More Than Books
There’s something about Cape Coral’s Northwest Regional Library that makes you want to curl up in a corner with a good book and live there. Parts of the library haven’t changed―a quiet place to read and study―but much has, both in the way libraries now operate and how users continue to adapt. In today’s digital culture, one even wonders if libraries have a place in the community at all. Regional manager Maria Palacio defends the space as more of a community gathering place, opening in 2009 to accommodate the Cape’s rapid expansion into northern neighborhoods, “which makes us the go-to place for information, studying and community,” she says. Aside from books, DVDs and music available as part of the Lee County Library System, this particular location offers fun programs such as coloring for adults, book discussions, musical performances, English language classes and help with technology, among others. And the best part is that events are free to residents. “The Lee County Library System has always tried to offer new programs and services in an effort to meet the needs of our growing and diverse population,” Palacio adds. Rather than have the county fund these particular programs, Cape Friends of the Library volunteers work behind the scenes to support events beyond the library’s limited budget. Friends volunteer Linda Canteu, for instance, thoroughly enjoys helping out at the Northwest Regional location. “We have monthly meetings to talk about the library’s individual needs and programs,” she says, “then coordinate with library staff to make it happen. Our sole purpose is to support the library.” In addition to unique library programs, another huge perk is wireless access. Claudia West, a Lee County reference librarian over the past 20 years, loves how the library provides internet and computer access for its users. “Not everyone,” she says, “is financially able to have their own computer or internet. The library helps even out that playing field.” The library's website also allows 24/7 access for patrons using the many electronic databases to conduct research. They can also download books, music and stream movies—many of which are new releases—from platforms such as Overdrive, Freegal, Hoopla and more. But if all that technology sounds more like a huge learning curve, Palacio reminds residents that “the staff is always ready and willing to help answer questions, locate a resource, and show users how to download these items or access them online.” Although the traditional role of the library has changed over time, these public spaces continue as beacons of information for sharing and learning. In particular, the Northwest Regional location remains an indispensable resource for the Cape Coral community.
Surprising perks at Cape's Northwest Regional Library
Kalyn Brooke is a writer and blogger living in Cape Coral.
Northwest Regional Library
519 Chiquita Blvd. N. Cape Coral 239-533-4700 leegov.com/library