Today’s Bartholomew County Public Library is using technology to connect more local residents to library services without having to visit the physical building.

Technology has now made it possible to download digital books, television shows, music and movies, all for free from the library.

Access to digital material has more than doubled — from 89,902 downloads four years ago to 219,242 digital documents last year.

Users who step foot today inside the physical building — designed by architect I.M. Pei and completed in 1969 — can tap into even trendier technology in the Digital Underground. That’s where members can use audio and video production equipment, iMac computers, a 3-D printer and design software such as Adobe Creative Suite.

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While libraries were at one time known primarily as a place to borrow books, the Bartholomew County library now serves the community in far broader ways, even though the overall mission hasn’t changed, library director Jason Hatton said.

“The library has always been an educational institution and we always will be,” Hatton said.

He sees the library, which also has a branch in Hope, as a community space that allows people to come together.

The library has three floors, including a basement featuring the Digital Underground, children’s area, talking books for visually and physically handicapped individuals, in addition to a room for architectural archive material.

When you enter the library, a checkout counter is located on the main floor, while during a visit to the eastern portion of the library the public can find DVDs, CDs, magazines and several tables. The back of the library features computers, a dedicated area for teens and other materials, while the top floor has seating and serves as administration office space as well.

The library has about 175,000 items available for checkout including new-media items, Hatton said. Its popularity is also evident in its numbers. The Columbus and Hope facilities attracted about 310,000 people last year, tracked by door counters, said Hatton, who has served as director since June 1, 2015.

Member uses vary

Visitors in different age groups have different reasons for using the library, ranging from picking up a book to read, selecting a DVD to take home, performing research or participating in children’s activities. Demographics for children, teens and adults are tracked, said Hatton, who noted that materials checked out targeted for children and teens have been on the rise.

Columbus resident John Manaugh, who lives a block away from the library, described himself as a lifelong reader and said he enjoys coming to see what new books have come in. Manaugh said he usually comes to the library once a week to check out one to take home.

Holly Stockhover, who also lives in Columbus, said the library also serves as a good way for children to develop learning skills. She recently came in with her 4-year-old son Isaiah, who was busy playing with LEGOs in the children’s area and had already picked out books about monster trucks and firetrucks to take home.

“It makes learning more entertaining,” Stockhover said, referring to the library’s offerings.

The library has 66,994 items for children available, which includes books, audiobooks, CDs, DVDs and 40 tablets loaded with computer applications for learning, said Denise Wirrig, technical services coordinator at the library.

Other individuals, such as Edinburgh resident Luke Erb, said he comes to the library at least once a week to check out DVDs. However, he said the public library has also been a valuable asset for information since he just started teaching Latin to his daughter, who is home-schooled.

“The library’s a phenomenal resource,” Erb said. “I love the variety they have here.”

The library develops programs targeted to children, teens and adults, generated from suggestions from the public, said Mary Clare Speckner, who serves as community services librarian and oversees programming efforts.

Feedback concerning teen programs are generated through the library’s Teen Advisory Board, which has 10 to 15 members, said Christina Kelley, teen services librarian. Individuals on the board play an important role in shaping current and future programs, including a monthly teen book club, she said.

Programs fun, educational

Several teen programs have grown in popularity, Kelley said. For example, a Harry Potter-themed program known as Hogwarts for Muggles that began in March has gotten a positive reception so far and will be among several events targeted to teens next month.

Attendance for such events depends on what is being offered during a particular month, according to Hatton.

The library will hold a Harry Potter-related program at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 20 allowing teens to make their own magical creature using supplies such as modeling clay, feathers and cardboard. Participants will also be able to roll special dice allowing them to choose certain features for their creature, Kelley said.

The program is just one example that draws teens to the library.

“We’re not just books and we haven’t been about books for a long time,” Kelley said. “Libraries are resources for information and some of that is online or in databases. Our role is to help people find information and help them decipher whether that information is correct.”

The library will hold a local program at 6 p.m. Sept. 27 exploring the warning signs of suicide based around the television series and book “13 Reasons Why.” The program, “13 Reasons Why Not,” will focus on teen suicide prevention and was held in July at the library that drew about 30 people.

However, since September is Suicide Prevention Month, Kelley said she thought it would be a good idea to have the program again. Staff from Turning Point Domestic Violence Services and Centerstone will be available to provide information on how participants can deal with stressful situations and emotions, while suicide prevention and identifying warning signs will also be discussed.

Kelley also said with the popularity of the book among teens, she noted it was important to distinguish how the book is different from reality, something the discussion will focus on.

“We just wanted to make sure they had accurate information and resources so that they would be able to help themselves or someone else and identify various warning signs,” she said.

