Originally published in the Chillicothe Gazette on August 31, 2019
I’m going to be honest. I have not been a model library card holder. Is it risky to admit just how little I knew about how to use that tiny, curling key card until I started here? Possibly. Have I racked up late fees in the past borrowing movies for my screaming toddler? Absolutely. Have I accidentally spilled a full glass of water on an open book? Unfortunately, yes. Yet, in hopes of helping others, and to honor National Library Card Sign-up Month, I’m getting real.
I don’t remember my first library card. It could have been a student card issued at my elementary, which would have been good for three checkouts and usable at all county locations. Or maybe I walked the two blocks to the old Kingston Library and got signed up on my own, though, my mother would have needed to be present for a full card. Who knows? What I do remember from that foggy time in youth is the first time I actually used that card to research a real report. The glue and binding smell of the stacks, the weight of all that knowledge in my arms as I spread books on the table and began to search. Pictures and words entering my brain as fast my eyes could move. I scratched out notes in a battered notebook, then took those notes to one of the computers and two-finger pecked out my very first research paper. I felt so accomplished.
Just as I have evolved to learn the home keys and how to type with my whole hands, the resources available have expanded as well. I’m talking about online, student-geared resources. I piled my table with books that day, but nowadays, students can skip the stacks altogether.
The internet was a wee babe in my early researching days, but as a full-grown adult, I had no idea how much digital information my library card could unlock. The ability to collect facts instantly on Kids InfoBits, a site full of relevant, kid-appropriate info, which makes for safe and educational surfing. For example, Groundhogs eat plants and seeds, make whistling sounds, and (spoiler alert) live underground. Boom.
As a teen I would have lost myself in my very-common-and-not-geeky-at-all obsession with literary authors. Little did I know that my library card would have given access to Literary Reference Center online where hours might have been lost in a wormhole of Ernest Hemingway’s life and work or Emily Dickinson‘s back story.
In college, I could have made the online stop at Very Short Introductions. With brief and well-researched introductions on a variety of topics, I could have made conversation about Industrial Development like an Econ Major or discussed Artificial Intelligence with astonishing insight.
I’m not even scratching the surface of all I missed out on. CreativeBug, with its seemingly endless tutorials on all things Pinterest-worthy, is a project junkie’s dream. ArtistWorks would have allowed me to learn guitar and start that band I always dreamed of. I could have been famous by now.
So, while I made it to adulthood without realizing the power I held hanging from my key ring or smashed in my wallet, you don’t have to. Students, parents of students, even students at heart, let my shadowed ignorance be your light! Do not make the same mistakes I have made and let your card lay dormant simply because you don’t know all the wonderful ways you can use it. There is so much to discover. Wander the stacks, but wander them online as well. Now is the time to make it memorable and get your card today.
Sheena Brown is a native of Ross County and a public services clerk for Chillicothe and Ross County Public Library.