With the publishing industry in the midst of a very trying period, it might sound odd to hear someone say libraries are more important than ever.
Marcia Warner believes that — and that libraries will become more important as time goes on, even as books disappear.
“Libraries are more important than ever,” Warner said. “It’s moving more toward a community center. Life is so divisive, so there needs to be some institution with an independent agenda that can be a center for civil conversation.”
And more than ever, the Grand Rapids Public Library offers a huge variety of educational and community programs to help further education and engagement.
No matter where the publishing industry and books end up, libraries will be a necessary part of a community. Warner said libraries have two philosophies:
- Keeper of materials
- Pusher of materials
She said that in a way, libraries are like museums. They’re there to collect history with an ultra local sense.
“The Harvards, Yales, Smithsonian, they won’t collect things about Grand Rapids,” she said.
To get people to use the library and its many programs more, the approach is very similar to any other company.
“We have to build a reputation, build a brand,” she said. “Eight years ago when I started, Kent District Library was all anyone knew. We had to create our own brand, and now there’s a distinct separation between the two.”
The brand of a community library will continue to be crucial to life. It will provide the all-important process of encouraging life-long learning.
“It adds such richness to your life,” Warner said. “I would despair if a person lived in the same square forever.”
Everything you read, or even look at, you can learn something from, she said, adding a small change can lead to a big difference in life.
“You can choose your friends, and you can choose your life,” she said. “I don’t wanna live with the same person I was 10 years ago.”
Her answer to what drives her was awesome, topping off the discussion with the education and literature in a free country is why it’s worth it to live in a free country and its ridiculous not to take advantage of it.
“Books and libraries opened up my eyes as a teenager and created a vibrancy I didn’t have,” she said. “I want to create that opportunity for everyone.”