When most people hear the word “library,” they think books. Rows upon rows of books.
But nearly all libraries across Connecticut — including the Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library in Old Lyme — have much more to offer than just books.
“The mission of the library is to be a place of continuous learning, life-long learning and exploration of ideas and interests,” said Julie Bartley, a children’s librarian in the Old Lyme.
Libraries offer museum passes, online movies and — because the libraries are linked — you can even order from libraries across the state. Did you know that one library even specializes in cake pans?
Lending passes for attractions
In addition to books, museum and park passes are available at the library. Old Lyme has passes to the Children’s Museum of South East Connecticut, the Connecticut River Museum in Essex, The Connecticut Science Center, the Mystic Aquarium and the Florence Griswold Museum to name a few.
“We will lend passes out to anyone with a valid Connecticut library card,” Bartley said, “but that varies from library to library.”
In addition, if you’re trying to go somewhere outside of Connecticut and the country, the library has two passport agents on staff who are able to help any library card holder fill out the paperwork to renew or obtain a new passport.
Learning a language
If the place you’re trying to travel to doesn’t speak English, the library can help you get ready.
“We’ve got print books, audio CDs and the Mango database that you can download onto your phone with a valid library card,” Bartley said.
The Mango Languages app, which normally would cost $19.99 per month, allows a user to choose from 70 different languages. The courses take the user through building vocabulary, correct pronunciation, proper grammar and the culture of regions that speak the language.
More and more E-Books
In the month of April 3,035 e-books were checked out through Old Lyme’s online catalog accessible on the OverDrive or Libby apps. Books downloaded on the apps automatically expire after two weeks and renewal is only allowed if there is nobody waiting – which there normally is.
“We want to promote the service, but it’s growing so fast and the budget that the state gives to it is not growing as fast, or at all,” Bartley said.
Currently there are 105,235 users statewide, and at Old Lyme library alone, about 20 to 30 new users register each month. In an attempt to cope with the high demand, Old Lyme library – along with a few others around the state – recently launched the Advantage program which allows libraries to use their own budgets to purchase additional online copies for their residents’ use.
Summer reading for local schools
This year, with the change in summer reading requirements from the Lyme Old Lyme Schools, the Phoebe Griffin Noyes library is taking steps to better match their summer reading program to the school curriculum.
In the past, Bartley explained, the schools have been asking kids to do one thing while the library summer reading challenge asked another.
“We are working more closely with schools this year so we are all asking the same thing of the kids,” Bartley said. “The idea is to have a collaborative, inclusive and unified approach to summer reading that is streamlined and user friendly for all participants.”
The theme this year is “Read, Explore, Learn” and instead of requiring participants to log the hours they spend reading, librarians have developed a bingo board which asks kids not only to read various types of books, but to get outside, explore and learn through other mediums like movies, hiking and family activities.
The goal behind the summer reading program is to combat summer learning loss, Bartley said. The hope with the new program model is that all kids, even those who don’t love to read yet, will be motivated to participate.
The Library of Things
“We have nature backpacks for hiking,” Bartley said. “Inside each one is a compass, field guide, first aid kid, binoculars.”
Many libraries in Connecticut offer much more than books. The North Haven library, for example, has a collection of over 200 cake pans that range from superhero themed birthday cakes to industrial sized sheet and bundt cake pans that simply wouldn’t fit in most cabinets.
Although in this age of technology as more and more people turn to electronic reading devices some people have commented that libraries will begin to close, Bartley does not agree. Not only will libraries continue to have books, they can adapt and change with the times.
“The idea that we would do away with libraries is silly, we’ve had them for thousands of years, they always evolve to meet the needs of people,” Bartley said. “Not everyone has internet, a computer or a quiet place to study at home today and the library provides one.”