Forget the beach, movies, or wherever you’re planning to hang out this weekend (…unless it’s here). It’s National Library Week, and a perfectly corny reason to check out your local library. But chances are you’re missing out on really cool, free stuff happening every month, especially with our friends over at Fullerton Public Library (FPL), previous winners of our Best Library.
“People say that libraries are dead or dying,” says Maureen Gebelein, FPL’s library director. “We don’t find that at all.”
It’s okay if you’re not crazy about books. FPL isn’t just for the avid reader: they make kimchi, 3D-print yellow ducks, and can help you learn almost 50 languages for free with Mango Languages. And that’s just the start.
“One thing I love about the library is that the library is made for any age,” says Gebelein. “Every age, every type, every person…there’s no reason for anybody not to be at the library. You can bring your grandma and your baby, and they’ll all have something to do or find something to interest them.”
But libraries have definitely had to evolve over the years. With the new Google empire, people don’t call in as often to find out what the Seven Wonders of the World are, or what the freezing point of pistachio ice cream is as opposed to vanilla—what Gebelein dubs as “traditional reference questions.” FPL has thus joined a growing trend of libraries that are transforming into spaces of collaboration rather than collection, but with no intention of replacing the community center next door.
“The thing is, we never stop doing any of the things we used to do,” explains Gebelein. “We might divert part of our book budget into online resources, etcetera, but you have to keep expanding what you’re doing [when] trying to grow and reach new audiences.”
The result: a packed monthly calendar with programs and events like free tacos, reading with dogs, learning personal finance and how to create a resume (you can even take a mock job interview), lineups of musical performances and interesting guest speakers, adult coloring parties…that are actually pretty popular, and more. The children’s library is also huge, pretty much a library in and of itself, with stellar activities that are just as engaging as they are instructive. The best part: almost all of these are entirely FREE with a membership card, which is also FREE, Fullerton resident or not.
FPL is also one of few libraries to still have a Local History Room with unique archives available for the public (our Mexican-in-chief goes so often that the archivist knows what seat he sits at whenever he visits). And long gone are any old memories of boring library days staffed by a strict reference desk. FPL has, by the way, changed the “Reference” to an inviting “Ask Here,” and their staff is far from boring: they’ll even race with book carts at their conventions for comic relief…HA!
“I just wish [more] people knew we were here, especially the databases that we have online,” says Gebelein. “How helpful that would be to them just to be able to 24/7 download what you want.”