Hatton also said one of his focuses is to broaden the library’s presence in the Columbus area, noting that it already has provided library materials such as books at the Foundation for Youth for the Boys and Girls Club. He added that he hopes to provide materials to other locations such as the American and Roby Anderson Community Center on the city’s east side.

Hatton said he sees the library’s services being delivered in partnership with other entities as it moves forward. He added the library will continue to make adjustments as it needs to in order to meet the needs of the public.

“We want to have something for every single person,” he said. “It’s absolutely being able to respond quickly.”

Upcoming September programs

CHILDREN’S PROGRAMS

Ages 3-5 Storytime

Sept. 5, 12 and 19 at 10 a.m.; Sept. 6, 13 and 20 at 11 a.m.

Both storytimes are the same and is first-come, first-served, held at the Storytime Room. Pick up ticket at children’s desk

Around the World

Grades 3-6

Sept. 7 at 4 p.m. in Storytime Room

Learn about a different country each week. It may consist of stories, music, games, crafts food and a special speaker. Register at mybcpl.org.

Full STEAM Ahead

Grades K-2: Sept. 7, 14 and 21 at 6:30 p.m.; Grades 3-5 Sept. 11, 18 and 25 at 4 p.m.

Explore science, technology, engineering, art and math with a read-aloud, make-n-take and ideas to continue exploration at home. Register at mybcpl.org.

Reading Time with Lottie

Ages 5-12: Sept. 15, 29 at 3:45 p.m.

Read to Lottie, the Great Dane. Each child will have 15 minutes to practice their reading skills.

Library catalog

Grades 1-6: Sept. 18 at 3:45 p.m.

Learn how to find items in the library’s catalog system.

TEEN PROGRAMS

DIY: String Art

Grades 7-12: Sept. 11 at 3 p.m. in the teen area

Make your own string art creation using cork board, nails and string. All supplies are provided free of charge.

Teen Book Club: Teen books about suicide

Grades 7-12: Sept. 18 at 4 p.m. at Conversation Plinth exhibit outside

Teens are asked to pick a teen book that deals with suicide. Resources on how to get help for yourself or a friend/family member will be given out during the program.

Teen STEAM

Grades 7-12: Sept. 19 at 3:30 p.m. in the teen area

Get creative and explore the art of Exhibit Columbus. Individuals will get to create their own work modeled off an exhibitor.

Hogwarts for Muggles: Care of Magical Creatures

Grades 7-12: Sept. 20 at 3:30 p.m. in the teen area

Design your own magical creature using a variety of supplies from modeling clay, feathers and cardboard. Dice will be available to help individuals choose physical characteristics to their creation.

ADULT PROGRAMS

Take a Hike

Sept. 6 at 7 p.m.

Connie and Terry Marbach made 19 separate trips over a 22-year period to complete their dream of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail is 2,650 miles long. View videos and listen to them as they talk about their adventures on the trail. Program is open to all and sponsored by the local Sierra Club.

Style Show on the Plinth

Sept. 7 at 6 p.m.

Event will feature clothes from Minash Boutique, Lockett’s Ladies Shop, Boutique Elise & Red Lips Spatique. Food and drinks available for purchase.

Decorative painting

Sept. 9 at 10 a.m. in the library conference room

Paint a round red barn on an 11-by-14 wrapped canvas. $25 fee covers all supplies. Instructor Marilyn Tentler is a certified one stroke and oil teacher. Minimum of four people. Registration by Sept. 7 at mybcpl.org.

A Voice Through Signing

Sept. 18, 25 and Oct. 2, 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the library’s Red Room

Four-week course will be led by sign language instructor Jennifer Mohr based on American Sign Language for those who wish to communicate with children and adults with disabilities.

Civil War book discussion group

Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. in the library’s conference room

Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America by Allen Guelzo will be discussed. The group meets every other month.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit mybcpl.org.

Bartholomew County Public Library

Where: 536 Fifth St., Columbus

Hours of operation: 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Sundays June-August, but will reopen Sunday hours starting Sept. 10 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Phone: 812-379-1255

Website: mybcpl.org

Where: 635 Harrison St., Hope

Hours of operation: Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

Phone: 812-546-5310

How to get a library card

Individuals who live in Bartholomew County can get a library card by coming to the Columbus or Hope library branches or the library’s Bookmobile to register. Borrowers who are 18 and older must show identification that includes their current address, which can include a driver’s license or other photo ID, passport, tax bill or utility bill.

Borrowers who are ages 13 to 17 must show ID that includes a driver’s license, school ID or other identification, while those under the age of 13 are required to have the signature of a parent or guardian.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com