The historic Kingsport Public Library has been filled to the brim with books since the 1960s. But in 2019, libraries like Kingsport’s are used for much more than just checking out books.
“We have job labs, we have a 3D printer, we do story times, we have programs to help you create resumes,” said Kyndra Jones, Youth Services librarian assistant. “I want people to know we’re more than just your standard, grab-a-book-and-run.”
The library recently entered a strategic planning process. They’ve partnered with national consulting group Library Strategies to transform into the library of the future.
“We have over 550 people walking through our door every single day,” said library manager Chris Markley. “Last year we had over 12,000 people attend our programs. We have lots of really great ideas and lots of really great outreach and resources for our community, but we’re running out of space.”
The library wants to know how to better use their space. A major part of the strategic plan is a community survey. They hope to get more than 300 responses.
“It’s 15 questions, and it basically asks the community for what they know about the library, what they like, what they don’t like. And also, if they don’t use the library, why?” said Markley.
Library leaders say they’ve seen a surge in the need for technology assistance. From learning how set up an email account to knowing the basics of Google, people turn to the library for help.
“I have regulars that come in every day,” said Eric Erwin, library IT Tech. “They’ll come talk to me and be like, ‘Can you just show me this real quick? I know you did this with me [already,] but just help me’ – that’s what we’re here for. We’re here for the community.”
The surveys will also help decide future renovations. The building has been in use since it was a post office in the 1930s. The space needs updating to be more compatible with 21st century technology.
“It’s a gorgeous library, but it’s really not set up,” said Markley. “We don’t have outlets everywhere. People come in to charge and to work on different projects. We struggle some days to find enough outlets for them.”
The strategic planning process will be finished by December. Markley says when it’s their turn to receive renovations from the City of Kingsport, they’ll know exactly what the building needs.
“We are hopefully on the books for 2023 for our renovations,” she said. “So we’re still a few years out, but that gives us time to plan and to look at what is going to meet the needs of the community. Not just today, but in five, 10, 15, 20 years into the future.”