Column: A trip to the library is no longer a chore | Opinion

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I know I’m talking about ancient history, but “back then” we kids used to go to the library when we had to, probably because we had a seventh grade homework on an obscure topic.

Once we arrived we suffered from an unfriendly card index, and when we thought we had found something we had to translate the Dewey Decimal System into English and search the dusty shelves for the magic reference. With any luck, we would find what we were looking for. Otherwise, there were always old copies of “National Geographic” to peruse (and before you get the wrong idea, I’ve always been interested in old car ads, for Duesenbergs and Cords, not photos of Polynesian villages).

It was equally frustrating to search for newspaper articles that had been transcribed onto film. I’ve spent many hours sifting through reels, including ads for dry cleaners and hardware stores, repeatedly concluding that the item in question probably isn’t that important after all.

I realize that I have described the Dark Ages and anyone born in the last 30 years has no idea what I am talking about.

With my trip to the past, have you been to the library lately? I have, and it’s no longer a chore. I like to read — mostly historical stuff, but with some mysteries. I take full advantage of the library’s website — great for checking what’s available and selecting volumes to reserve (sometimes I’m 48th in line for a certain book, but I can check the status whenever I want). No dusty card catalogs.

I walk past the Central Library, pick up the volumes reserved for me, and do a quick tour of the “Sizzlers” shelves (newly released books in high demand). Then I stop in front of a cash register computer, scan my library card, and head for the door, smiling.

While going to the checkout, I often stopped in front of a video bulletin board and was amazed by the services offered at the library. Meeting rooms are available for different groups. Sometimes these halls are used for flower shows or exhibitions, or even classes.

Adult high school, English as a second language and citizenship courses are regularly on the program, as well as literary discussion groups. There are summer reading programs for children and business services for adults.

You might think that the library’s focus on business was limited to a few editions of “Business Week” or “The Economist.” If so, you will be surprised to learn how you can, with the help of a dedicated librarian, create and search databases tailored to your business needs.

Going back to the kids for a moment, did you know that the library system operates a mobile STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) van? It is a laboratory on wheels, available for groups of children in areas served by the Pioneer Library System.

And I haven’t even mentioned the 3D printers and fully-equipped TV studio on the third floor, or the engaging (and interactive) kids’ area on the first floor. For specifics I have referred to the Central Library in Norman, but many of the services described exist in the eastern and western branches of Norman.

There is so much to say. I have not yet mentioned the many computers (and printers, for a small fee) available to the public. At the Norman Central Library, you will find waiting lists for computer use. And you might be surprised that some of the people waiting are part of Norman’s homeless population.

The rule at Norman Central: you are welcome, as long as you don’t disturb. This acceptance, on very cold winter nights, was manifested by keeping the library open an extra hour on Fridays, until the heated shelter opened. I know there are those who read these words who might object to this practice. I am not making these comments advocating special programs; simply commenting that the library staff were simply helping those they felt were in need. I salute their humanity.

One more thing: did you know that there is a part-time social worker on staff? One of the main duties of this person is to work with clients to help meet housing needs. It’s written on the message board.

Full disclosure: My oldest daughter is a librarian (in Canyon, TX), but I don’t write the words she dictated. I love our libraries for all the reasons listed above.

Norman libraries serve the city well — good things in Norman. It helps that they keep “National Geographics” handy where I can find them.

Bill Scanlon is a former Ward 6 Councilman who volunteers to support the Norman Police Department and the Norman Fire Department, and sits on several city committees. Prior to his work at Norman, Scanlon served 26 years in the US Air Force – where he last served as Chief of Mission Analytics under the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Air Force, studies and analyzes at the Pentagon – and worked for Northrop Grumman in Washington DC

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