Both photos– Exeter Public Library Director Jessica Votipka welcomes patrons at the downtown library.
Exeter has boasted a public library since 1910, starting with a gathering of 1,000 volumes which in 1915 was housed in the Yates Tailor Shop downtown.
These days, the Exeter Public Library is ensconced in a building built in 1974 to house both the library and the city offices.
Libraries, especially the one in Exeter, are no longer quiet stacks with a spinster librarian shushing patrons. Exeter’s cheerful room includes lots of technology, fun activities for kids and a variety of options for adults as well.
Recently, through grants and donations, Exeter was able to revitalize the reading spaces of the library to bring them up to date. The library board decided to go a step further and purchased furniture with built-in usb ports for charging electronics along with some updated computer equipment.
Libraries in this age are eager to keep up with the trends to stay relevant. Exeter Public Library Director Jessica Votipka explained, “Libraries across the board are offering a much greater variety of services – not just reading materials and movies. Off the top of my head, I can think of some Nebraska libraries that loan out cake pans, board games, video games – you’d be surprised. I’ve even heard of a library out-of-state that loans out power tools!”
While Votipka and her Library Board aren’t quite headed down the power tool aisle yet, they are keep tabs on what’s new in the service area. Votipka belongs to several trade organizations including the American Library Association (ALA), the Nebraska Library Association (NLA), and the Association of Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL). “These groups offer wonderful resources for libraries big and small to keep up with the latest trends. I recently attended the NLA conference in Lincoln, which had some great sessions.”
Library Board Chair Becky Erdkamp agrees with the direction that Votipka is taking. “We have to go beyond just books and videos. Jessica is able to provide research and genealogy services. There are a lot more services at the library than what first comes to mind.”
Maintaining accredited status also is a way for the library and the board to tap into a wonderful resource. The Nebraska Library Commission offers educational opportunities for both the board and the librarian, “There is a lot more involved in librarianship and library governance than people think,” Votipka explained.
Keeping the community involved can be a challenge in a small town. Votipka expressed her thoughts on this challenge, “A library is often a reflection of its community. We don’t want to gather moss, so to speak; we want – and need -- to continue to innovate and grow.”
Erdkamp added, “We are looking for ways we can stay relevant. The way people are using the library is changing. E-readers have changed libraries a lot and we are looking into those services.”
Exeter Public Library has embraced growing by investing in an AWE Early Learning Station that is just for the kids to use. Funded by grants and donations the computer has a child-friendly keyboard and learning games that are very attractive to kids.
To keep the young adult group interested, Votipka is investigating an idea she learned about at the NLA/NSLA conference involving QR codes on books which are linked to an online book trailer. Votipka plans to continue her story hours similar to the “Fancy Nancy” and cowboy themes that were popular this year. She hopes to implement a “One Book, One Exeter” program soon.
Erdkamp praised Votipka’s innovation, “Jessica is really good about sensing trends and has taken advantage of training opportunities whenever she can.”
Although the majority of the Exeter Public Library service is currently in books and movies Votipka is seeing more trends in what she referred to as the “maker movement.” She explained, “basically, library maker spaces provide creative tools and other components that patrons might not have otherwise had access to. We do a bit of this already. I get folks coming in to do origami, duct tape crafts, bulletin board decorations, and similar things. We are having a new public event sometime in December called “Random Acts of Craftiness”, which will showcase our local “makers” and give visitors the opportunity to learn more about their crafts.
The library has added a Cricut machine to their technology wish list to help embrace the craft movement. A Cricut machine allows a user to cut paper out in different shapes in all different sizes.
With the new lounge furniture in place the library is a great place to gather. Once the cold weather sets in Votipka will set up a public puzzle for community members to stop by and work with. Votipka is always happy to help patrons found a book that may not be in the new or best-seller racks, “We have a large collection that is certainly worth exploring,” she explained.
Votipka emphasized that one of the most important public services the library has to offer is the freedom of information, “One of the reasons our country is so awesome is that we have the rights to express ourselves and gather information, and libraries are essential to this. To take away the basic right of freedom of information – a core value of libraries -- is to throw out the foundation of our nation.”
When asked about the future plans for the Exeter Public Library Votipka mentioned that they always have the community in mind. They are looking at giving Storybook Park a makeover which has been well supported in the community but right now progress will depend on what happens with the building next door which the village now owns. “We don’t want to do a lot of revamping until that gets taken care of.”
The library received funds from the Exeter Community Foundation for a new circulation desk that is scheduled for shipment in January. The board, along, with Votipka, are planning an open house to show off the new look of the library once everything is in place. Votipka is pleased with the results so far, “All of the furniture has really freshened up our look, and now people have a comfortable place to read the newspaper or just hang out.”
Current building constructed in 1974 (with Village Office next door)
11,953 books, 195 audio units, 376 videos, 12 subscriptions (including local newspapers and a variety of magazines), and 20 puppets in the library’s collection.
283 registered borrowers
Circulation over 3,500
Hours are MWF 8 a.m. - noon, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. – noon.
Past library directors: Nina Bartu, Lana Kimble, Henrietta Harre
Current library board members: Becky Erdkamp, Sharon Dyer, Pat Mathiesen, Lynette R. Trauger, Rachel Vossler