It’s a place where you can learn how to code, play with textiles, tool around in a maker space, exhale to yoga and play music with bananas (really!). You can find out about beekeeping and get information on gardening and canning — or have someone show you how to find information online and use computer programs. 
Of course, there are books — lots of books. But the library has evolved into a “people place,” says Lyn Crouse, director of Elyria Public Library System (EPLS). “We are no longer a book warehouse — we are a gathering place,” she says. 
Crouse points to an adult coloring class that attracted 30 or so women each week. “They would sit, color and just meet,” she says. “The library is a place where people can meet face to face, and that’s important because people are so isolated anymore.” 
And, libraries are rich with free resources. “We are the civic, social, cultural and educational center in the community,” Crouse says.
Libraries are relevant staples that have evolved their services throughout the decades to meet people’s technology needs and demand for various media and programming. In Lorain County, EPLS and Lorain Public Library System (LPLS) together provide a dozen branches and upward of 5,000 programs per year. 
Both systems offer a summer reading program themed “Build a Better World,” with reading incentives and activities designed for all age groups. Even adults can set reading goals in the program. “The goal is to get everyone reading and to expand your mind,” says Adam Matthews, marketing communications director at EPLS. 

Community-Driven Programming 

In 2016, Anastasia Diamond-Ortiz joined LPLS as its director, coming from Cleveland Public Library, where she was the director of strategy and innovation. Lorain County’s growth and diversity, she says, is prompting communities to think differently about how a library can function. 
“What does a community that is growing need?” she relates. “That is pushing us to think about the future.”
That includes a facilities assessment, which is under way, and some visioning about how the system delivers services, Diamond-Ortiz says. “We are very interested in finding out what is important to the community, and we want to flip the way libraries have been thought of in the past,” she says. “Bring us your ideas for partnerships and tell us what you’d like to see in the community, and, if we can’t do it, we’ll find a way that you can by supporting you.”
For example, at the Avon branch, a group of kids were very interested in coding and engineering. “That is pushing us to provide more of that service for that community,” Diamond-Ortiz says. 
And, when Diamond-Ortiz met with the Second Harvest Food Bank, the discussion was centered on: How can we partner? “The people of Lorain County are committed to making the county great,” she says. “They are open to new ideas, they really love their communities, and they want to make them better.”
The library wants to help foster that. Whether providing technology resources, programs or even the summer lunch program for kids who are eligible, “we are leading with those opportunities,” Diamond-Ortiz says.

Expanding Facilities 

As libraries advance their resources, they’re also considering their physical presence. At EPLS, renovations at the West River branch include adding restrooms and renovating a second-floor conference room. New finishes throughout are giving the facility a fresh face. 
Meanwhile, EPLS is looking for a new home for its South Branch because its current location at Hamilton School will be taken down as part of Elyria Public School System’s improvements. 
“That branch is very important because, while it is small, it is a neighborhood library and the community loves it,” Matthews says. “There are kids there after schools, adults using the computers, people check out the videos and books.”
Crouse says a new location is to be determined. Until then, EPLS will be expanding its LaGrange branch, which is about 1,400 square feet. “We purchased the current building and surrounding property so we can expand there,” she says. 
The library is looking for a new facility to replace its Central location in downtown Elyria. Lack of parking and the cost-prohibitive upgrades make relocation a better option than renovation, Crouse says. “Because the property is land-locked, we can’t expand there.” 
So, there will be lots of progressive movement happening throughout ELPS in the coming year and beyond. But evolving to meet communities’ needs is what libraries do, Crouse points out, from collaborating with schools and providing STEM and STEAM programming to giving the public access to educational programs. “Libraries are here for the long run,” she says. “We’re not going anywhere.”  

Let's Go to the Library 

Lorain Public Library System
Main Library - Lorain
Avon Branch - Avon
Columbia Branch - Columbia
Domonkos Branch - Sheffield Lake
North Ridgeville Branch - North Ridgeville
South Lorain Branch - Lorain 

Elyria Public Library System
Central Branch - Elyria 
West River Branch - Elyria
North Branch - Elyria
South Branch - Elyria
Keystone-LaGrange Branch - LaGrange