How to get the most from your public library

What can you do with your local public library? Before I get into some ideas for you in your own particular environment allow me a moment to describe my own environment. Our family has enjoyed one of the best public library systems in the country, the Okanagan Regional Library (ORL) System. Why is this particular public service so useful? It combines traditional library materials on loan and mixes that with digital opportunities. Our family are avid users of the library system (reading as much as 100 books per 2 week period in the summer) and have learned how to more effectively learn using our library system.

First allow me to state why I call it a system as opposed to a local library. ORL has a network of libraries that have pooled their combined resources to provide a super library for all in the region. Likewise there is the option to get materials from other libraries outside of the immediate region (for a type of transfer fee). This mimics the model of the world wide web offering people a sort of combined knowledge base with the main back-end being a distribution system for the materials.

This alone requires a lot of technology to provide such a service, and our family has excitedly enjoyed this wonderful offering of services. What about the digital aspect of the library? Every area has its own implementation of a digital offering (or lack thereof). The ORL system allows for full on-line management of traditional library activities (check-in /out of books, request to place books on hold etc). The addition of on-line management has recently extended over the years to digital books that may be downloaded over the internet and enjoyed on most portable audio players. This is extremely useful to rural or immobile persons as it gives an opportunity to sample and fully enjoy these digital offerings and allow a greater sampling of literature to those who otherwise may have not enjoyed the material. Likewise when travelling, some people get motion sickness when attempting to read. Listening to audio material can be an effective way to make a long trip otherwise an enjoyable shared experience (even a farmer working on his fields can enjoy this aspect of their library system).

We have enjoyed audio books such as:

The boy in striped pyjamas

The giver

The Little house on the prairie series

The hatchet

Brian’s Winter

The scarecrow and his servant

The call of the wild

White Fang

and many more. This has introduced a new world of authors we likely would not have encountered. So how can you make the most of your library experience?

– Talk to an enthusiastic librarian at your local branch. Ask questions about what services are available in your area, you’d be surprised how an enthusiastic librarian can show you a new world of learning opportunity.

– Make suggestions to your librarians about how they can improve the services they offer. For example in our region it is possible to make a request for specific books that are not already in the system and in many cases they will purchase them to bring them into the system. I requested “Working Effectively with Legacy Code” and within a short period of time our library purchased this book and introduced it into circulation. This leads to my next point…

– Your library is an excellent way to save money and learn new things at the same time. They have many DVD’s from documentaries to other types of material essential to learning new things. This makes learning accessible to almost all people (while the digital side provides opportunity for those who have difficultly getting to the library itself).

– Get involved in the programs offered and connect with others in your community. Our children have joined the summer reading club over the years (in some cases joining multiple locations simultaneously) because of their pure enjoyment of reading. This is a great way to meet others who share the same passion.

– Don’t have a computer or high speed internet access? Many libraries offer computers on-site and with your library membership card allow a limited amount of internet access time each day. Out library also offers wireless internet (wifi) if you have a laptop. The opportunities for learning are tremendous any truly few can give a valid excuse for not learning new things. Our community has a population of approximately 5000, the library is closed 3 days out of 7 and has a limited number of on-site computers. Surprisingly the librarians are great, the service is enjoyable and the use of our local library tends be be higher (percent wise) than neighbouring communities.

Why not visit your library the next time you find yourself in the area and find out what you have been missing, you won’t be dissapointed.

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