Do you have a library card? Have you used it lately – within the past month, the past year, the past five years? If it’s been a while since you visited the library you will be surprised at the things that have changed since the librarian with the thick glasses, tight bun and sensible shoes “shussed” you. OK, maybe they still wear sensible shoes. Librarians are on their feet a lot and generally, they possess a great deal of common sense!
What does then 21st Century library have to offer you? First of all, books — and a lot of them. But not just hardcover literary fiction — because libraries respond to the reading interests of their patrons. There is every genre, from mystery to science fiction, westerns, fantasy and romance. Beautiful children’s picture books perch on shelves with seating sized for the tiniest reader, juvenile fiction (and non-fiction) encourage beginning readers, reluctant readers and avid readers alike with many choices selected to keep this age group practicing their skills. Teen areas encourage students to curl up with the latest Young Adult novel, or to find resources for a homework assignment. And paperback collections encourage adults, who might complain they have little time to read, to snap up the latest bestseller.
Not only are there physical books, but libraries across the nation have joined the eBook revolution, adding titles to their collections that can be downloaded from your home computer without ever visiting the library. You can load your reader with free books the next time you go on vacation and never worry about returning them. eBooks expire on their due date! If you want to know more about borrowing eBooks, visit http://www.overdrive.com/ one of the major suppliers of digital books for libraries.
If you love magazines the way I do, (it’s nearly an addiction) you can appreciate that libraries have mass subscriptions to a vast array of different magazines. There are scholarly works but you’ll also find “Glamour” and “People” on the shelves. And most libraries subscribe to a variety of local and national newspapers. You probably can’t borrow the most recent arrival, but libraries usually keep at least one year back, and let’s be honest — how much do the recipes for Thanksgiving dinner change from year to year?
I love audio books, and most of the time I have a set of book CD’s in my car. I get them from the library, and when I write, I love to play background music. A search of “subject” will often give me interesting music to write by. My son likes to try out different bands before he commits to a download from iTunes, and he can do with a search in the library catalog. We all benefit from the variety of music he brings to our attention. If you want to download music for your tablet or mp3 player — that’s available from your library too. Plus, libraries often have a vast collection of movies and no-fiction videos available. When I’m writing a location I’ve never visited, I check out travel videos to get a sense of the country-side.
Finally, the library has one of the best research resources ever — the reference librarian. If you need a really obscure piece of information, background for your character’s job, or information about the setting of your book — there are professional researchers available to you for free! At some library systems, you can call a reference phone line, email your question or even reserve a librarian to help you do your research.
“Free libraries maintained by the people are cradles of democracy, and their spread can never fail to extend and strengthen the democratic idea, the equality of the citizen, and the royalty of man. They are emphatically fruits of the true American ideal.” Andrew Carnegie.
Deborah Schneider – Employed by King County Library System, the busiest and best library system in the US!