I'm a baby boomer and when I grew up the library was a place for books, period. Today's public library has so much more and so many people are so unaware of what is available. I was with a group of people who had to stay in close proximity to the courthouse. One of them had a very active two year old. We were discussing where to go and what to do and the baby's mother told us to go ahead; she needed to find someplace for the little one. I pointed to the library across the square and suggested it would be a good place and people looked at me like I had two heads. I replied that while I had not been in that library, I'd bet it had a children's room with toys, room to run and of course, books. If I needed someplace to take young kids in bad weather, the library was always at the top of the list. The price was right and we almost always found someone with whom to play. I couldn't believe that people didn't realize it was available. I have come to realize over the years that few people realize all the services available at our public library, so this post is going to describe many of them. While not every library will have the same services mine does, most will have many similar services.
Yes, the main product of most public libraries is still physical books that patrons can borrow. However, patrons are not limited to the books purchased by their library; most libraries are part of state-wide inter-library loan programs. While those programs may not make it possible for your to borrow the latest best seller right now, they do make it possible for readers to obtain copies of research material from university libraries or older books from libraries that still have copies. Further, most libraries take requests and will consider purchasing books if there is demand for them.
Besides physical books, our library has several sources of e-books. Yours probably subscribes to many of the same services or ones similar to them.
- 3M Cloud Library: Offers e-books and audio books compatible with Android and iOS. While they can be read via an app on the Kindle Fire, they are not compatible with non-fire Kindles. They can be read on Nooks.
- OverDrive: Offers e-books, audio books and videos, and the ebooks are Kindle compatible. The videos do not appear to be popular movies but rather are instructional or children's videos. The books are books that are popular today.
- One Click Digital: Offers audiobooks and a variety of books I recognize as being popular today.
- Comics Plus: Access to over 16,000 comics. Unlike the services above, which allow a limited number of people to check out a book at one time, Comics Plus allows instant downloads.
- TumbleBooks Library: Aimed at children, this service uses flash and is for computer use.
Books are not the only digital media available from the library--and did I tell you that you don't actually have to GO to the library to get them; you can access them via your computer using your library card. Here are some other services offered by my library:
- Freegal allows you to download music and music videos. They have over nine million songs and you can download and keep them. I'm not a music expert but there appear to be more "golden oldies" than hip new stars but I couldn't swear to it.
- Hoopla provides TV shows, movies, books, audio books, and comic books. They don't jump out at me as the latest thing, but movies and TV aren't my thing, so they could be.
- Music Online: This is a streaming service that seems more oriented toward classical music than popular.
- Flipster: Allows you to read many popular magazines online. I just perused Money, Kiplingers Personal Finance, Good Housekeeping, Southern Living and Sports Illustrated. If you are paying for subscriptions from Kindle, this is a real money-saver.
- Zinio: While Flipster only allows magazines to be read online, Zinio allows you to download your favorites to your tablet. While it may be a matter of the titles to which a library subscribes, for my library the number of titles availabe via Zinio did not seem as extensive as through Flipster, though Zinio claims that back issues are available as well as current ones.
- Lynda.com: My library has a subscription that allows me to access videos from Lynda.com. I don't know if I can access as many videos as through Lynda.com's paid program, but there is enough here to teach me quite a bit about a lot of topics.
Besides these download services, my library subscribes to a variety of databases that can provide useful information. I'll detail them soon.
Does your library offer download services? Have you used them? What do you think of them?