Huntsville library system a welcoming place of knowledge, connection

single-meta-cal April 7, 2022

Walking into a branch of the Huntsville Madison County Public Library (HMCPL), patrons feel a sense of possibility.

“Every place you walk past in the library has the opportunity to explore something new, different or unique that you might not even know is there,” said Cindy Hewitt, Executive Director of the 10-branch library system.

south Huntsville Library children's area

The children’s area at the South Huntsville Library on Bailey Cove Road is popular with kids of all ages.

The days of shushing librarians and quiet buildings where you’re seen and not heard are long gone in Huntsville. Today, the library is a welcoming place to connect and share ideas, knowledge and interests with others.

Hewitt, who helped open two HMCPL branches in North and South Huntsville during the COVID-19 pandemic, said libraries remain a vibrant, living part of the social structure of our community.

“With rising inflation and the cost of gas, there are libraries all over the City,” she said. “You can go and experience wonderful things without having to pay extra money to try something new.”

Love Your Library campaign

April 4-8 is National Library Week, a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association and libraries across the United States. What better time than now to recognize the amazing work our library system does for Huntsville?

To celebrate, the Huntsville-Madison County Library Foundation is hosting its third-annual Love Your Library campaign during the month of April. The board is raising funds to stock the shelves of the new and improved New Hope Public Library, set to open later this fall.

If it’s been a while since you visited a library, or you’re skeptical about their offerings, here’s a quick snapshot of what to expect during your next visit.

Books, of course

HMCPL has what you’d find in a traditional library – books, books and more books. Old books. New books. Books of every type and genre that you must put on your reading list ASAP. But if digital is more your thing, keep scrolling.

Services like Hoopla, Overdrive, Freading and Kanopy offer a flexible alternative for those who enjoy consuming media on a cellphone, tablet or other device.

The system also provides a variety of book clubs at all of its branches and non-library locations like coffee shops and breweries across Madison County. You can even join HMCPL’s Goodreads group to learn what staff is reading, hear what’s new at the library and discuss your literary picks and pans.

When words fail, music speaks

Reading is centerstage at HMCPL, but music also has a special place that goes far beyond the bookshelves. Last year, the library system expanded its offerings with Blast, a free music streaming service exclusively for local artists.

Designed to ignite the careers of up-and-coming singer-songwriters, Blast aligns with goals identified in a City music audit performed by Sound Diplomacy. It also fills a gap identified through a S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.

If live performance is more your style, check out HMCPL’s free concert series on the last Tuesday of each month at the downtown Huntsville branch. The most recent concert in March, which featured Huntsville’s in the Mood Swing Band, attracted more than 250 attendees.

“People were dancing and singing – it was a wonderful time,” Hewitt said.

Click here for details on the next live concert on April 26 at 6:30 p.m.

Technology = future

The HMCPL revamped its downtown branch in recent years to include public services on the first two floors and an event space on the third floor. The third level also features a new Technology Training Center (TTC) that hosts multiple computer training courses and workshops.

Whether you’re looking for basics like resumé writing or more advanced classes like Google Certification, the HMCPL is sure to have something for you.

In addition to the TTC, the library system has a Workforce Development Lab at its North Huntsville branch on Sparkman Drive. Created for those who need digital assistance securing employment or job advancement, the training is provided to patrons by local agencies, free of charge.

Get your creative juices flowing

The HMCPL puts on-demand 3D printing and other cutting-edge tech like a vinyl cutter, CriCut Maker and CNC carving machine at your fingertips.

Currently available at HMCPL’s North, South and Madison locations, Makerspace Studios are free and open for any library cardholder to use. Hewitt expects to add another Makerspace Studio at the downtown branch by the end of the year.

Check out the calendar for monthly programs.

The next generation

Libraries are a magical place, especially for children. The HMCPL makes literacy fun with regular storytime events, interactive youth programs, arts and crafts, puppet shows and much more.

Looking for something different for the kids? Consider checking out an adventure backpack complete with nature and trail guides, binoculars and more from the Gurley branch. Fishing gear is also available for checkout from the Triana location!

Stay in the know

Bookmark the events calendar on your desktop or mobile device to stay up to date on all the cool things happening at HMCPL. You can also follow the library system on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube for more great content.

Looking ahead, Hewitt hopes citizens will continue to view the library as a safe place to gather, reconnect and explore our world.

“We want to connect people to the information and resources they need,” she said. “That’s our main role.”