Monday, January 12, 2009

Hooray for Howard County Libraries

One of the finest community services available in Howard County is the public library system.  It's ranked first for its size in the nation for 2008, an accolade that's well deserved, in my opinion.  Our family is a frequent user of the library, but I'm continually surprised at the depth and quality of resources available, all for free.  It's worth taking a refresher tour once in a while to find out for yourself.

You expect a great selection of books in all sorts of categories, but there's also a terrific assortment of music, movies, TV shows, audiobooks available.  If a particular title is not on hand at your branch, it's easy to transfer from other branches.  For more obscure titles, the librarians can help locate them in other Maryland library systems or beyond.  We once requested a hard-to-find detective novel and within a week or so we had it in hand via a library in Idaho.

The library website is particularly rich and getting better.  You can search the entire catalog and request or renew titles from home at any hour of the day.  We particularly like the "My List" function that acts like a wishlist of items we hope to get to sometime.  I've recently found the Highly Recommended section very helpful -- it's actually a staff blog written by various library employees.  It adds a little local personality that's fun.

There are also lots of classes and events at the various branches, with a good searchable calendar online.  Each branch has plenty of computers with free Internet access, and free Wifi, too.  And on top of it all, the reference librarians, circulation staff and volunteers are almost always friendly, informative and helpful.

The Howard County Library is a great place to spend some time, either in person or online.  If you're not already a regular user, you're missing out.  If you are there regularly, take some time to explore and you'll probably be surprised what else you'll find.

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