Long gone are the days in which local libraries served solely as places to check out books or study. Today libraries provide wider, varied services-in addition to these essential ones, of course-to an ever growing audience.

Once upon a time, libraries were hushed, quiet, adult places. Eventually, parents could take their infant or toddler to the library for storytime and then bring home a favorite book. Today, the "storywell" includes games, songs, physical activities and plenty of laughter mixed with rushed anticipation-all related to the rich world of books.

Looking for a networking opportunity or want to meet some new friends? Join a library book group or club; they are there for everyone from preteens to seniors.

Want to go digital? Download an audiobook, browse the e-book selection or grab a movie. Red Wing, for example, has a small selection of digital magazine titles that patrons can download and read on a personal device.

Staff also will do what they can to help print and scan documents from your device and internet access is readily available. The photocopier also remains handy (a novel idea just 25 years ago).

Have the itch to try something new outside of the written word? Your local library has you covered. The offerings are especially broad for children and teens-crazy games such as life-size Candyland in the summer, STEM-related events and now the newly formed LEGO Club. Next week Red Wing Public Library will offer its extremely popular Harry Potter Party.

For adults, informational offerings may range from crafts to technology to author programs. Adults also have numerous options for reading and winning prizes, gift cards or movie passes. The current yearlong challenge is to read a book with a setting in each state. In addition, there is a monthly reading challenge or game. For February, it's "Blind Date with a Book" through which people might discover an author or genre they normally would not have chosen.

A vibrant library reflects and responds to the community. Just as important as libraries realizing the need to adjust spaces and programming, however, is the community's acknowledgement of the services provided. We're not talking only about funding from SELCO, the county and cities, although these entities distribute our property tax dollars to various departments and agencies. We also are talking about library patrons. Sometimes when something is "free," people take it for granted or don't think something is worth exploring.

Knowledge is an asset for all of us and libraries long have been the community's keeper of it. If you haven't been to a library in years, you are overdue. Do it so you can better yourself. Do it so you can better your kids. Do it so you can better your community.

In short, don't just check out - check in.