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What resources are available in a modern library?

What resources are available at the library?
What resources are available at the library? 03:00

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn.  A long-standing community resource is evolving in ways you might not realize, now offering everything from e-books to streaming movies for free.

In honor of National Library Week, we wanted to know: What resources are available in a modern library? Good Question.

"I think of a quiet space to reflect, read," said a younger mother when asked what comes to mind when thinking of a library.

"There's use of the internet I guess if you want," added library visitor Dave Wuest.

Books, computers and meeting spaces to talk or study are easily the most recognizable free reasons to visit a library, but they're just the tip of the iceberg.

A survey of Americans by the Pew Research Center found that nearly one-third of Americans know "not much" (20%) or "nothing at all" (11%) about what's available at their library. Most, or 46% of those surveyed, felt they just know "some" of what's available.

"We're one of the few remaining places that you can come with no expectations," said Margie Thompson, circulation specialist at the Hennepin County Library in St. Louis Park. "You don't have to pay to be here. You don't have to make an appointment to be here. You don't need to give us something, except your return materials. We would appreciate getting those back."

READ MORE: Minnesota House committee advances bill that would ban book bans in the state

Thompson said numbers are showing that libraries, at least in Hennepin County, are gaining popularity. Thompson said the county's library system had a 6% increase in cardholders in 2023 and 11 million checkouts, their highest ever in a year. And for nearly half of those checkouts, members didn't even need to physically visit a library. 

That's thanks to the Libby app. It allows people to download e-books, magazines, comics, graphic novels and audiobooks to be used on tablets, Kindles and other devices. The Libby app is available in the library systems in the metro's seven counties.

Next, Thompson showed us Kanopy, a streaming service that functions like a library version of Netflix. It features movies, TV shows and documentaries with content for all ages. All a person needs is an active library card to sign up. Using it is free. Kanopy is available through Hennepin, Ramsey and Anoka County libraries.

One unique streaming service only found through the Hennepin County Library is MN Spin. The music streaming service features exclusively Minnesota artists with more than 500 albums to choose from.

"I would say a big draw (to libraries) is the technology resources," Thompson said. 

Access to internet and Microsoft Office Suite drive up computer usage, as does the free printing, copying, and scanning. 

"A lot of people come in to work on resumes and cover letters," she said.

There are many tools at members' disposal beyond computers. At St. Paul Library's Innovation Lab, members have access to 3D printers, laser machines, recording studios to make music and craft items like sewing machines. 

READ MORE: St. Paul library book returned after 100 years

The evolution of libraries as a place of learning now goes well beyond books. The transformation appears to have happened quietly, as one might expect in these sanctuaries of silence.

Workshops related to employment, housing, and health and wellness can be found in the events section on most library's websites. There's also free, online tutoring for kids.

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