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A gem of a library

One of the features of most towns is the public library, and it is a municipal public service that seems to be almost taken for granted. Furthermore, libraries seem to have a reputation as quiet, serene places that are really nothing more than repositories of books (and now DVDs and “books on tape”) and research materials.

Well, I am embarrassed to say that I held this impression as well; that is, until I attended a Rotary Club lunch held at the Wallingford Public Library a few weeks back.

Besides a tour of the facility and a chance to meet some of the staff, we heard a talk given by Library Director Jane Fisher, entitled “10 Things You Might Not Know About The Wallingford Public Library.” Ever since then, I have been anxious to share with you some of the things I learned:

1. We are one of the few libraries in the state that has implemented Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to help automate check-in and check-out. There is even a sophisticated machine — donated anonymously by a corporate foundation — that sorts the books to speed re-shelving, given because of the high volume of borrowing done at our library.

2. Our library performs better than the average of towns our size in every single measure of performance: borrowing per capita and/or service hour, visits per capita and program attendance per capita. And we are the number one library in the state in both lending materials and borrowing materials from other libraries. That speaks well not only of the facility, but of our community in general.

3. A grant-funded Environmental Literacy Initiative supports an interactive nature corner in the library that lends out backpacks full of hiking supplies (binoculars, maps, safety kit, etc.).

4. Our library offers free or discounted passes to 37 local museums.

5. Library card holders can register for over 500 online continuing education classes through the library’s subscription to Universal Class.

6. Card holders can download audiobooks, e-books and over 180 magazines to their computers, tablets or smartphones.

7. There is business and do-it-yourself info available without cost through our library, such as Chilton Auto Repair, Morningstar Investment Research Center, and AtoZ databases, as well as Ancestry Library Edition.

8. You can learn any of 80 different languages through Transparent Language Online. And they have an application called Muzzy to teach languages to children available for free, as well.

9. There is a used book store at the library. The proceeds from this effort are used to fund the library’s Sunday hours from January through April.

10. The Wi-Fi network has recently been upgraded, so you can bring your own computer if you would prefer that over using one of the library’s 49 brand new ones. The latest version of MS Office is on all of them, and you can hone your computer skills through 1:1 tech tutoring, staff-led classes on Microsoft Office, and group sessions with their “tech guru.”

Back when the huge addition to this building was being debated, there were those who thought that the library was doomed to become obsolete, that the digital age would leave it behind. Quite the opposite has taken place. It is a more valuable resource than ever, with a diversity of offerings and breadth of services of which too many of us are unaware.

We have a real gem in our midst, and it speaks to the excellence of the staff and management that for decades have made it such. I thought you’d like to know.

Stephen Knight is a former Wallingford Town Councilor.

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