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Beating the heat, without breaking the bank: Libraries offer free programming for people of all ages

While libraries serve as cooling centers on the hot days, they are also a source of free entertainment and education for the community to check out.

DES MOINES, Iowa — For a list of cooling centers in Polk County, click here

We are officially in the dog days of summer. Some families may be turning to the pool, the movies, or the mall to stay cool. For others, that's not feasible for their summer budget, especially this year. 

"The library is inflation free," said Des Moines Public Library Communications Specialist Aaron Gernes. 

Gernes adds this has been the library's largest year for community outreach following the pandemic. 

"I think we've handed out almost 8,000 books to kids in the community," said Gernes. "So we were able to go into the schools a little early, we were able to get into different childcare centers early as well. And throughout the summer."

The pandemic meant a sharp decline in participation for things like summer reading programs. But this year has proven to be the rebound libraries were hoping for. 

At Clive's library, within the first three weeks of the summer reading program, there were more participants and books read than in all of the 2021 program. And when it comes to free events and programming, participation is through the roof. 

"Last year, we would maybe have three people come," said Clive Library Manager Stephanie Keller. "This year, we're having 20-25. I know our youth services librarian has a program 'Movers and Shakers', and she can get anywhere from 45 kids to 65 kids."

For some adults, the library has been a source to continue their education. 

"Even to learn how to use Microsoft Word as maybe they're looking for a new job after everything that's happened last few years," Gernes added.

But staff say you don't need to be an avid reader or studying to take full advantage of the library's offerings. 

"Let us be your full stop for all of your entertainment needs," said Keller. "We have video games, DVDs, Blu-rays. We've got books on CD so you don't have to play that pay that Audible fee anymore."

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