Denton’s librarians continue to find new ways to help the community find answers no matter what the question might be.
They still shelve books and help visitors find their way through an increasing, if not dizzying, array of online resources. They also schedule classes, book community meetings and even provide some of the instruction themselves. On Fridays, they load up a van with library resources and drive it to the city’s more far-flung neighborhoods. They even take classes, or participate in nonprofit groups, to bring research skills where the community needs them.
The Denton City Council heard a report from Terri Gibbs, the city’s director of libraries, during a brief workshop session Tuesday at the South Branch Library meeting room.
Gibbs told the council to expect 2016 to be a transition year for the libraries as they finish up one strategic plan and get ready for the next plan that will take them to 2020.
Library officials are still planning for another branch in southwestern Denton. Some land has been dedicated to the future branch near Fire Station No. 7 on Vintage Boulevard, but no time frame has been announced.
Gibbs told the council the area is already considered underserved and will be more so after the major subdivisions planned along Interstate 35W get built.
The library announced several days in advance it would bring the van to the southwest side on a recent Saturday.
“When we pulled up, the kids were waiting for us,” Gibbs said. “When we left, some of them had tears.”
Librarians also consider the city’s southeast side underserved, which might be addressed by putting a children’s library in a storefront.
Librarians help patrons in unexpected ways, Gibbs said.
For example, patrons can come to the technology library and get experience with equipment and software before they make a major investment for their business.
“The advantage is getting an expert who isn’t interested in selling them something,” Gibbs said.
Patrons can also get help with the increasing demands of the online world. Some people are still trying to learn how to use computers, and yet they are expected to do more and more of their business online, she said.
Some librarians are now trained to help patrons apply to Texas Department of State Health Services programs. Patrons can log on and apply for SNAP food benefits, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, TANF emergency cash help and Medicaid health insurance with the help of a specially trained librarian.
The program (available by appointment by calling 940-349-8752) gives patrons the help they need with forms that can be complicated and overwhelming — and keep matters confidential.
“It allows them to access vital services from the state,” Gibbs said.
Council members encouraged Gibbs and other library executives to remind them what the need to expand the mobile library and other outreach services during the next round of budget talks, which formally begin in August.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.