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By Claudia Cook

The role of a library in an ever-changing world is to evolve to meet the unique needs of the communities that rely on its services. This is not a new concept for the Missouri River Regional Library here in Jefferson City, which has served as far more than just a place to borrow books since we opened our doors in 1902. As a pivotal resource within the community, the Missouri River Regional Library connects community members to resources and nurtures their desire to be lifelong learners.

The Missouri River Regional Library was built because our community saw a need for a space where people could congregate, learn and share, at no cost, during the turn of the 20th century. In the last 80 years, we have striven to keep pace with the rapidly evolving world around us. We’re proud of our library for becoming a classroom for everything from computer classes to yoga. As we focus on the future of our city’s workplaces in the digital age, we welcome being a leader in our community’s technological process.

With the advent of the web, the very nature by which we educate ourselves and consume the world around us has been transformed. There is no more evident than in the workplace, where digital spreadsheets and documents to track activity are the norm, and nearly all of us use email to communicate throughout the workday.

Ensuring members of our community have access to the training they need to learn these “digital skills” is a service we have provided for decades. According to the American Library Association, nearly three-quarters of public libraries assist their community members with job applications and interviewing skills, 90 percent help their patrons learn basic digital skills, and just under half provide access and assistance to entrepreneurs looking to start a business of their own.

We’re continuing to strengthen this role by hosting “Grow with Google” events next week. The “Grow with Google” nationwide tour is the tech company’s initiative to help create economic opportunities for Americans through digital skills training. On May 23, the tour will stop at the Missouri River Regional Library in Jefferson City for a day of workshops and 1:1 trainings for small businesses, job seekers and anyone else who wants to improve their know-how. Google trainers will also provide our librarians, as well as librarians from nearby areas and trainers from other organizations, with the tools and resources to provide these trainings on an ongoing basis.

At the library, it is our job to make sure members of our community have the chance to learn alongside us. Because the library provides free access to a variety of library services, we are a place of equity for lifelong learning for all. We hope many of our patrons will begin to see our library as more than a place to check out a book, but also a place to learn and retain valuable skills for the jobs of today and the challenges of tomorrow.

Claudia Cook is the director of the Missouri River Regional Library.

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