As Jeanne Peloquin steps off the elevator onto the main floor of the Washington Memorial Library in Macon, a woman stops her to share some news.
The two women talk near a bustling area as other people wander the aisles of books or tap on keyboards at rows of computers.
The woman tells Peloquin that she has a job interview lined up as as a result of a job skills class she attended at the library.
Her good news is also good news for Peloquin, the library’s marketing coordinator, and others who work for the Middle Georgia Regional Library, as officials are touting expanded offerings in the six-county region and the value libraries bring to communities.
In a first annual report released this year, the Middle Georgia Regional Library system estimates that it added almost $18 million in value to the communities in 2018. The figure was calculated based on the quantity of resources checked out and the classes offered free of charge at the libraries.
In that same period, the library region received about $4,800,100 in local, state and federal resources, according to a press release from the library. The release adds that for every dollar spent on libraries, an estimated $3.70 was returned to the community.
The report comes after last year’s temporary shutdown that threatened the library’s future.
Library workers also are happy to promote all the things folks can do at libraries in addition to checking out books
A computer lab, reference sources, genealogy archives and youth services are all available, and the library has made an effort over the years to focus the classes they offer on the community’s interests and needs.
“When I started at the library, most of the classes were pretty basic,” said Lauren Mullins, head of the Washington Memorial Library. Those classes mostly focused on computer basics, such as typing skills and Microsoft Office. “Since then, we’ve expanded a lot.”
While computer-based classes are still on the curriculum, Mullins and Tim Spishock, the library’s reference technology specialist, have also added new courses based on requests such as more advanced technology classes on topics such as G Suite, website design and 3-D printing.
The Washington Memorial Library offers the most classes in the regional library system. Attendance is unlimited and free. You don’t even have a library card to attend.
“We like to make it accessible for everyone,” Mullins said.
Library employees teach most classes, though some volunteers teach as well. Zackulyn Hart, who works remotely as a project manager at the Federal Aviation Administration in Atlanta, shares her expertise in Microsoft Excel about twice a month.
Hart has taught at the Washington Memorial Library since January 2012, after the library opened a new computer lab. The former director of the library suggested that Hart check it out and see if she would be interested in teaching classes there.
“I’m thinking I’m gonna get paid,” Hart laughed. “True story.”
She said that as her tour of the library came to a close, the employees kept thanking her for her help, which confused her. Ultimately, she was told that the instructing job was a volunteer position. She agreed to teach anyway.
“This is my way of giving back to the community. ... I just absolutely love it,” Hart said.
The Washington Memorial Library also offers courses in proposal writing, news literacy and internet safety, among others. Complete offerings and times are listed on the library’s online calendar.
“It’s a wide variety of people (that come to the classes,)” Spishock said. “Retirees and college students alike take courses.”
Spishock said he even sees whole families complete classes together at the library.
By The Numbers
The Middle Georgia Regional Library system reports that in 2018:
▪ 664,00 books, movies and other materials were checked out
▪ Almost 3 million hours of information, education and entertainment were provided
▪ 451,000 visits to the libraries
▪ 55,668 people attended programs and classes held at the libraries