A New Chapter

Prendergast Library Joins The Ranks Of Modern Libraries Serving As Community Hub

Editor’s Note: Over the next year, look for this monthly column about the Prendergast Library, to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes, and to understand how the library is evolving to meet the diverse needs of our community.

If you visit Prendergast Library in the morning, you might think that the space resembles libraries of years past — with shelves and shelves of books and the expected hushed silence permeating the air. But take a moment to look around, and you’ll realize that there’s a lot more going on in the library these days.

Walk further into the library, and take note of the computer lab, filled with people at the public computers, completing job applications, typing up documents, or browsing the Internet. Notice the people on their laptops or tablets, using the library’s free Wi-Fi. Or wait until school is out for the day, and kids fill the Children’s Room, using the computers, playing with toys, or picking out their favorite books.

The Prendergast Library, like many modern-day libraries, offers much more than solely books and print materials. We still love our books and dedicate plenty of staff time to ordering new books and caring for the collection — this is a library, after all. We’re dedicated to maintaining a well-organized and up to date collection, and this year we added almost 8,000 new items to our library — including over 2,000 eBooks.

However, we’ve expanded our focus and our goals in recent years. We’re a library, but we also serve as a community hub. The library is a space not just for books, but a space for all — for people of all ages and demographics. It’s a space to encourage literacy of all kinds — including digital literacy. Over 40,000 computer sessions were logged at the library last year — an increase of more than 8,000 from the prior year.

Mike Randall performs a puppet show for an audience at Prendergast Library.

So we’re here to provide Internet access to anyone who needs it. We’re here for people who want to find books and borrow them, for people who like to borrow movies, for people who just need a warm place to sit or a computer to use, for kids and teens who need a safe space when school is out. Even as we receive less funding, we are striving to do more — more for the people who walk through our doors, and more for community organizations that work with us and use our space.

Each year, we provide free federal and state tax forms, and host the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. When the Chautauqua Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council runs their annual poster contest, we serve as a drop off spot, and host their awards ceremony. Community organizations know that they can drop off brochures and posters, and we’ll display them.

Organizations and individuals alike use our meeting room spaces — we provide spaces for charitable groups to meet, for employee orientations, for clubs like Knitting 4 Peace and Girl Scouts. Our meeting rooms were used over 1,600 times in the last year — and for all non-profit groups, this service was free, just like all of our programs and classes.

As Jamestown grows and changes, the library continues evolving too, in order to meet the needs of the community. Whether you want to track down a copy of the newest bestseller, or you’re not sure how to access the Internet, or you need something notarized, the library is here to help you.