"at your library" in the north island eagle: your library card: hidden treasure

I'm writing a library column for the local newspaper! I'm really excited about it. Everyone reads this free paper, so a column is an amazing opportunity to promote our services. It's also a fun writing challenge, to strip away the library jargon, appeal to a wide audience, and quickly write 500-ish words.

I've decided to post the columns here, too. Here's the first one.

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At Your Library: Your Library Card: Hidden Treasure

This is the first column highlighting what's happening at your local branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library, better known as VIRL. I'm super excited to have this space to speak to North Island residents about their libraries – Port Alice, Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Sointula, and Woss – and I'm grateful to publisher/editor Kathy O'Reilly for this amazing opportunity.

Your library card is a treasure trove of resources and information. You know about the books, of course – millions of books for every age and nearly every interest. And maybe you know about the DVDs, as North Island folks borrow them in great quantities! You can borrow books and DVDs from all 39 VIRL branches, from Haida Gwaii to Sooke to Tofino and back again.

But books and DVDs are only the beginning. There's so much more going on at your library that you might not be aware of.

Do you know about Lynda.com? Lynda provides a vast array of professionally-made videos teaching technology, business, design, photography, and so much more. If you purchased Lynda online, it would cost you $26 per month. With your library card, it's free.

Did you know we offer Mango Languages, an award-winning language-learning program, featuring native speakers of more than 70 different languages? Mango costs $20/month online, but it's free with your library card.

Starting a business? Researching a career change? Helping your teenager make decisions about post-secondary options? Your library has an amazing array of resources to help you with every aspect of your working life. Whether you're just starting out, taking a new direction, or expanding your established business, we can help.

If you have internet at home, VIRL offers a long list of streaming services, giving you access to movies, documentaries, music, e-books, magazines, and more. And yes, it's all free.

If you don't have internet at home, come on in and use ours! It's – you guessed it – free.

If you're the parent of a pre-school child, your library is especially important for you. One of your most important jobs as a parent is reading to your children, which helps them learn how to read. Preparing your child for learning how to read, then keeping them reading as they go through school, is crucial to their success.

This isn't my opinion as a librarian – it's a proven fact. Children whose parents read to them do better in school, and children who do better in school have greater life chances. So when you read to your child, you are setting them up for success, in school and in life. Your library is here to support and guide you in this important job. I'll write more about this in the coming months.

By now I'm sure you get the point. Library. Lots of stuff. All free. But don't take my word for it. Come and see for yourself.


Amy said...

Fabulous piece---now I want to go to MY public library and see what I can get for free!

laura k said...

Amy, thanks so much!

You should see if your library has Kanopy -- a streaming service for documentaries, indie films, educational material like the Great Courses series, and so on. It's SO good.

I know you're an Acorn viewer. Your library might have that, too. Ours does.

Amy said...

I have the Kanopy app, but must admit I haven't really explored it yet. I don't know if it costs anything to subscribe.

We do subscribe to Acorn---but what would it mean that the library has it? That we can tap into at home and watch without paying the subscription fee? I guess I need to ask at our library!

Thanks for the tips!

laura k said...

To view films on Kanopy, you have to link your account to a library (public or university) that subscribes to it. It's always free, but it's only available through libraries.

If your library has Acorn it will be free. You'll link your Acorn account to your library card and you won't have to pay a subscription fee.

There are other library streaming services like Indieflix and Hoopla. Kanopy is the best, but there's some good stuff on all of them.

laura k said...

I think Massachusetts has one unified public library system now? That kind of merger should result in lots more resources being available. I would check out your library website and look for something like "e-resources". That's where you would find Kanopy, Lynda.com, Mango, Acorn, and etc.

Amy said...

OK, I linked Kanopy to Western New England where I used to teach. That's why it was free.

Jen and Ryan said...

Our libraries offer passes to most of the major museums and you can check out 7 day state park passes that comes with a backpack with guides and binoculars. We also have idealabs with 3d printers and other things like sewing machines and tools. You can reserve time and the best is it's all free. Such a great resource.

laura k said...

Hi Jen and Ryan! That is awesome. Toronto Public Library lends free passes to museums -- which is amazing, since museums are prohibitively expensive in Toronto (which is so stupid).

In Mississauga we lent free passes to parks and conservation areas -- but a backpack and guides and binocs, that is pure genius! I'm going to talk to someone about doing that at VIRL. It's an amazing idea.

johngoldfine said...

"One of your most important jobs as a parent is reading to your children, which helps them learn how to read. Preparing your child for learning how to read, then keeping them reading as they go through school, is crucial to their success.

This isn't my opinion as a librarian – it's a proven fact. Children whose parents read to them do better in school, and children who do better in school have greater life chances. So when you read to your child, you are setting them up for success, in school and in life."

I'm always suspicious of this bit of conventional wisdom because there's a correlation/causation problem. Parents who read to their children have certain values and ideas that push them to read to their children, and those parental attitudes may have more to do with the child's reading success than the actual reading aloud.

