Christine Wieder has worked as the adult services technician for the Bethlehem Area Public Library South Side Branch since January of this year. A lifelong resident of Bethlehem, she graduated from Moravian University in 2020 with a degree in English and earned her master's in library science from Clarion University this past May. (Courtesy of Christine Wieder)

Community Voices: The importance of libraries


Christine Wieder is the Adult Services Technician at Bethlehem Area Public Library South Side Branch. Wieder has worked as the adult services technician for the library since January. A lifelong resident of Bethlehem, she graduated from Moravian University in 2020 with a degree in English and earned her master’s in library science from Clarion University in May 2022. 

Growing up, I visited the Bethlehem Area Public Library frequently, never realizing that I would one day make the switch from patron to employee. 

After working in libraries for nearly two years, I have come to understand just how much of an impact libraries have on the community as a whole, as well as on an individual level. 

People remember their experiences at the Bethlehem Area Public Library South Side Branch. Whether it is a simple pleasant exchange at checkout, sitting down with someone for individualized research help or laughing together at story time, these positive interactions have encouraged a sense of community over the span of decades, one that I believe — and am proud to say — is especially strong on the South Side. 

One thing I wish more people realized about libraries is that we are not just about books. While books still play a large role in what libraries have to offer, libraries are primarily about meeting the needs of the community. That is why new resources have been added to keep up with those changing needs. From mobile hotspots for checkout, to classes to prepare for the citizenship exam, to one-on-one appointments for resumé and career help, we are always offering new resources. 

After the pandemic hit and exacerbated already-present issues, we tried to help support the community in any way possible. 

Much of life at the height of COVID-19 moved online, and much of it remains that way. Yet, the internet is still inaccessible for many households, despite it being a necessity in today’s world. Yes, the library is open to those who wish to use our free internet, but what happens to those who rely on us if we are forced into a shutdown again? 

We make resources like the Affordable Connectivity Program, which offers discounted internet and technology rates to eligible households, available. The library also recently began offering appointments to assist those who wish to apply for the program.

Most notably, housing is a big struggle in Bethlehem — one that seems to be affecting more people than not. 

We have taken the time to highlight various resources and connect with other organizations that are available to provide help. We have numerous applications available for several different programs, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and New Bethany Ministries’ rental assistance, for those who may find themselves seeking additional support. 

While we can certainly do a lot for the community, we can only do so much. That is why it is so important for us to be aware of and make connections with other organizations in the community that can assist with what we are not able to. We may not be able to dish out legal advice, for instance, but we can help connect people with the individual or organization that offers such assistance. 

Overall, the library has something for everyone, whether you are a reader, a movie buff, a crafter or a video game lover. Our biggest struggle is letting people know we are here, we are open and we have so much to offer. The next time you or someone you know is looking for a fun — and free — activity, check out what the South Side Branch has going on.

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