If you’re like me, odds are you probably haven’t stepped foot in a public library in quite a long time. I couldn’t tell you where my library card was to save my life, and it’s very likely I have fines accumulating faster than I would be able to pay them off. One weekend though I needed something fun to do with the boys that was indoors. My littlest is still too young to really deal with the blazing Florida heat, so I figured the public library would be a great way to spend some time and introduce them to a world of learning.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t read books, but mine tend to be in digital format lately. That fact that my oldest loves actual books is still a bit mind-boggling to me, as he rarely sees us with them. I use an older model Nook from Barnes & Noble because it gives me the tactile feel similar too an old school paperback with the option to download my media on the fly. So where did he get this fascination with actual books? He has quite a few that have been passed down through the family, but rarely do we actually go out and buy kiddie books for him.
Here in Volusia County we are blessed with a very diverse library system. I’m not sure how it works in other places, so my amazement may actually be with something that is standard around the county but I’m not too sure. Our libraries come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. In my home town I would say we have a medium-sized facility. It’s complete with a few meeting rooms, a children’s area, teen area, and a few computers. To the North of us, is a much larger facility with floor space that rivals many Barns & Noble locations! On the other end of the spectrum, we also have one not too far away that is the size of my dining room. (Hint: our dining room is tiny!)
So on a Saturday afternoon, in we went to our medium-sized library prepared to be shamed by my past transgressions of the public library system. I was geared up to write a check that rivals my mortgage payment for late fees, fines, and stupidity of my youth. Do you remember that Married With Children episode with AL Bundy and the library book? Picture that scenario…. Much to my surprise, I only had to pay $5 to replace my card. After checking my ID, I was free and clear. They either completely purged me from the system or it’s possible I was a fairly responsible youth. Either way, I gave them my old address to double-check, but still free and clear. Yes we made it past the Librarian!
So we spent some time actually reading a few children’s books, and yes I sat in the tiny chairs.. It turns out my little guy is fascinated by computer keyboards and mice so I think it might be time to start introducing him to the Mac! There were three or so computers in the kiddie area, complete with headphones. I was pretty impressed. I’m not sure what software was loaded in them, but I’m willing to bet it was educational. The teen area had two more computers and seemed rather cozy. Instead of the industrial feel, it somehow was a more chic area with high stools and a table. I swear, I do’t remember a dedicated teen area when I was a kid!
So how does this relate to old school meeting high tech? Well it’s not so much the location or the interior, but WHAT you can checkout at the library now a days. For starters, there were rows and rows of DVD available for checkout that rival many of the old BlockBuster Video locations of my youth. They had everything from hit movies, to documentaries, and all the way back to new TV shows. They weren’t all stuffy PBS specials, but actually shows and movies you and your kids will want to watch! Although I didn’t see any at my local library, our system also has portable MP3 books on “tape”! (Really just audio books but books on tape still seems catchy to me for some reason.) I thought this was the neatest concept. It’s a small device that you put a AA battery into and plug in your own headphones. It’s the size of a few small credit cards stacked together and has buttons for control. I thought this would be perfect for those on the go that don’t want to carry around a CD player for books on tape. Do they even still make portable CD players?
When I received my shiny new library card, I was also given a complete informational packet that also had a calendar. I was pretty impressed with all of the activities they have for all walks of life. Everything from kids story time, to fairly new movies, and even a discussions that ranged in topics. This was just the tip of the iceberg! Each branch has their own calendar of events and the majority of the events are FREE! The hours of our particular location vary, but it turns out the library has a branch open in our county almost every night fairly late, and even on Sundays. It looks like the library has certainly come a long way in the past few years.
So that’s not high tech enough to warrant the title? How about the virtual benefits! That’s right, with my library membership I get access to streaming movies, TV, magazines, and ebooks! Our library system has partnered with quite a few media partners including FreeGal, Hoopla, Zinio, Axis 360, Freading, and Overdrive. These are all services designed to deliver digital content. Everything from eBooks to television is available via these services. I browsed through multiple providers and they all seem to have different content. You probably won’t find the very latest episode of Dr. Who, but there are plenty of things to watch and read available as part of my library benefits. No monthly cost, no fees and tax payer supported! Many of these services are cross-platform compatible from iPads, to Android phones and yes even Kindles and Nooks! Most even have their own apps available for download.
I can’t wait to jump into this world of FREE digital media! Be on the lookout for some in-depth articles about these services. Now I’m sure each library system is different and they don’t all offer these services, but the odds are good yours has something similar. So for only $5, I was able to check out a few kids books, two CDs and even a DVD! Seems like a great deal to me! Just to clarify, the $5 was the cost to replace my library card. There was no fee to actually check out the materials.