“All Hail” The Library: Much More Than Books

By Cheryl Ryan

I really love libraries. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until they reopened our local branch after being closed for two years. Just walking in feels like home. 

I don’t remember going as a very young child. But my memories of the bookmobile (not quite a library but close) are vivid as an elementary school student. I remember when it pulled onto our street and I waited in line to climb the stairs of the retrofitted bus. And then it was my turn to select books from the shelves. I also loved taking my kids to story time and watching as they carefully selected the books they would borrow for the week. 

I didn’t enjoy them nearly much as a teenager or while in college. There was always someone shushing me just when I had something extraordinary to tell my friends. And during college, it was usually under duress since I’d procrastinated far too long and had to spend countless hours trying to finish a huge paper making it look like I’d been working on it for months.

But now it’s a different story. It’s hard for me to stay focused at home. And after I quit going into an office, there always seems to be something more interesting than sitting on my computer while at home. But at a coffee shop or library, I feel like other people are doing the same thing and its like an informal office to me. 

We have a beautiful library right around the corner from my home. I wrote my children’s book there. I launched this blog there. I’m writing this blog post here. And after a two-year pandemic absence, my appreciation for these free institutions is heightened. In 2013 Measure A, a special library tax, passed by 81% of voters to continue funding libraries in Santa Clara County. It’s one of those times when tax money was spent in a way that I fully appreciate.

Surprising Resources

I’ve discovered many services that I didn’t know were available. For example, most libraries offer a meeting room that anybody can reserve for personal meetings. And some major county libraries offer English classes in several languages. One library even provides sign-ups for half hour increments of free legal advice from lawyers donating their time.

I decided to teach English for one three-month session. I was surprised by the detailed teaching program designed for this purpose. Ten other adult students and I attended several weeks of training to learn the library program designed to teach English basics. 

It was really hard. Spending one hour with someone who doesn’t understand you and trying to teach them an entirely new skill as an adult was exhausting. But, it gave me an even greater appreciation for all the hard work that our teachers do every day! 

Who Needs Audible

And something I just discovered is the library equivalent of Audible (which at our library is Cloud Library, but many others use Libby). This app has been great because it works just like audible except that you have three weeks to listen to a book. I kept putting off buying Audible since the last thing I need is to pay for yet another media stream.

There is also a library version of Netflix, called Kanopy at our library. You can borrow Kanopy through a Roku style device for three weeks of free streaming. And they even offer National Park Passes to check out (apparently, this is very popular so you need to reserve early). Who knew? 

So if you haven’t visited your local library in a while you might want to check it out. There really is a cornucopia (oh, hello Thanksgiving vibes) of services!

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