Libraries are tremendous resources for borrowing any number of books, audiobooks, movies, music and video games. But they also offer faxing and notary services, provide access to tax forms, help with job applications, troubleshoot technology issues, loan out free state park passes and so much more.
At area libraries, staff are prepared to help the community with more than they probably know about, and as more programs and services are added, the options become endless.
Bowman Public Library
One popular service at Bowman Library in Stephens City, part of the Handley Regional Library System, is the conversation partnerships for people learning a language and looking to practice their skills.
The program allows people learning a foreign language to pair with a speaker of that language looking to learn English, said Adrienne Davis, adult services division head at Bowman.
“It’s kind of a challenge,” she said. But it’s successful because both people have the chance to sit at the table and learn from each other.
The program, she said, is a great complement to the library’s Mango language online software.
Bowman also has been growing its graphic novel section for ages 16 and older and its collection of preloaded Launchpad tablets for children.
Library visitors can borrow backpacks through the Library of Virginia’s nature backpacks that come with a free pass to Virginia state parks.
Those hosting programs at the library may benefit from the new interactive TV with whiteboard technology.
“We’re always adapting our services to meet the needs,” Davis said.
Readers looking for an adventure this winter might try the library’s Push Your “Shelf” Challenge, which Davis said provides a “nudge” for adult readers to try something new. Check off challenges from a list and win prizes like Handley Library Book Bucks to use at the library system’s seasonal book sales.
With the library’s novelist reader advisory tool, readers can also find more books in the style they enjoy, Davis said.
Suggestions like character-driven stories, plot-driven stories or compelling stories help readers find new, exciting reads similar to books they already love.
It’s for anyone who has ever finished a book or series and said, “I want to feel this way again” or “I don’t want to lose this feeling,” said Davis.
“That’s what we want to hear,” she said.
Shenandoah County Library
Puzzles are becoming popular at Shenandoah County Library in Edinburg, where Library Director Sandy Whitesides said an informal puzzle exchange is an opportunity for people to donate used puzzles to the library and borrow others they haven’t done before.
“We’ve always got something going on,” said Whitesides.
Baby Booster Boxes provide picture books on different topics to help with early development, as well as interactive toys and a book for the parent, he said.
For older children, literacy bags include books with themes like animals, welcoming a baby sibling or starting their first day at school. The bags also include interactive toys like puppets and puzzles.
The county library is part of the Shenandoah County Library System, he said, but many residents might not realize they can reserve items at one library to be shipped to another.
With similar features to other libraries — scanning, faxing, printing, tech support and a meeting room to use for programming — the library also recently started offering the new state park backpacks.
A winter reading challenge for children up to 5th grade offers “a way to keep some of the younger kids engaged,” he said.
The library’s extensive physical and digital archives are a big draw for community members studying history or genealogy, and Whitesides said the New Market Library’s monthly Saturday speaker series also has been a hit.
“They’ve worked hard to build that up and grow an audience,” he said.
Samuels Public Library
In Front Royal, Binge Bundles of themed DVDs are ready and waiting to go home with area residents looking for a fun way to enjoy some screen time.
With an extensive DVD library, Samuels will be offering bundles of genre-related movies, such as Rom-Coms or classic films.
Adult Reference Supervisor Kitti McKean recommends the bundles for a weekend, snow day or any other celebration that offers the chance to binge watch some films.
“I’m really looking forward to that,” she said.
Samuels is also accepting gently used DVDs to fill out its collection, she said — in particular film or TV programs from PBS, BBC and Acorn or from Marvel and DC Comics. She said programs like “Games of Thrones,” “Heartland” and “Outlander” have also been popular with residents.
Around the region, libraries have been boosting their collections with manga (comics or graphic novels), magazines and newspapers, and offering educational programming that provides residents with a world of free learning opportunities.
Still, it can be hard for staff to get the word out about everything libraries have to offer.
“Our goal,” said John Huddy, director of Handley Regional Library System, “is to connect the 130,000 people in our service area to information and entertainment.
"This means looking at additional resources and going beyond what other libraries may traditionally be known for,” he said.
Technology plays a big role at Bowman, Handley and Clarke County Library, he said, including online printing services and mobile hotspot devices that patrons can borrow.
“Our programming has also increased to meet the needs and interests of our patrons,” he said. “We've focused more on STEAM for kids and technology courses for adults, along with DIY workshops and author talks."
The podcast Library Lout Loud offers information on everything the library offers, said Matt Swain, public relations manager for Handley Regional Library System.
“Not a lot of libraries can support a podcast,” he said, “and we've been able to launch and continue this effort with a lot of great feedback and support from the area."