It’s a Friday night, and teens of all ages make their way to a place to hang out for the night. No, it’s not the local arcade, grocery store parking lot or even a friend’s basement. They’re going to the library for a night filled with root beer floats, prizes and a pop culture showdown presented by a local artist.

This event and many others like it are part of Payson City Library’s growing initiative to reinvent the public library. And according to children’s librarian Molly Baker, it’s what many libraries around the country are doing to continue to offer a place of learning to the community.

“We are really inspired by other libraries throughout the country who are redefining how people view the library,” Baker said, “While there are people who claim libraries are no longer relevant, libraries are still very much relevant, though their definition has changed as technology and society as changed. Libraries will always be the center of information and community, but how people receive information and gather continues to change.”

Baker has watched these changes over the years, and has dedicated much of her life to the study of libraries and in implementing what she has learned to the betterment of the community.

“I grew up in Northern Virginia right outside D.C., the youngest of five girls,” she said. “My mom has always loved children’s books and we were raised surrounded by books in our home. I always loved reading and books, so when we had a career day in sixth grade and I learned about the schooling librarians must go through, I decided that that is what I wanted to do with my life. I always knew that one day I was going to get a Master of Library and Information Science degree to be a children’s librarian.”

Becoming a librarian was much more than organizing books, keeping track of lost books and keeping a quiet atmosphere for readers and studiers. With the evolution of the way people receive information, and the desire to learn in ways beyond books, Baker says libraries have had to find ways to adapt.

“There was a study done a couple of years ago that showed that millennials are the generation most likely to use the public library,” Baker said. “We want people to see that the library can offer so much to the community, not just books. By providing various services, we are meeting the needs of a diverse population of users and people will come to the library for all sorts of needs.

In the past few years, the Payson City Library has added movie nights; monthly after hours programs for adults, teens and tweens; a weekly after school program; additional storytimes and additional book clubs for various age groups. Baker said that the library has added these programs to cater to the entire community.

“We have at least one program almost every day of the week,” she said. “We are trying to serve each age group so that everyone feels that they have a place in the library. For example, for our teens, we have discovered that game nights and movie nights are what appeal to them the most, so that is what we do for them most often. For some groups, book-related activities and programs are what they want, so that is what we do. But we do not tie ourselves down by only doing book-ish programs, as much as we do love books!”

But holding social events isn’t the only thing that the staff at the Payson City Library is doing to serve the community. The library carries a variety of items and kits and services that community members can check out.

“In recent years, we have increased our total number of programs significantly,” Baker said.

“In 2018 we started offering additional items for circulation with funding provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act and administered by the Utah State Library Division.”

Many things the library has added are:

Discovery Kits which are themed kits for children that include multimedia materials such like books, DVDs, CDs, games and toys. Themes include various holidays, the alphabet, music, criminology, survival, magnets, nursery rhymes, shapes, colors, etc.

Chromebooks, and Wifi Hotspots that can be checked out for one week.

Community Adventure Kits that include kayaks and paddle boards, snow shoes, baby hiking backpack carriers, metal detectors, telescopes and pickleball sets. These can be checked out for one week.

Digital Adventure Kits, which include GoPros and a Canon Rebel digital camera, and can be checked out for one week.

According to Baker, the response from the community has been extremely positive.

“We have had an overall great response to the variety of services we offer,” she said. “Patrons often say things like, ‘What?! I didn’t know the Library did that! That’s awesome!’ People are excited and energized about the library and our statistics are continually moving upward — more checkouts, more attendees at programs, etc. I hope that people will start seeing the library as an ever-changing and evolving part of the community that hears and listens to them. We want it to be a safe place for everyone to find ways to grow and learn.”

The library is adding two new programs starting in February. The first is the Young at Heart book club for adults who love reading junior fiction books (books written for ages 8-12), with the first meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 28, discussing “Anne of Green Gables” by L. M. Montgomery. The second new program is Traveling Tales, which is a storytime at the Central Utah Veterans Home in Payson for kids and the veterans. The first storytime is at 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 20 and is open for families to join.

For more information on what the library is doing, follow them @paysoncitylibrary on Instagram, Payson Library on Facebook, or go to the website http://paysonlibrary.org.