As the Columbia Public Library celebrates 100 years of service to our community, I am reminded of how libraries in general have changed over time. Early American public libraries had their origins in local communities and were often started by women’s clubs, such as the Tuesday Club in Columbia. Libraries were viewed as temples of learning — quiet, studious and primarily for adults. Over time, libraries became more open and inclusive. I joined the profession just as libraries were moving from card catalogs to computer catalogs, which were initially only accessible from within library walls. Next, the internet came along and transformed our ability to deliver services. Now, patrons can access our holdings through an app on their phone, search our reference materials online, enjoy our free wireless access and more.
Public libraries are no longer quiet and reserved for “book learning” as some people fondly remember. We are vibrant and vital centers for our communities. We host programs for all ages, sometimes messy, sometimes loud and always informative.
The one thing about libraries that has not changed is our role as a foundation of democracy. Libraries invite everyone to our facilities, develop collections to share all voices and strive to serve all in our community with something for everyone. Regardless of why you need us, we are here for you, no judgment, no hassle and no questions asked!
Margaret M. Conroy, Executive Director