free after-school snacks to kids who stop by. One library in Michigan just launched a free music streaming service to showcase the work of local musicians.

“A lot of us still think of the library as a place to go for books and media, but that’s not what libraries are anymore at all,” said Beth Wahler, director of the school of social work at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. “Every day I hear about some cool program. They’re all trying to be safe places for people to go, especially for populations that don’t have anywhere else to go.”