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A Look at Libraries

Local libraries feature books, movies, music and so much more!

Picture yourself in a cozy reading chair. Perhaps you are near an aquarium, fireplace or local art exhibit, surrounded by books, magazines and the latest edition numerous newspapers.

Libraries today are so much more than the simple institutions most of us knew growing up.

“One of the most vital services a library provides is being a cultural and informational center within the community,” says Lisa Guidarini, Adult Program Coordinator for the Algonquin Area Public Library District. “The role of the library programmer is to bring a variety of programs to the patrons, designing them to fit the interests within that community while also introducing new things in an attempt to reach patrons who may not otherwise consider attending programs. Ultimately, the goal is to get people into the library and to let them know how much the library can enrich their lives.”

There are no less than 13 libraries located throughout McHenry County, and each offers its own unique programs. Each library has a children’s section with scheduled story times and special events ranging from drop-in kid’s craft programs to puppet shows and themed parties.

Libraries also offer complimentary Internet service in their computer labs and free WiFi or T1 lines for your laptop. DVD and VHS films and video games are available for checkout and may be kept longer than your typical rental store would allow. Music CDs and audio books are also available in many genres.

For students, the majority of libraries offer free tutoring and homework assistance. Some teen programs include Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution tournaments, pizza parties and art, photography, and writing contests. Movie parties complete with popcorn are geared towards a variety of age groups.

Computer classes are common, with topics ranging from introductory courses for first-time computer users to advanced classes on PowerPoint and Excel. Several McHenry County libraries offer courses on editing and organizing your digital photos, tracing your family genealogy, navigating online shopping via eBay and creating a blog.

Book signings by local authors, scrapbook clubs, knitting clubs and guest speakers abound, as do courses on retirement planning, travel series presentations, youth anime clubs, live music performances and reading programs for all ages. A handful of the events limit registration, but most are open to anyone. It may be worthwhile to check out several libraries in your area to participate in the sessions that interest you most. The best part is that the majority of library offerings are free of charge.

If there is a program or club you think should be offered at your local library, speak to the library director. “The nice thing about small public libraries is that they are often flexible enough to respond to the changing needs of their local patrons in a timely manner,” says Tim Jack, Head of Adult Services at the Cary Area Public Library.

Find yourself unable to make it to the library in person? Most branches offer home delivery service for their homebound patrons. The Algonquin Area Public Library Main Branch features a drive-through window with access to check out and return books, movies and other library materials. Items can be reserved online and, in some cases, digitally downloaded and enjoyed from home.

All of the McHenry County libraries participate in borrowing consortiums, which means you are not limited to the selection housed at your nearest library branch. Items can be ordered from other libraries for you. You can also use your local library card to register at other libraries and check out materials throughout the state of Illinois.

Used-book sales are common fundraisers of the local Friends of the Library organizations. If you find yourself in need of clearing out your book collection, libraries will welcome your donations.

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