Programming That’s Catering to the Community
by Georgia Rindler
Mercer County District Library in Celina is more than just books. Director Elizabeth Muether says there is something for everyone. “Libraries are free to all.” She adds, “They are the great equalizer.”
Celina is the main facility of the Mercer County District Library, and other branches are located in Mendon, St. Henry, and Chickasaw. The first library in Celina was established in 1899. A Carnegie library was built in 1907 with help from the Carnegie foundation. In 1968, a new, larger facility was built on the same site.
In 1994, the Mercer County District Library completed an addition and renovation. Employees number around 40 between the four present-day locations.
Liz has been director in Celina since 2014, following in the footsteps of Austin Schneider who served in the position for 42 years. She started almost 30 years ago as a page and has worked in every department.
The biggest change in those years is the discontinuance of the card catalog, but each decade has seen its own milestones. The 1990s brought computerization. From 2000 to 2010, the emphasis went from a traditional library to one offering programs. The last decade has seen a movement toward e-books, training, education, and a meeting place.
A “Friends of the Library” group was formed in early 2000. The group helps promote and support library programs and services through moneymaking projects.
A highlight of the library in Celina, Ohio is the Langsdon Rock and Mineral Collection. In 2006, local business owners Ron and Ruth Langsdon donated a substantial part of their personal, rare mineral collection to the library.
The collection consists of more than 900 minerals from all over the world and is one of the largest in the United States. Many pieces are from mines recently opened in India, China, and Pakistan. Other specimens are from historic mining areas now closed to collectors. Examples of pyrite, galena, quartz, tourmaline, and rhodochrosite are in the collection. Tours are available for classes, clubs, and groups.
A genealogy room with books, newspapers, photos, family histories and other documents relating to Mercer County is available to the public during regular library hours. The Mercer County District Library has taken responsibility for collecting and preserving old and current materials pertaining to the history of the county. Through email, the genealogy department can serve patrons from all over the United States.
The majority of local patrons are parents with young children, followed by senior citizens, and older adults. Teens and young adults represent the smallest usage group of the library.
The Mercer County District Library hosts two book clubs for adults. The most popular, Based on the Book, has been meeting for over 15 years. This group meets once a month and discusses a book that has been made into a movie.
The library offers an abundance of children’s programming, and is focused on more than just preschool and school-aged kids. From 2012 to 2015, the library took on a huge remodeling project and created Teen and Tween Zones. A complete listing of programs for all ages can be found on the library’s website.
As director, Liz prefers to keep the library on the cusp of technology and provide what patrons need and want. “We are catering to the needs of the community, becoming a technology center for people without internet access,” she explains.
Twenty-five public computers with high-speed internet access give people opportunities they may not have at home. By offering help with job searches and applications, the library provides tools for patrons to better themselves.
The library’s computer classes are offered free of charge. They are one-on-one, last an hour and can be on any topic, as long as a tutor is familiar with the subject. Technology help is also available for specific issues. A visit needs to be scheduled for either type of session.
Liz’s vision is “to be integral to the community.” This is accomplished by partnering and reaching out. She says, “We are finding a way to bring the library to the community.
“If they won’t come to us, we will come to them,” she adds. Mobile circulation allows staff to take books outside of the library to be checked out. Patron cards can also be issued this way.
“More Than Just Books” has been the library slogan for ten years. Liz wants to “create a welcoming environment; a place to meet and gather, embracing all age groups.” On this particular Saturday, the adult reading room, furnished with two comfortable chairs, is occupied, and patrons are using internet computers at various locations throughout the library.
There is a group conducting a monthly gathering in a meeting room. A mother selects books for her children while a teenage girl relaxes with a book in the teen zone.
Two young patrons are busy with video games in the Tween zone. “It’s quiet and a nice place to hang out” is the response when asked what they like about the library. Both are Celina residents and come to the library just about every day.
A bookstore located north of the library is open the first Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Donations of gently-used books can be dropped off at the library during regular business hours.
The library is an information center for resident and visitors. Opening to all the world of literature, arts, and sciences enriches lives. Liz says that “helping the community and seeing kids’ eyes light up when they discover they can take any book home to read” are her favorite parts of the job.
The Mercer County District Library has summer and winter hours. These details and more can be found on the library website.
Mercer County District Library
303 N. Main Street
Celina, OH 45822