A book published a few years back described public libraries as “palaces for the people.”
It might not feel like a palace exactly when you visit one of the Wichita Public Library’s seven locations, but it is true that libraries are one of the few places in the modern world where people aren’t expected to pay to learn. Outside of the usual book checkouts, libraries provide a variety of resources for the community to capitalize on.
Providing access to new literature and information without the financial burden is what the Wichita Public Library hopes to give to the community.
All of the resources that the Wichita Libraries offer can be found on their online site. This includes group courses, collaboration rooms, newsletters, classes, and book discussions.
Education and Engagement Manager Savannah Bell said she is proud that the services are free to the community, allowing the libraries to be one of the most “trusted and non-biased institutions in the nation.”
Many libraries host events specifically for children and elderly communities. This can be a place where children meet peers from different backgrounds in enriching environments. The elderly get the chance to socialize outside of their homes. Low-income families receive resources and opportunities where that may not be accessible elsewhere.
Among the services are mental health programs for senior adults, a subject that often is targeted toward younger audiences. For instance, an event geared toward senior mental health on March 14 is called “The Emotional Impact of Aging.” Attendees will discuss the challenges and steps one can take to face the grief that often comes with the transition into old age.
A resource page for health research and issues can be accessed online as well. Here visitors can keep up with COVID health sources, Proquest Nursing, consumer health, and much more.
Communications Specialist Sean Jones says the library offers a great deal to those looking to develop themselves through the web.
The Wichita Libraries also host a Learning Circle group that explores online courses on a variety of topics. The topics are determined by Peer 2 Peer University, a non-profit organization with the mission to “cultivate peer learning communities in public spaces around the world.”
“Through different programs, we are always looking to fill our calendar,” said Jones, who took an interest in the circles when they first began. “The Learning Circles are a great way to connect people who may not have otherwise. It’s a learning opportunity for everyone, and by pacing oneself through the study, it’s just a great way to be involved with something new.”
Some past learning groups have studied American Sign Language, Scandinavian films, and How to Play Chess. The current Learning Circle facilitator, Kelly Fabrizius has been working with her group through ‘Foundations of Mindfulness’ to bring more awareness to the mental health struggles around the community.
“Each person was so different and brought their own unique experiences and analysis of the topic to the table,” said Fabrizius when asked about her favorite part of the experience. “Not only did we learn from the instructor, but we all also shared what worked for us individually and we learned so much more by sharing our own experiences, resources, and helpful tips with each other.”
The Learning Circles include people interested in the same topics and can learn together at their own pace. The learning groups last four to six weeks and meet once a week in both online and in-person meetings. Those that participated in Fabrizius’ course on mindfulness agreed that the “exercises were challenging and they would definitely be willing to attend another class.”
The Library of Things is another resource that the libraries around Wichita offer. The Library of Things was inspired by other libraries across the nation looking to provide resources to people who otherwise couldn’t afford them. This service provides equipment for at-home use to further expand learning, ranging from telescopes, Hotspots, Anatomical Models, and more. An adult Wichita Public Library card is required to borrow these materials and you may have two Library of Things items checked out at the same time.
“Our goal is equity. Making sure that anyone regardless of their income can experience learning with their own hands. And even people not focusing on their income can come in and use the equipment. It’s just another opportunity for the community to come in and try these things,” said Bell.
Book A Librarian services are available at all locations by appointment. They are designed to help close the digital divide among generations and also establish access to technology and a reliable place to learn about technology.
“You don’t have to pay anything. They help with technology, resumes, job searches, and anything tech or digital-related. We want to reach out and help wherever we can, so including this program into our buildings really bring in more people from the community,” Jones said.
Services are offered from the Advanced Learning Library as well as the Alford, Evergreen, Rockwell, and Westlink branches.
A database for all things necessary, like auto services, learning journals, and news streams can be found on the Wichita Library source page. In alphabetical order of listings, visitors can access any topic and resource in the Wichita area.
The staff is more than willing to help as well. Among the locations, the librarians and staff can find anything you need under the context of very little information. Even if what you are looking for is at another location, the staff will work hard to get you what you need.
“We are always willing to help people with what may not be our expertise. We might not know the answer, but we can definitely help you find it,” said Bell.
Shaylee Gibbs, a student at Sterling College, is an intern for the Wichita Journalism Collaborative this semester.