The Library: What’s in it for you?

By Jamie Morris

The Library: What’s in it for you?
New materials are constantly being added.

The experience of reading a good book, watching a memorable movie, or finding just the information you need to complete a project may be priceless, but the actual books, DVDs, and services of a reference librarian can all be assigned price tags.

Built into the website of one Ontario library is a value calculator, a nifty tool that lets you calculate the dollar value of the library resources you use.

The Library: What’s in it for you?
Columnist Jamie Morris.

Not to worry, though: With  a library card, all the borrowing of materials and use of services is absolutely free. And every resident of the City of Kawartha Lakes is entitled to a card — free. Some of our municipal and provincial tax dollars pay for the tab.

The calculator opens a table, and you enter the number of items you’ve borrowed to see how much money you’ve saved. Each adult hardcover book is assigned a value of $20 and each ebook a value of $12. A children’s picture book has a conservative sticker price of $11. For a DVD it’s $3 and for a music CD $10.

You can also input services used and get a money amount: $14/ hour for computer use (with internet access of course); $10 for  reference questions answered, and $6.50 for children’s programs.

It quickly adds up. Let’s say you stop in and check your email then browse the web for an hour, ask the reference librarian for some assistance checking Consumer’s Reports for a new appliance you’re buying, then borrow a couple of novels  and a DVD. The total value comes to $86. If you have kids and bring them to a program then take out a half-dozen beautifully-illustrated children’s books you can add another $96, bringing your total to $182.

If anything, the calculator understates what the tab would be to buy what the library freely offers. The values assigned are prices the library pays. Sticker prices can be much higher. In my home, for example, are library copies of the latest John LeCarre spy novel (cover price $34.95) and the current issue of the New Yorker magazine (cover price $8.99); we’re watching a library copy of  the latest season of The Americans ($29.99 through Google Play Movies).

The calculator also omits some of what the Kawartha Lakes Library system has to offer, such as downloadable current and back issues of 41 magazines, and the 11 million digital song titles of Freegal.

Of course, what really counts for you is finding exactly the materials you want and the library works hard to ensure you’ll be accommodated. You can search the library’s holdings from a home computer or at the library and reserve any item held in any of the 14 branches. What you want will probably not be available right away, but you’ll be put on a waiting list and contacted when it’s ready to be picked up from your local branch.

If it’s not in the system, you can request it through interlibrary loan, or ask the library to purchase it (if the librarians do purchase it, you’ll be first on the waiting list).

It’s unfortunate but true that some people associate libraries with musty, dusty volumes ranged along bookshelves. Go to the Kawartha Lakes Library’s revamped website and click on “New Titles” option to see how wrongheaded that idea is.

New DVDs, fiction, nonfiction, and books on CD, kids books and teen books are constantly being added. What you’ll see are many of the  items you see prominently displayed at Indigo or promoted on Amazon, plus a range of others calculated to appeal to a wide range of ages and interests.

Visit a library branch and you’ll also see firsthand the range of activities and services beyond lending books that are on offer.

And it’s all yours with your free library card.

The library is arguably the best bargain around. To rephrase the old credit card ad: Having a good library?


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