The larger issue is that, at least in the USA, this idea that early reading is a good thing leads to demands for earlier and earlier school entrance, and IMO the more we force our young children into institutional settings, the more likely we are to permanently stultify them, to develop invidious classroom hierarchies that will pursue them through life, and to create a society that finds regimentation more and more acceptable.

I also think that there are gender and developmental issues. If girls learn to read sooner than boys, that may cement certain gender roles and cultural expectations that later male prefrontal catch-up can never change. And children who learn to read later may easily catch up with their peers' skills a year or two later with no lasting harm--unless the schools have already labeled them problem learners, in which case, again, they have invidious notes in permanent files forever dragging behind them.

Finally, and I know you know this, but reading is not just a tool, however much it is treated as such in classrooms. If a child is pushed to "keep...reading" because it's good for them, like a broccoli, they may never find reading a love and a refuge.

If it were up to me, I'd have the school starting age raised to age 8 and for younger children institute community library outings, museum visits, cultural outreach.

laura k said...

There is a correlation/causation problem there, for sure. But reading to children can be a gateway to all those things that help children do better in school. At the very least, it's quiet, concentrated parent-child time, without screens.

In NO WAY (all caps, bold, underlined) do I advocate forced reading a la broccoli. (Poor broccoli, always used as a shorthand for nutritious punishment.) Nor am I talking about reading as a tool, although it is that, and an indispensable one, the one that makes so many other tools possible. Helping children continue reading does not have to be broccoli. I will be touching on that in future columns.

How would children from working class or disadvantaged families cope with school not beginning until age 8?

johngoldfine said...

"How would children from working class or disadvantaged families cope with school not beginning until age 8?"

Nothing could be worse for disadvantaged children than the constant put-downs, sneering, humiliation, mocking, bullying, grading, regimentation, cruelty, testing, insults they are forced to endure in the USA schools and from the USA teachers I'm familiar with. The longer it's put off, the better able the children will be to cope with it.

Kind teachers are rare, kind and good teachers even rarer--the job attracts defensive, not-very-bright people desperate to show they are respectable middle class people who tend to want to stand tall on a pile of crushed egos.

Or are you asking what two-wage-earner families are supposed to do without childcare in schools? I'd certainly be in favor of community activities funded by the government, as long as nothing much was demanded of young children other than ordinary good manners and a willingness to be read to, go to museums, hike, do art, play games, etc--all with the very least adult supervision possible. It used to make me furious and sick to see adults unable to let kids be on the playground, insisting on adult rules, apparently unable to believe that play is part of the human repertoire and needs no instruction whatsoever.

laura k said...

I guess you could say I was asking about two-wage-earning families, but these days that most likely means precarious work -- two people working 3 or 4 or 6 jobs between them, with uncertain hours, constantly changing schedules, and little idea of how much money they'll have one week or month to the next. If precarious workers can't put their kids in full-time public school, they are sunk. Often child protection services may be a few steps away because of lack of childcare.

If there was universal, socially funded childcare, and that included the public library, museums, parks, trails, and etc etc etc, that would be ideal. But since the only way to keep your kids relatively safe and keep yourself out of jail, and keep your kids out of foster care, is full-time public school, that school needs to start as early as possible.

Absolutely the demise of unsupervised play is a devastating loss for all of us. I'm hoping it's coming back as a reaction to the crazy helicoptering... but that may be wishful thinking.

The fact is that our society doesn't care about children because children are not profit-making. Activities for children of privilege are profit-making, so there is a glut of those, but that isn't driven by concern for children.

It's slightly better in Canada than in the US, but only slightly.

Amy said...

I beg to differ with John with respect to his statement about teachers. Yes, there are bad public school teachers just as there are bad private school teachers, bad doctors, bad lawyers, bad everything. But having volunteered the last five years in an inner city school, I have to tell you that the teachers I've worked with love their jobs and their students and work very hard to provide them not only with an education but with love and support It's a job that would try my patience because many of the children are frustrated, sad, angry, and/or lonely. And if those children were just dumped in some community center, what makes you think the caretakers there would be any more patient and kind than the teachers?

I have not seen any teacher yet sneer, humiliate, mock or bully a child. Well, there was one, and when I told the principal what I had observed, she forced that teacher to retire at the end of the year and assigned someone to observe her class for the rest of the year that she was there.

Many of my friends and my parents' friends were public school teachers. And they were as dedicated to their jobs as any professional would be.

laura k said...

Thanks for that perspective, Amy.

laura k said...

My mother was a public school teacher, hard-working and compassionate. She often told us about lazy and nasty teachers. They existed but were not the norm.

My own experience has been similar -- there are great teachers, and some awful ones. I have seen students bullied and humiliated by teachers, and when I taught GED, some of my students had dropped out of public school because of teacher bullying and sexual violence.

I don't doubt John's description of what he has observed and experienced, but neither do I doubt Amy's. There must be a huge spectrum of competencies and caring.