It’s American Library Association’s National Library Card Sign-Up Month right now so I wanted to find out what’s going on at the libraries that might encourage people to sign up for a library card (or use the one they already have). I will say that I’m a lifelong library fan, so I anticipated going there and finding all the things that I fell in love with. Wow! I was wrong. Libraries have, indeed, evolved over time and adapted to the patrons’ changing needs (psst…if you get a library card, you can be called a patron!). I was surprised that there were some things I came across that I had never even heard of (like Playaways, described below). Parents, if you haven’t seen these, check them out!
As I toured my local library, I was impressed most by the usability of the space. When I was young and my aunt first took me to the library, and even when I took my own kids, the standard atmosphere was of silence, serenity, and studying. When my kids were older, I would take advantage of the calm in the library while I waited for them and read for awhile (something I couldn’t seem to do at home). Now, though, there are groups of activity, each one geared to specific age groups with activities to support it. There are people engaged in various activities throughout the library. I absolutely fell in love with the kids’ area. The library, as I knew it, no longer existed. This new library has evolved into an integral hub of our community. It’s a safe place to spend time, whether reading a book, playing a game, or just “being”. Speaking of safety, the library is very cautious to ensure your (and your child’s) safety in person and on the internet. The computers, that are free to use, have different filters on them in the children’s area versus the adult area.
In keeping up with the needs of our times, the library has done an outstanding job. Some of the things the library does to integrate itself into the community include working with the health department, offering summer reading programs in cooperation with the surrounding school districts, offering materials for home-schooling, and maintaining a presence at the local farmers market and community events. My local library (Grayslake Area Public Library) partners with AARP to offer free tax filing for seniors by providing space and coordinating the schedule. Did you know that we are also able to use one of the meeting rooms that are available? Do you have a group or event (e.g., Scouts, HOA…) that may require the use of a room and audio-visual equipment? Contact your local librarian to see if you are able to book one of the rooms!
Some things that are offered that I learned about during my visit:
- General: They have adult- and children-specific computers as well as copiers, scanners and even a free notary public. This is so handy when you need to send documents or notarize a legal document.
- Music/Audio section: offers CDs and books on tape. However, they also offer “Playaways”. These are all-in-one players pre-loaded with a book. They are portable, lightweight, and you don’t need any kind of player to use. Just plug in your headphones. These are terrific for parents, kids, commuters, seniors, and visually impaired users.
- Video section: contains a lot of brand-new movies just out as well as television series (including premium channels) that you can binge watch.
- Books: in addition to the standard categories of book (fiction, large print, etc.), there are a couple of sections worth checking out such as Book Discussion (great for book clubs and they have several copies) and Hot Picks (the newest books and magazines offered).
- Library Exchange: did you know that you can check out a book at one library and return it to another? Did you know that your local library can get books from anywhere in the country for you to borrow?
- Drop-in & Reserved Programs: Most libraries offer programs such as book chats, one-off classes, film series, technology classes, etc.
- Book Sales: Offered throughout the year; a great opportunity to purchase previously used books at next to nothing! These are generally sponsored by the Friends of the Library group (or similar), an invaluable asset to the library. You are welcome to donate your time and/or books to your local library.
- Community Info: Upon entering the library, we have a great place to share community information including local events, resource information, published newsletters, etc.
- Digital Resources: My library has over 36 different databases! These are all FREE to use and include such things as Mango Languages (learn more than 70 languages!) and Lynda.com (offers more than 4,000 courses in business, technology, and creative skills). What an amazing opportunity to learn! You have to check out the other 35+ databases available for your use. This is instant access to free education at your fingertips!
- More online resources include digital access to various audio and visual materials like e-magazines, e-books, e-videos, e-music and e-audio books (all avail. separately for kids, of course!). You can borrow these online 24 hours/day. These are FREE to you; stop paying those subscription or new book prices!
Kids: I can’t speak for all libraries, but I imagine most are similar in trying to accommodate the needs of children in the area. At my local library, the Grayslake Area Public Library, the children’s area has (in addition to tons of books) games, game tables (chess, checkers), a fish tank, a youth computer area, multi-purpose area, quiet rooms, and a pre-school area. There’s even a parenting section! One thing that I found to be awesome is the Playaway View, which is an all-in-one video player that is pre-loaded with videos. These are portable and durable (think road trip), are age-appropriate, and you don’t need a DVD player. Also, there are science lab equipment theme boxes available for borrowing. What are these, you ask? They are backpacks full of fun! Do you have a Curious George on your hands? Maybe someone who likes to take things apart? Each “box” has a theme and is filled with all kinds of fun things to do, experiment with, and have fun exploring! The bottom line for kids is that it opens a whole new world for them. There is just so much to do, to learn, to experience. What a great gift that is for you to share with them.
Teens: I think it’s great that my library has its own teen-specific section. They can have their own space to interact, have access to their own materials designed for their use, and have their own go-to person for requests, assistance, etc. They also have their own ongoing groups, special teen events, drop-in events, and study groups (ACT & SAT practice test sessions).
Obviously I’m a library fan to begin with, but I’m so impressed with the new offerings and features of the library that I have to share this information with you. In fact, I’ve already signed up for an outing, downloaded the apps for music, books, and magazines and I plan on attending the upcoming writer’s group meeting! Frankly, there are so many things that the library now has to offer that can save you time and money, you have to check it out. As my library tour guide pointed out, if there’s anything you need, they probably have an app for that! Take advantage of this awesome resource and sign up for your library card, drop in, or go online to see all that you can take advantage of. Have Fun!