Renee Mihulka – Children's Book Reviews & Writer

4 awesome services your local library probably provides (and that you might not have known about!)

book-748904__180My mother hated libraries. Apparently, in her late twenties, she was tucked up in bed devouring ‘Appointment with death’ by Agatha Christie when she turned the page and was assaulted by a large, green glob of mucus! The way my Mum told it, this yellow-green secretion was the size of a fist and needless to say she never borrowed a book from a library again, despite being an avid reader.
With my Mum’s experience always in the back of my mind, I too grew up avoiding libraries, refusing to borrow even when I moved to a house only two doors down from one. However, as time wore on I could see that my library abstinence couldn’t last. My bookshelves heaved under the weight of my double stacking and even though I bought a Kindle to try and reduce the amount of physical books I bought, it got so bad that unless I turned my third child’s room into a home library, something was going to have to give. So with much trepidation, I forced myself to walk the twenty steps from my front door to my local Moreland library.
A year on I am pleased to report that I have not encountered mucus or any other bodily secretions in any of the books I have borrowed. I have however been impressed with some of the services my local library provides and felt I should share them (in case like me a year ago, you just didn’t know how cool libraries could be!)

Awesome service Number 1: Downloadable Audio books

With three children and six after school activities between them, we spend a lot of time in the car. A LOT. In the past, our options for these trips has been children’s music, (after 7 years I cannot listen to the Wiggles anymore) or commercial radio i.e. advertising or adult’s talking with an occasional song thrown in (usually the same three songs played in rotation). Obviously I needed an alternative and a friend of mine told me how she had recently finished listening to Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate factory in the car and the kids had all loved it. Sounded perfect, until I saw the price of an audio book. Those things aren’t cheap and rightly so, it takes an actor a long time to record one. toad rage audioAnyway, off to the library I went and picked up a CD set of Emily Rodda’s ‘The Wizard of Rondo’. Sure enough my kids also loved it and back I went for another. However this time I accidentally picked up a audio player version of the book (the covers looked the same!) which I couldn’t play in the car. Epic fail, but it got me thinking and sure enough five minutes later I had downloaded Bolinda’s Borrow Box, linked it to my library account and downloaded ‘Toad Rage’ by Morris Gleitzman and ‘Paper Planes’ by Steve Worland to my phone. Success! My kids and I were back to in-car bliss. In fact the whole system of using Borrow Box to borrow audio books is so easy you never have to go to the library to do it (except initially to get your library card). So get on to it people! Download not only kids books for the car, but adult books for you when you are cleaning the house, exercising or driving to work.

Awesome service Number 2: Reserving items

Ok, you are probably rolling your eyes and thinking, seriously? Doesn’t everyone know about this? Well I didn’t, or at least I resisted using the facility because I thought it would be too complicated, I might have to actually talk to someone and also I would also be required to walk the twenty steps to the library twice in a short space of time. But then my kids wanted to read children’s series, and of course they wanted to read them in order, so I needed to get over my aversion and quick smart. Needless to say reserving is awesome and easy. I can just log on at home, find the book, click reserve and then after choosing how I want to be notified (email or post) sit back and wait until I’m told that my books are ready for pickup whereupon I waltz into the library, grab the pile labelled with my name off the reserve shelf and borrow them. I don’t even have to talk to the scary librarian! (not that librarians are scary, they are for the most part very nice and helpful, I’m just trying to make the point that reserving is easy.)  Reserving is awesome not only for series, but also when you read a review on line and want to make sure you don’t forget. Go online straightaway and reserve it, or do what I do, make a list and then when it gets to 10 or so, reserve them all at once. Obviously you can also reserve DVDs, audio and ebooks as well.

Awesome service Number 3: eBooks

Yes, your library probably also has a supply of ebooks you can borrow and read on various devices! Making this happen is slightly more complicated than with audiobooks but still easy enough to be worth it if you like reading on a screen. Please note however that if you own a Kindle you probably won’t be able to use it to read library ebooks. Check what ebook formats your library supplies. My library supplies formats for Sony eReaders and Kobo and you can also read their books on tablets and computers. Being a Kindle fan myself, I really hope they include the Kindle format in the near future. After all, the format shouldn’t matter if the book is being offered in eBook form.

Awesome service Number 4: Rhyme Time, Story Time and other children’s activities

New Mum’s will love taking their little one to Rhyme time. I did, and found not only did my children love it, but it was a good way to brush up on all those nursery rhymes and kids songs from my childhood and learn portrayal-89193_1280some great new ones as well. When they got a bit older Story time was great. They would sit and listen to a story and then participate in a craft activity related to the book. My group of local libraries also offer other activities for children such as ‘Fun at four’ for primary school kids where they participate in cool activities such as Manga, Magic and Trivia and story time in different languages such as Greek and Italian. So get onto your local libraries website and see what’s going in. Especially on those cold winter days, huddling in a warm library with your children, enjoying a sing along, story or other activity can be like heaven.

Bonus awesomeness

Every time you borrow a book by an Aussie author they receive a small payment from the Government via the Public Lending Rights scheme. Basically it recognises that they have lost revenue by having their books borrowed in libraries and gives them some compensation. So by borrowing Aussie books you are helping Aussie authors.

Finally, my library often has a trolley filled with books the library no longer wants. They sell these for a token price and by purchasing them you help the library raise funds to buy more books and maintain services! You could even buy some and donate them to a charity which could then, distribute them to people who don’t have access to a library, or give them to kids who don’t have their own books. However, if you do this, make sure that the charity is giving the books away. These books are not allowed to be resold once they have left a library and there is an offical stamp in the back preventing it!

So that’s it! I hope at least one of these awesome services proves useful to you. I’d love to hear about other services your local library provides or if you’ve encountered something weird in a library book. It does happen! Here’s a whole blog post about it. And a tumbler page!

Please keep in mind that I am speaking from my experience of the Moreland group of libraries in Melbourne, Victoria. Your library may not offer everything I have mentioned, but if they don’t, maybe you can become an advocate so they do!

Come on comment, you know you wanna.

Book Reviews and Writer