By Betsy Bleakie
Photos Courtesy of Manchester Community Library
Libraries across the country are undergoing an evolution. No longer simply repositories for books, libraries are seeking out reinvention as a means to better serve a more multifaceted purpose in response to the changing cultural, demographic, and technological trends. Modernized libraries are needed now more than ever before.
Right here in Manchester, the evolution of the Manchester Community Library (MCL) since its opening in 2014 is being shaped and molded in front of our eyes, providing an exciting new 21st-century library experience. MCL is more than a town library; it is a regional “hub,” with membership coming from 30 towns outside of Manchester and people visiting the area, who stop by the library to use a computer, make copies, read the newspaper by the fire, or check out the bulletin board of local happenings.
The goal of MCL is to keep pace in providing beneficial and relevant services to its users and to anticipate what people desire and need in order to live better, more productive lives. The library is available to people of all ages, from all walks of life, locals and visitors alike, as an inspiring gathering place that provides opportunities and resources for personal enrichment and growth.
No library card is required to enjoy much of what the library has to offer. MCL welcomes the public to come in and use the library, browse the collection, attend a free program, and to enjoy the ample spaces for quiet work or reading and the places for casual encounters over coffee and formal business meetings. MCL is also technology rich, offering free Wi-Fi throughout and access to public computers, both iMacs and PCs, iPads for children and adults, and a Wii gaming system for teens.
Elle Décor magazine has named Manchester Community Library’s design one of the 50 Best Libraries in the United States. Cool furniture, a laptop bar, iMacs, and a flat-screen TV give the LOFT, designed for middle school children, a place that they can call their own for studying, gaming, and hanging out with friends. The Kids Barn, designed for younger children, their parents, and caregivers, has books galore and provides space for children to learn, build, and play with puzzles, puppets, trains, and Legos.
“We built a 21st-century library that meets a wide range of community and individual needs–more akin to a vibrant community center than a traditional library,” says Executive Director Betsy Bleakie. She continues, “It is clear, with how we are being utilized each day, that we have solidified our role as a community asset that we all can be proud of.”
Manchester Community Library offers:
- A gathering place or “commons” for sharing news and ideas, collaborating, and strengthening community relationships
- A place of discovery and enjoyment, where children are free to explore, create, and play
- A sanctuary for readers and learners of all ages
- An access point to computers and the Internet
- A local history center, home to the Manchester Historical Society
- A safe place for children to go after school to study and socialize
- A partner with local organizations, businesses, and nonprofits
- A meeting and event space for community organizations and businesses