Wednesday, December 15, 2010
On Friday mornings, Nik and I head down to our local library. It is five minutes away by car, and, on nice summer days, a 20 minute walk. A few times a year, we sign up for the mom and tot storytime group, led by the soft-spoken Mr. B. The rest of the time, we just go in on our own, reading stories, selecting some to take home, picking out videos, and otherwise browsing the children's collection. It is probably our calmest together time, and we rarely miss our weekly visit.
Winnipeg has an amazing system of public libraries. There are 20 branch locations throughout the city, the largest of which is the Millennium Library, in the heart of downtown. According to the statistics posted on the winnipeg.ca website, the Winnipeg Public Library collection has over 1.6 million materials, including books, magazines, CDs and movies. Also available are books on tape, sheet music, and language learning resources. Library computers have internet access, word processing software, and educational games for kids.
The library offers lots of free programming for children, teens, adults and families. Bring your kids to one of the many storytime programs, or drop in during a Family Literacy Day. Special programs featuring musicians, magicians, historians and authors of all kinds are scheduled throughout the year. Take a free workshop to learn more about green living, health and wellness, or researching your family history. Other classes focus on computer skills, photography, or creative writing.
Even if you don't have time to sign up for classes or browse the shelves at your local branch, that need not stop you from taking advantage of the huge collection of library materials. My favourite feature of the library is the huge online catalogue, which allows you to search for materials, and have them delivered to your closest branch, with notification by e-mail or phone when they are ready to be picked up. You can also renew materials online, and sign up for e-mail notification reminding you when your materials are coming due, helping you avoid any late charges.
Almost everything offered at the library is free, though there are a few things that have a minimal cost. Printing and copying services are available at every branch, with a fee of 20 cents per page. If you request materials, and do not pick them up within 9 days of being notified that they are ready, you pay $1.20. Adult collection DVDs have a borrowing fee of $2.20. If you lose your library card, it will cost $4.05 to replace it. And, like any library, there are fees associated with lost, damaged or late return materials.
In my perspective, these costs are insignificant compared with the huge amount of value in the materials, resources and classes available to you with your free library card. You don't even have to take my word for it. The library has recently added a "Library Use Calculator" to its website, that quantifies your library use as a dollar amount, based on the average costs of purchasing the same materials and services privately. Even when I plugged in my most minimal numbers for a month, costs came out at over $5000 per year to buy, $0 to borrow.
If you're a Winnipeg resident, I challenge you to get your library card, and use it at least once every three weeks. You could start by checking out the New and Noted collection for hot reads, or putting a few cds on hold. Sign up for a workshop, or take in a free lunch time concert or lecture. Do it for six months, and see what happens. At the least, you will come out of the experience just a little bit more informed. At best, you will be a true convert, and like me, want to send much love to the library.
*All photos courtesy of the Winnipeg Public Library