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Smithsonian Magazine picks Memphis as place with most innovative library in the country

Have you been to the Memphis library lately? There's a lot more to do than just reading.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis is back on the map nationally once again. This time for the libraries.

Smithsonian Magazine highlighted Benjamin Hooks Library as the most innovative public library in the nation.

Shh! This is a library, but it’s more than just books.

Check it out.

Typically, a library is the place for turning down and not the place for turning up. However, you cannot help but to vibe with Benjamin Hooks Library’s Ralph Calhoun.

“Libraries for a long time have been like sterile places. ‘Shh. Hold on. Walk lightly. Tip toe.' You know? But we’re like, ‘Ahh. Come on. We’re here,’” said Calhoun, the library’s Audio Engineering Coordinator.

Cloud 901 is one of the many attributes taking Memphis Public Libraries to a whole new level.

“Cloud 901 is a space where we try to offer teens a place to experiment and find out what it is that they want to be or what they want to dive into and build their passion around,” said Calhoun.

It is all about innovation.

“We’re the future. You know how movies say you’re 2021? That’s now,” said Calhoun. “We’re trying to foster the next future of creators, producers, thinkers and doers.”

They are building beyond books.

There is a music studio, photography studio, art studio, and robotics center.

You can check out sewing machines, repair tools, and much more.

“First and foremost, you want to be able to adapt to the needs of the community. Our community is the one that are... People in our community, they push us. They tell us what their needs are,” said Jamie Griffin, the library’s Creative Outreach and Special Projects Assistant Director. “It’s not just here at the central library. We have 18 different locations. We have programming for adults, teens, children, even those toddlers.”

Those programs have been recognized nationally.

Smithsonian Magazine picked Memphis as having the most innovative library in the country.

“To be innovative is to always try to be a step ahead of what’s out there,” said Griffin.

“We love performances. We love artwork. It’s Memphis. We love music. The library also has that same cultural vibrance,” said Calhoun.

The Memphis libraries are places where you can check out a book and check in to groove.

“It’s a place that offers the opportunity for you to get things done that you really haven’t had a place to do them before unless you knew somebody. You know the library. It doesn’t take much to get a library card,” said Calhoun.

They are bringing the future to the present in the most innovative ways.

Before You Leave, Check This Out