Library offers more than a good read
The Garland County to a Library dances new tune, offering media classes & digital
Anew report by the Pew Research Center indicates free access to technology in public libraries is as important to Americans aged 16 and older as printed books and reference services.
According to Garland County Library staff, local programming is in step with those emerging national trends.
“We’re not just your grandmother’s library anymore,” says Director John Wells. “Yes, we still offer traditional services – like print books, magazines and research collections – which have been the backbone of our system for generations. Now, we are enlarging our vision to include the increasingly broader expectations of our community. When it comes to technology, however, most patrons are surprised at the wide range of options already available to them.”
Digital technology comprises one whole section of the Garland County Library website. “These days, a library card and pin number becomes a virtual window to the world,” says Adam Webb, adult and technical services librarian.
“For most patrons, the added value of being a library card holder includes privileges accessible from anywhere through the library’s website.
“Our patrons can browse digital versions of magazines through a service called Zinio on their laptops, tablets or smartphones. Individual investment research is available through the library’s subscription to Morningstar. Doit-yourself mechanics can take advantage of our subscription to Chilton’s Repair Manuals,” he said.
“A particularly popular topic is genealogy research, available through a variety of portals on our site. And we provide access to a plethora of continuing education classes on a number of topics, including homeschooling, digital photography, specialty cooking and computer technology.”
At the library itself, card holders can check out DVDs, computer software and videos for one-week periods. Print books and Playaway audio devices preloaded with e-books may be checked out for three weeks. Fishing enthusiasts may borrow from a selection of rods and reels (Yes, you read that correctly!) provided by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, available from the children’s section of the library.
“One of the most popular benefits onsite at the library is our laptop computer loaner program, available to cardholders to use up to four hours a day,” says Webb.
“Also inside the library, patrons may ‘try before they buy’ any of a variety of digital tablet devices. We have one of nearly everything that’s available from the big box stores. But what we’ve discovered is that most people want an opportunity to experiment and compare devices in a no-pressure-to-buy setting. After we spend time helping them get comfortable using a particular format – like Nook, Kindle or iPad – they usually end up buying their own device so that they can download digital books directly from our library site, but from the convenience of their home.”
Tiffany Hough, youth services librarian, says her division also makes Nintendo DS units and games available for in-house use. “Our Nintendo Club, which is open to all ages, meets every Wednesday from 5-7 p.m.”
This summer, Hough’s staff coordinated and supervised 120 children’s programs and activities in an eight-week period.
“We consider it a privilege to provide a rich variety of low-cost or no-cost pro-
“We’re not just your grandmother’s library anymore…Now, we are enlarging our vision to include the increasingly broader expectations of our community.”
Director Garland County Library
gramming for the children of our community. It used to be we were slammed with activities only during the summer, but everything slacked off when school started. Now, we have a steady stream of programs all year long.” This fall, Paws to Read begins again. “Organized by Hot Springs Pet Therapy, this program was originally designed to help children with reading difficulties improve their skills by putting them in a relaxed setting where they can read aloud to therapy dogs – who listen without judgment. Thanks to generous volunteers, the highly successful program is now open to all kids who want to participate.”
Beginning Sept. 28, cardholders aged 12 and younger will be able to check out Halloween costumes. “We have about 200 donated costumes in our collection now, all graciously cleaned at no charge by Johnson Cleaners,” says Hough. “Next year, we hope to add sizes for teens.”
Special activities at the library are not limited to children. “Throughout the year, we rotate classes,” Wells said. “We’ve had everything from tai chi and yoga to belly dancing and Zumba, square dancing to Irish reels. Richard Stephens’ watercolor classes are always popular, as are the adult guitar classes and craft sessions. And plenty of folks really like our bluegrass jam sessions, held in the library’s auditorium each month on the first Thursday evening from 5:30-7:30 p.m.”
Webb says the biggest change he’s noticed in patron behavior is the questions they ask. “It used to be things like, ‘When is Grover Cleveland’s birthday?’ Now, it’s more like, ‘How do I do this or that with my smartphone.’ The good news is, even though the questions have changed, we’re still here to help.”
Zak Cabibi-Wilkin, 11, and Matthew Cabibi-Wilkin, 13, dance with Wii, at the Garland County Library during a rcent Dance Gaming session.
Participants in the Blue Grass Jam session at the Garland County Libary gather around on Aug. 1.
Avery Ilenfeld, 5, of Hot Springs pets a fawn after Thomas Young, Arkansas Native Plant & Wildlife Center director and ornithologist and master falconer, teaches children about wild animals in a presentation at the Garland County Library June 20, 2012.