Patrons at the Miami Public Library take advantage of the facility’s wi-fi and high-speed internet to complete school work.

Much like the woolly mammoth and dodo bird, the public library of yesteryear has fallen prey to extinction.

Modern libraries are an altogether different species. No longer merely book depositories with endless shelves of dusty and dated volumes, libraries are now vital hubs where community members gather to utilize high-speed broadband internet and valuable technology assets.

Callie Cortner says the number of people logging in to online resources at the Miami Public Library has jumped exponentially in just a few short years. Director of Library, Arts, & Culture for the Miami facility, Cortner says there were 3,400 log-ins in 2019 compared to an eye-popping 65,928 log-ins in 2023. That’s a jump in online traffic of 1,839 percent in just four years’ time.

Even with the spike in technology usage, Cortner assures loyal patrons that there are still plenty of fantastic books available for checkout at the Miami Public Library. And let’s be honest—who doesn’t love curling up with a good hardcover from time to time.

“Libraries play a crucial role in the community by not only providing books and materials for borrowing, but also access to a variety of online resources,” said Cortner. “At our facility we have witnessed a significant rise in the number of individuals utilizing our these assets.”

Cortner said some of the most popular online resources include: Heritage Quest, Online Newspapers & Magazines, JobNow, HelpNow, VetNow, Website Visits, Area Job Opportunities Page, and the Ottawa County Community Connections Page.

It’s really just a matter of staying current by adapting to the needs of the community, says Cortner.

“By promoting our services—as well as word of mouth from patrons—we’ve successfully expanded our visibility within the community.”

BOLT Fiber Optic Services proudly serves the Miami Public Library, as well as many other community institutions across northeast Oklahoma, with high-speed broadband internet service.

Speed and reliability are hallmarks of the BOLT brand. Cortner says those features are now non-negotiables for the library.

“It is crucial for our library to have reliable internet since we are one of the few places where patrons can access high-speed broadband,” she said. “Virtual students rely on our facilities for testing since they face issues with buffering and disconnections at home, which disrupt their exams. Daily, patrons seek assistance in applying for various services like WIC, housing, and health insurance.”

Cortner says the library collaborates with public service organizations such as the health department to inform their clients that they can utilize free internet and receive support. Additionally, enrolling children in programs like Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, 1000 Books Before Kindergarten, and 100 Books Before Graduation, is a regular activity. These literacy initiatives necessitate internet access for participation.

“The 1000 Books and 100 Books programs involve regularly logging of reading progress online,” Cortner said. “Our Excel High School program for adults also relies on internet connectivity. To support students in this program, the library provides laptops and hot spots to those in need.”

Again, says Cortner, it all boils down to adapting to the needs of the community. Patron use of electronic holdings continues to increase while use of material holdings continues to diminish.

“The state adds titles to our consortium database, and we add in requested electronic titles as we are able,” Cortner said.

She added: “We frequently use the #MoreThanYourGrandmasLibrary hashtag to highlight our modern approach. We strive to be more than just a traditional library by evolving into the community’s hub of information. Our aim is to assist individuals in finding the right resources to address their inquiries. From financial literacy resources covering budgeting and taxes to job support services such as JobNow and Area Job Opportunities, we continuously broaden our range of resources to meet the community’s needs—all provided free of charge.”

Yet another benefit to the community is the money the library saves its patrons who use MPL materials. That amount has grown from $345,547 in 2020 to $534,495 in 2023.

“Every item in our system is assigned a retail value,” explained Cortner. “Every time that item is checked out, the system tallies the total the patron would have spent had they purchased the item, excluding taxes.”