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Check It Out: Park Rapids Library connecting people with resources, creating community through diversity

In a word association game, the top match for "library" would likely be "books." It's a good answer, and accurate. Access to digital materials has not eliminated the demand for paper and ink books, and I don't foresee a future without them. Still, in our ever-shifting society, institutions must constantly evolve and adapt. Today's library is so much more than a book repository.

Hopefully, you've been to the library lately to borrow items from our collection: movies, music, audiobooks, large print books, magazines, children's books, etc.

If not, perhaps you've used your library card to check out e-books, e-audiobooks, and e-magazines.

Even if you haven't taken advantage of our physical and/or digital collection, you might have come to the library to meet an author, attend a children's program, or participate in a special event. If you've done none of these things, you may still have enjoyed a library program or event off-site. In the past year, we've brought library programs to Century School, the Armory, local churches, Pine Point School and downtown Park Rapids.

Libraries have the unique opportunity of serving the entire population. People with different interests, income levels, political opinions and life experiences share space at the library. All have equal access to materials, services and programs. A library provides educational opportunities and exposure to the arts; tools that can be used to create connections and bridge divides. A library will always be a lender of books, a trove of resources, an invaluable asset to any community. A library, fully utilized, can become a community hub, a place to gather, network, learn and grow.

With this in mind, we design programs that we hope will provide enrichment both for individuals and for the community. Last year, inspired by stories of the Friends of the Library and looking for a way to share this living history with the younger generation, we introduced "Chatting in Real Time: A Series of Casual Symposiums." For each of the two sessions, we chose a theme and selected a panel to participate in guided discussion. The response, from panelists and audience alike, was overwhelmingly positive.

I'm interested in continuing the symposiums this winter. Possible themes include farming and military service. If you have suggestions for other topics, or if you'd like to be considered as a panelist for a future discussion, please contact me at the library. The make-up of each panel is carefully considered. We aim for diversity within the group. Representation from people of different ages, genders, and backgrounds will create balance and allow for a more comprehensive discussion.