This month is Library Lovers Month.
Now, aren’t you happy you have discovered this little-known fact?
Actually, every month should be Library Lovers Month. Our Stanislaus County Free Library is a true treasure, in every sense of the word. And yes, it is totally free.
Approximately 415,000 county residents have library cards. The collection of books and periodicals totals nearly 700,000. The “extra” programs available are amazing and extensive.
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The average patron likely is not aware of many of these perks. Here are just a few.
Reserving books online is a snap. Just a couple of clicks and the desired book comes right to your local branch. It is like having your own bookstore … just order and wait.
The Cloud Library App gives access to an extensive collection of ebooks available for reading on a variety of hand-held devices. As in regular book circulation, they may be checked out for 21 days, but there is no danger of being overdue and paying a fine. At the end of Day 21, the book magically disappears and goes back to the library archives.
I like this app because I travel extensively, and carrying a couple of books in my backpack was always a nuisance. Plus, you can download anywhere you have Wi-Fi access, so you can check out another book whether you’re in Modesto or Mongolia.
Hoopla gives you access to audio books as well as music, videos and movies.
Zinio provides instant access to a wide range of popular magazines.
Mango is an online language learning program.
As mentioned above, all of these services are free, just like the circulation of “regular” books and magazines.
Other library services are too numerous to mention here, but a few include home delivery for those who are not able to visit the library in person, passport services, and various literacy programs.
Last year we had a 7-year-old living with us, and his first visit to the library was a virtual “forced march.” When he discovered a room full of other kids, joyfully creating works of art from a huge pile of Lego blocks, he was hooked. It was more difficult to drag him away than it had been to get him there. He also loved the regular book-reading events during which all could participate.
These experiences opened up a whole new world for a rather shy young man and a great opportunity for Uncle Dick to have some moments of peace.
The library continues to add computer capacity, and is a very popular after-school place for some who do not have access to these at home. In fact, the computer section is perhaps the most popular area in all of the libraries, generally with a waiting list.
County Librarian Dianne McDonnell has been instrumental in enhancing many of these systems. When we interviewed her for the job a couple of years ago, we warned her that the only dark cloud on the horizon was the pending expiration of the countywide eighth-of-a-cent sales tax that supports 88 percent of all library operations. She bravely signed on anyway, and in November this vital support will be back on the ballot asking for a 10-year extension.
One more tip for those who love books: If you find the wait for ebooks and other materials too long, consider getting a library card in another county. Yep, it is true. Any California resident can obtain a library card in any of the 58 counties in the state, nearly all of which have online facilities.
That, my good reader, adds an immense amount of materials for you to access and use with the click of your device.
Dick Hagerty is a former member of the Stanislaus Library Foundation. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.