By Roz Giuditta
If you haven’t been to a library in a while, National Library Week (April 14-20) is a good time to go. You might be surprised to see what libraries have to offer these days. Gone are the card catalogs, replaced by rows of computers with online databases. Much of the old, austere atmosphere has given way to the lively feeling of a busy community center, full of people using computers, borrowing e-readers, attending programs and reading books.
Are all libraries in Union County like this? And if so, how do they stay abreast of the latest trends and changes in the library field?
The Libraries of Union County Consortium (LUCC) was formed almost 30 years ago for this express purpose. Consisting of the 20 public libraries in the county along with Union County College, LUCC promotes cooperative library activities among its members and serves as an information exchange. The directors of these libraries meet regularly throughout the year to share ideas and promote a higher quality of library services for residents of Union County.
One of the services that the libraries in Union County provide is reciprocal borrowing. Residents of one municipality can go to another library and directly borrow books and other materials. Each library sets it own rules and regulations, so you are encouraged to contact the library you wish to visit and ask about obtaining a Middlesex Union Reciprocal Libraries Agreement (MURAL) card. Borrowers will learn that most of the libraries in Middlesex County also participate in this program.
Another service that Union County libraries offer is the use of public computers with Internet Access. Most libraries are WIFI enabled as well, with some operating cafes or other areas where patrons can read, browse and have a coffee and pastry. Still others welcome tutors so that children and teens have a safe place to meet their tutor; likewise, adults often meet their English-as-a-Second Language or Literacy instructor at the library.
In light of the fact that public usage of the computer is so prevalent at the library, it’s important to note that those computers have databases that you can trust to provide excellent, credible sources of information. Whether you’re looking for information about business, careers, home repair, genealogy, or medicine, just to name a few topics, chances are good your Union County library has such a database. They may provide databases connecting you to magazines and secondary sources as well.
You’ll find that databases aren’t the only ways in which libraries have continued to keep pace with the rapid changes of technology. Many offer classes in deciphering electronic devices such as tablets, e–readers and smart phones, mastering all levels of computer programs, and conducting Internet/database research. The Reference librarians who teach these classes and offer one-on-one help make it their business to delve into technology through research and ongoing professional training.
And let’s not forget programs for adults. While book discussions and author programs abound, there are also theatrical and Shakespearian productions, and opera, jazz and rock performances. You can learn about the history of New Jersey, the origin of the universe, or the fundamentals of cooking.
If you’re not sure what to read, the book displays can whet your appetite, or the best seller lists can guide your online search. Many Union county libraries even offer services that will select titles for you, based on the book and genre preferences that you submit.
Finally, if you remember that libraries provide programs for children, you’re right. But while all of the public libraries offer traditional story programs for children, they now offer much more. Children as young as six-months old have their own lapsit programs, elementary schoolers can create arts and crafts, and kindergarteners can join in LEGO clubs or even play chess. You might also take the kids to programs with exotic animals, creative dramatics, or music — the list is endless.
If you’d like to learn more about the particular services that your Union County library offers, visit the LUCC website at www.luccnj.org and click through to the following libraries’ websites: Berkeley Heights, Clark, Cranford, Elizabeth, Fanwood, Garwood, Hillside, Kenilworth, Linden, Mountainside, New Providence, Plainfield, Rahway, Roselle, Roselle Park, Scotch Plains, Springfield, Summit, Union, Westfield and Union County College. It’s time to see what you’re missing.
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