BY CARMEN SIERING
If there is one thing Marilyn Wood, director of Monroe County Public Library, would like to emphasize, it is that the library is more than just a place that stores and loans books. “We’re here to enrich and strengthen the community. That’s our mission,” she says. “The library serves an important role. It’s the great equalizer because it’s available to everyone.”
Not only is it available to everyone, but Wood and her staff also work diligently to develop programs and spaces that appeal to people of all ages and with a wide variety of interests. Still, they noticed a drop-off in library attendance among teenagers. That’s why The Ground Floor came into being. Open after school and on weekends, the space is for those ages 12 to 19. Stocked with art supplies, games, books, computers, and more, it has become a popular place to hang out. “It’s packed and loud and full of excitement,” Wood says. “We were losing people in the middle. Now we’re starting to get them back.”
Adding to the allure is Level Up, a digital creativity studio for video and music production, graphic and web design, and coding and game creation. “It’s open to all ages, and it’s attracting more age groups, but teens are still using it the most,” Wood says.
While the library still houses plenty of books, as well as DVDs and an extensive CD collection, online resources are expanding cardholder options. One example is Hoopla, a digital media service that allows cardholders to borrow movies, TV shows, music, books, and audiobooks via a computer or mobile device. There’s also the digital magazine service Zinio. Monroe Public County Library subscribes to nearly 100 magazines, all freefor any cardholder to download with no subscription limits and no expiration dates.
While there are always new programs and resources being added, what’s most important to Wood is reaching out to everyone, making sure they feel welcome and heard. “I want people to know that we’re here for them and we’re listening to them,” she says. “We want to be a contributor to the community. I live in Bloomington, and I want it to be a better place for all of us.”