My earliest memories are of going to the library with my parents. When I was a baby and toddler we lived within walking distance of the Fig Garden branch library in Fresno and we walked (well, my parents walked and I presumably rode in a stroller) there frequently. You might think it’s impossible that I would have retained such early childhood memories but I vividly remember standing at the shelves in the children’s section, peering from one side to the other through the gaps between books. And I remember the bright blue carpet. That blue carpet made a huge impression on me.
The public library was responsible for my first career ambition: I wanted to grow up to be a “library lady.” I did not grow up to be a librarian. At some point I decided I wanted to write the books inside the libraries instead. I haven’t done that yet but I did grow up to write things on the Internet, which is sort of the same thing, right?
I was raised going to the library regularly and I’m raising my kids the same way. From Chicagoland to Walnut Creek to Fresno, my kids have spent lots of time in public libraries and can probably tell which ones are their favorites. If you haven’t been to the Fresno County Public Library in a while and think it’s only a place for books, think again. Books are awesome. But our local libraries have so much more to offer the residents of FresYes—here are six of the best.
Free community programs and classes You may be aware of the storytime programs for young children and their caregivers but those aren’t the only programs the library offers. If you are a military veteran, job seeker, or recent immigrant, the library has resources and services just for you. There are special programs for teens, seniors, and the visually impaired. Whether it’s a class on basic computer skills, an art talk, or the opportunity to read a book to a dog (yes, really!), the library offers it.
eBooks Many of us read books on our tablets or phones these days and the library hasn’t forgotten about us. The library has an extensive collection of ebooks and other digital media (including audio books) that can be downloaded via their website to your Kindle, iPad, or other e-reader. It’s important to note that ebooks are not always available for immediate check out. As with physical books, libraries are only able to loan out one copy at a time. So you may get placed on a waiting list. But sometimes the wait list is shorter than the list for the comparable physical book, and the bonus, of course, is that you don’t have to remember to return it on time because the loan automatically “expires” when it’s due.
Digital Magazines Access to digital magazines, in my opinion, is one of the best benefits of belonging to the library. The library offers a large collection of popular magazines that can be downloaded and read on a free app. This is so great because I save money and I don’t feel as guilty about the environmental impact of my magazine addiction. It’s also really convenient. When I travel I just download a few magazines and there they are on my iPad, which requires far less space in my carry-on than multiple magazines. Genius.
Research resources Library cardholders can access online databases that might otherwise be unavailable on the Web or require a paid membership or subscription. These include genealogy resources, scholarly journals, encyclopedias, Fresno Bee archives, and specialized reference books. Many years ago I wrote and edited entries for a series of encyclopedias and never had the opportunity to see the print version. Thanks to the library’s online reference resources, I finally got to view my work. More practically, my kids have been able to use these free reference resources when writing research reports for school.
The Friends of the Library Book Sales The Friends of the Fresno County Public Library is a separate fundraising group that works with the library to raise funds for special projects. One of the most visible ways they do so is through their Friends of the Library book sales. Donated used books are sold in their store (adjacent to the Sunnyside Regional Library), in small sections located within many branch libraries, and at larger book sale events held in the community. (There’s one being held August 21-24 at Sierra Vista Mall.) My kids and I have scored some amazing finds from Friends of the Library sales, including a vintage copy of Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever, classic children’s books, and recent best sellers. Prices may vary according to location but I usually pay between 25 and 50-cents for used paperbacks and children’s books. Since the books are donated you never know what will be available, but I almost always find one or two titles I want to take home.
DVD, CD, and video game loans If the new release you’ve been dying to see isn’t available on Netflix or at Redbox, check the library! Loan periods for movies are typically shorter than those for books but if it takes you three weeks to watch a movie you’re probably never going to watch it, am I right? Don’t forget about music and video games. My son was introduced to the music of the Beastie Boys through a library loan.
Remember, while most library services are free (unless you forget to return your books and rack up fines!), you do have to have a library card to utilize many of them. Visit the Fresno County Public Library’s website or stop by your nearest library branch to find out how you can get one and begin enjoying all of the benefits our great library system offers.
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