I know what you’re thinking (because I kinda was), “In the information age, when just about every bit of world knowledge is only fingertips away on my (insert device of choice here)… what could I possibly need anymore at a public library?” Before the other day, I was more apt to visit this Library.
In fact, I hadn’t patronized our Southeast Steuben County Library in so long myself that by my best recollection my original library card was inside a shoebox, inside a Rubbermaid container, inside a storage unit on Route 414. No problem. I presented a photo ID and moments later I had a shiny new card and was about to find out how the public library is arguably a far greater and more relevant resource today than it’s ever been.
If I were going to make this post long enough to describe all the awesome things the Library offers, you’d waste valuable time reading it that you could be spending at the Library – so I’ll get right to the “betcha didn’t know” items. Right in front of the main circulation desk is a little display promoting passes to the Corning Museum of Glass. That’s right, you can check out as many as 4 passes and take yourself/family/friends to CMoG free of charge. Of course, the catch is you have to bring the passes back after you visit. But hey – if you forget, the Library now takes Paypal for overdue fines.
Cherie Chigama, the Library’s Public Relations Director, next turned my attention 2 feet to the right – and there in a display case were Nook e-readers. The Library has 17 that can be loaned out, each pre-loaded with various collections of reading material (picture books for kids, young adult fare for… well, young adults, New York Times best-sellers for adult-adults, and so on).
I do multi-media work – and have acquired a lot of specialized equipment with which to do it – so I was surprised to learn that the Library has not one, but two dedicated media workstations (both Windows and Mac). They run the popular Adobe suite of software and are also connected to a scanner. Digitize some old family prints… Photoshop some memes… even professionals are welcome to come in and use the workstations if their office computer goes down.
And now’s a good time to mention that the Library has Digital Literacy Staff members to assist you in using of any and all of the 21st century resources. How helpful are they? If you’re having trouble with a piece of consumer electronics you purchased (tablet, e-reader, smartphone, etc.), just bring it in and they’ll help you learn how to use that too.
Speaking of electronics, towards the back of the Library sits a fully decked-out Smart Room. While individuals, groups and organizations are welcome to reserve the space for even the most basic meetings, the room sports a laptop PC connected to an interactive display… making it useful for high-tech presentations. And what a display it is. This thing dwarfs my home TV. On my next visit I think I will bring along a copy of Apocalypse Now. Oh wait, I don’t need to because the Library has it in their collection.
The beauty of so many of the Library’s offerings is that they are available online. This may not sound all that surprising, but the depth and breadth of just what you can access from outside the physical walls of their building is pretty impressive… including, but not limited to e-books (you can download right onto your reader, tablet, smartphone, etc.), streaming movies, copious databases (for academic studies, family genealogical research and more), Mango interactive language study (over 60 languages, including Pirate – Brush me barnacles, I swear I’m not making this up) and music. Yes, free music. Free. Legal. Music.
The Library’s Freegal music service includes a mobile app, lets you stream up to 3 hours per day, and even allows 3 song downloads (you get to keep the file, free and clear) per user, per week. And this is not just some repository for unloved tracks no one would buy from iTunes… on the first page alone I found recent hit songs and albums from artists as diverse as Daft Punk, Brad Paisley, Weird Al, Sia, John Legend, Miranda Lambert, Jack White, Pharrell Williams, and DJ Snake & Lil Jon (just in case you haven’t yet gotten your fill of Turn Down for What).
There are plenty of other things like basic computer use and Internet access (on 20 workstations), résumé and job search assistance… and of course, all the usual library suspects like periodicals, books and reference materials. While was there I browsed the New York Times and NPR apps on an iPad I grabbed at the desk… all in the cozy comfort of the reading room.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention their sweet programs. Erica Flanagan, Children’s Specialist at the Library, enlightened me on the seasonal offerings for various age groups. I cannot wait until the next time I overhear a teen saying, “There’s nothing to do around here.” Anime, Teen Tech, Fashion Club and more for ages 10 and up… programs for children, seniors, you name it.
Oh, and thanks to funding from Corning’s Rotary Club, there’s a 3-D printer. The Library just used it to make custom stamps for their Passport to Literacy program. I understand it was even instrumental in helping a patron get a patent granted. Pretty cool.
Honestly, I challenge anyone to walk into the Library with a goal and not be able to get some kind of assistance that helps them achieve it.
My new library card may eventually end up in a shoebox like the old one, but this time only because once you’ve keyed in your # and PIN to the various portals and apps (provided you allow your browser to remember passwords)… you no longer need the physical card for continued online access.
Then again, with all of the wonderful services they offer at the physical location, I might just find space in my wallet for it full-time.