O’Fallon Library: A modern community hub offering far more than books. Explore its diverse services and impact on local growth.
By Bruce Carlson
Do you use the library? I had a wonderful visit with Ryan Johnson, Director of the O’Fallon public library, this last Tuesday, August 29. I have to admit I learned a lot more about how libraries can be a community hub for information. I have always had a library card and periodically checked out books. After all, that’s why a library is a place to get books right?! Yes, you can get books, but you can get so much more.
O’Fallon is a growing, developing area. The housing market is crazy. I can speak from personal experience. When we were looking to move into the area from our home near Chicago, we couldn’t get to the Metro East area fast enough. Houses were being sold before we could get here. With all the new industries, businesses, and Scott Air Force Base being near the area is exploding.
The housing market is expanding
If the housing market is expanding this means schools are expanding. This creates a perfect need for the O’Fallon library. The library becomes the perfect resource for STEM/STEAM projects. Back when I was in school and dirt was new, I don’t remember having programs like STEM and STEAM. If I went to the library it was to check out a book. I didn’t stay at the library I went home.
From those many years ago to now oh how the library has changed. The O’Fallon Library and most other libraries provide services beyond just books and a place to read if you want. The O’Fallon Library does have four study rooms available to the public. Other services are, did you know you can have the library help with getting a passport?
The O’Fallon Library has computers and printers available. They have 17 computers on the main floor and 5 in the teen room for kids 12 – 18. If you need to print, scan, or fax the library can help with these needs. There’s a good chance the staff can help with your technology questions. Another key service is the ability to notarize documents. I know from my mission work having a notary nearby is a great benefit.
But wait, there’s more! As new homeowners, the library will help you register as a voter. They also work with AARP to provide tax help. Another interesting service is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. This program is part of “Our Friends of the Library group”. The idea of the program is to mail free, high-quality books to kids from birth to 5 years old who live in the 62269 zip code.
The more words a child knows the better
It has been shown that reading to young kids helps to prepare them to read and write. The more words a child knows before kindergarten have been shown to provide a higher degree of success in reading than kids who haven’t had the opportunity.
The O’Fallon Library provides many resources and services beyond books to the local community. One area Ryan talked about was social services. The library partners with Southern Illinois University (SIU) Edwardsville to have an intern at the library to help with social services. What a wonderful idea. The area around O’Fallon is growing and most people don’t have a great need for help with social issues.
However, there are times when people do have a need. Being able to find help can relieve someone of the pressure to solve their issue. It can be a life-changing event. To be able to sit down with someone and get the needed information and be pointed in the right direction can be life-saving.
With all the library offers, it is clear the library is a community hub for information and services. Ryan pointed out that people from St. Louis and other surrounding have come into the library for various services. It was in this part of our conversation that I started to have a new appreciation for the value of the library.
A community hub
A community hub is a place for people to come together, truly come together. It’s more than just getting out of your home. It is getting together as people of the community sharing ideas and gathering information to solve problems and move forward. Is this what Ben Franklin was thinking when he helped create the idea of lending libraries?
As I review comments made by Ben Franklin it would seem to me that the idea of people coming together was important. Not just to gather information but to share ideas. I do think this is a point we need to work harder at. We are becoming such an individualistic people. We are seeing less of the needs of people and only what’s in it for me. I think Ben had a good idea.
But what about the future? I mentioned Ben Franklin and his start of the library system. He only dealt with books. Yet as you read in this article, the library of today has much more than just books. Where will the library be in 10 years, 50 years?
The best guess for the future library will be fewer books, sorry Ben😊. There will always be books. I’m still in the mindset to sit down with a book and read. There’s something about turning pages. Maybe it’s the anticipation of what’s on the next page. In the future, we’ll see more areas for study and technology. The ability for Zoom conference. Once again, the idea of promoting communal gathering.
Another point to remember is your tax dollars provide about 87% of the budget for the library. They do get some funding from state programs. The various fees paid to the library. Of course, we thank those who pay the late fines for not getting their books back on time. If for any other reason go to the library since your taxes are paying the lion’s share of their operating costs.
Libraries are more than just book repositories; they’ve evolved into vibrant community hubs. The O’Fallon Library, in particular, stands as a testament to this transformation. Amid a booming housing market and expanding schools, the library has become an essential resource for STEM/STEAM projects, notarization, voter registration, and even social services. The library’s embrace of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library underscores its commitment to early childhood development through reading.
This shift from solitary book borrowing to a multifunctional communal space echoes Ben Franklin’s vision of libraries as places for sharing ideas and solving problems collectively. As libraries continue to evolve, they’ll likely emphasize technology, communal gathering, and diverse services, all while being funded significantly by the community.
The takeaway is clear: The O’Fallon Library embodies the spirit of community collaboration and growth, showcasing the pivotal role libraries play in fostering connections, innovation, and lifelong learning.
As a final thought and comment, Karen and I stopped at our library in New Athens this afternoon and signed up for and received our new library card. As we finished up the sign-up process, the librarian took us on a tour of the library. It’s an old bank building. They have converted the safe into a children’s area.
But the New Athens library has a service I’ve never seen in a library before. You can check out a fishing pole and reel. Walk across the road to the other side of the levy and go fishing in the Kaskaskia River. Talk about knowing your customer’s needs.
We hope you are enjoying these articles and are willing to continue to follow along as we move through the process of selling our house, buying a new house (to become our home), and the adventures of learning about life in southern Illinois, Bruce & Karen.