Keep On Reading On: Menomonie Public Library educates public, introduces news-related events

Menomonie Public Library educates public, introduces news-related events

Emilee Wentland, photos by Timothy Mather

Libraries have been keeping the general public informed since their dawn in the 17th century. They give communities access to books, newspapers, magazines, and movies – all of which can be easily obtained with a library card. But as times have changed and the Internet has become ubiquitous, libraries all around have have added Wi-Fi and computers to their inventory as well as online materials for check out.

The Menomonie Public Library is no different in the need to adapt in the age of technology.

“When I was growing up, my local library didn’t have any computers, it was books and magazines,” Menomonie Public Library Director Ted Stark said. “Now, we’ve expanded into computer and digital content. … We expand as the technology changes and the needs of the community change.”

Locals still use the public library for its books and magazines, but more and more they’re using it as a meeting space, for its Wi-Fi, and for its public-use computers, Stark said.

Stark emphasized the library’s use of programming to get involved in the community. It hosts a variety of public events throughout the year, including recurring and one-time events.

“Libraries are more and more becoming community centers where they’re not only here to help find people things to read,” Stark said, “but we’re here to provide community programming and a place for people to meet and gather, (to) learn about what’s going on.”

Most prominently, the library hosts Music Over Menomin at 7pm on Thursdays during the summer. This season was the concert series’ ninth year, and Stark said the shows average 300-400 attendees a week. This year, the library launched Music Over Menomin Junior, which brought kid-friendly acts to the stage.

In October, the library is hosting a three-event series dedicated to journalism and “fake news.” The series, called “Knowing News: Recognizing and Engaging with the News,” will run throughout October. In collaboration with Dunn County News and the UW-Stout Library, this series includes a book discussion and presentation by UW-Eau Claire journalism professor Jan Larson in addition to a talk with a panel of journalists.

Stark said this event will educate the public about “fake news” and other current events-related topics. “I think libraries are more moving into the kind of role as well, where we take up issues that are current,” Stark said.

The library hosts a wide array of recurring events throughout the year, such as a summer reading program and weekly movies. They teamed up with Mayo Clinic Health Systems this summer to provide outside activities involving movement, Stark said.

There are programs for different age groups, from kids to teens to adults. For kids, there’s a summer storytime series, a “water fun” series, and a Minecraft club. Teenagers have teen book club and teen Minecraft club as well as one-time events such as glow-in-the-dark yoga (“glowga”). Then there’s “Pages and Pints” for adults, in which attendees can discuss the monthly read while enjoying an alcoholic (or not!) beverage.

Public programming is just one of the ways the public library enriches the Menomonie community.

“What I’m really concentrating on now – or what I think is important – is that we go out into the community,” Stark said. “The physical building is still important – it’s a gathering place and a place to house books – but to reach out more into the community, take programming on the road, so to speak.”

One way the library is getting involved in the community is with its “book bike.” Stark said library staff members ride the bike to different events, such as the farmers’ market, and use it to get kids interested in books.

Stark said he hopes the library continues to educate the public. Libraries are open to everyone, have no entry fee, and rely on taxes and community support to run.

“You really need an educated populace if you’re gonna have a republic and a functioning democracy,” Stark said. “I think libraries can help achieve that. They’re one of the most democratic institutions I think that we have.”

The Menomonie Public Library is located at 600 Wolske Bay Road in Menomonie. For the summer, hours are 9am-9pm Monday-Thursday, 9am-6pm Friday, 10am-5pm Saturday. (The library is closed on Sundays in the summer.)