What Has Your Library Done For You Lately?

I'm wondering, how often do you go to your library? If the answer is not very often, when was the last time you went? If you go all the time when was the last time you looked at your library's website? I'm at my library a fair amount, at least once a week, and I use the site a lot, to renew books or see when they are due, but still, mine managed to slip a terrific new feature past me. I only just noticed that I can now download movies. If you think your library is only for books you're probably in for an extremely pleasant surprise.

Let's go ahead and start with books. Of course my library (and yours) has plenty of books. But chances are there are lots of different ways for you to get those books. Mine has regular books made of paper, which you can find by wandering around the library until you see something, that catches your eye (my preferred method) or you can put a hold on a book. Let's say you want to get a copy of Who Moved my Tipping Point? but you can’t find it on the shelves. By putting a hold on it you're reserving it and requesting that it be delivered to the branch of your choice. If the book is popular you'll go into a queue and the library will let you when the book is ready. Mine will either call me or send me an email.

There are also quite a few books available electronically, either specifically as an electronic book or as an audio book. The audios are especially nice because I can get them without leaving the house. And speaking of not leaving the house, if you're ill my system has a program where they will mail books to those who are housebound, who can them mail them back again when they're finished. I believe they come with a prepaid envelope you can just drop into the mail. No trips to the post office necessary either.

There are also DVDs available, popular films as well as exercise videos and everything from gardening to how to train your dog. There are loads of CDs; popular music, classical, country, musicals and religious and of course all sorts of recorded books. There are magazines that you can check out as well an extensive database accessible online. There are computers with internet access, as well as one on one tutoring for those who don't feel comfortable with computers, and free printing up to a certain number of pages. They've saved our bacon when we had a homework project due and our printer malfunctioned. And speaking of homework, you can get homework help from live tutors via the internet.

Even if your local library doesn't offer all these features you can still find some neat programs with other library systems. For instance the Los Angeles Public Library has a fabulous collection of old photographs that you can access without a library card. When I say fabulous I am dead serious. They have more than two and a half million photographs documenting the growth of Southern California from the turn of the 20th century through the beginning of the 1990's. Weirdly I only found eight of Clark Gable but one of those is of the cast and crew of Gone with the Wind, which I found pretty interesting.

The New York Public Library is home to another extensive digital collection. I was particularly taken with the historical postcard selection of both the front and the backs of 500 postcards from the late 19th and 20th century. You can read all the messages without worrying about getting yelled at for snooping.

If your library is kind of small and doesn't have a lot going on take a look at any larger cities that are fairly near you. Many libraries host art exhibits that are well worth a drive. Some libraries offer things you'd never expect at all like the Minneapolis Public Library which has something called a Museum Adventure Pass, which gets you between two and four free tickets to a variety of cultural destinations including the zoo and Fort Snelling.

I've also used libraries that have paintings you can borrow for up to three months that you can stick up on your wall and pretend you own. I'm just thinking you could use the library to impress a date. Pictures for the walls, some classic literature to scatter around the house, a movie for you all to watch, a cookbook so you can fix something interesting for dinner, some nice music; you've got it made. Just remember, you have to live to that impression later so don't go too crazy.

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from Paul Muolo who has this to say, "'Eastern Promises' - All is not what it seems in David Cronenberg's new movie 'Eastern Promises,' a tale of Russian mobsters in London. Then again, this is a David Cronenberg movie. The blood and gore (artfully done, really) is secondary to the tale of a midwife (Naomi Watts) who delivers a baby from a 14-year old junkie/prostitute from Russia. In childbirth the mother dies, leaving a diary. In her quest to find out more about the young woman, Watts runs into Viggo Mortensen, a 'driver' for the mob and much more. Suspenseful and well made, this is one of the best movies I've seen all year. Of course, it's been a horrible year for movies." Have you got a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me and I'll run the most interesting ones. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.