While September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month, Lonesome Pine Regional Library Director Julie Scott and Marketing and Programs Coordinator Karen Ponish are letting far Southwest Virginia know that libraries are a free resource for more than books.
“It’s busy,” Scott said when asked if libraries still have a place in a world where internet, e-books and other information technology are available via smart phone and social media. “We have so many offerings in our libraries.”
The Lonesome Pine Regional Library system operates nine physical sites in Dickenson, Wise, Lee and Scott counties, Scott said, but it also offers the Mailbox Library and online downloadable e-book and audiobook services.
All of the libraries except the Rose Hill facility offer onsite Little Sprouts and Little Pines reading and activity programs for toddlers and preschoolers, Short said, and the Trailblazer after-school reading programs for older children. At back-to-school nights at local schools, library personnel have also helped parents get library cards for their children.
“Our libraries do a lot of outreach to area schools, and we’re doing a weekly program with the Boys and Girls Club program at UVa-Wise,” Ponish said. “We are available if anyone wants to request a service.”
Other library activities through the system include music and cultural events throughout the year, Short and Ponish said, and various book clubs and crafting groups meet at branches.
“Each library exhibits its own personality,” Short said. “At Haysi and Gate City, they have a crafting niche.”
“At Wise, we have the Wise Quilting Group that meets here,” said Ponish. “In Haysi, they have a strong teen program there too. But overall, we have a wide array of community activities at all our libraries.”
Ponish said traditional services like the system’s delivery van allow patrons to request books from outlying branches to their home branch. In August, the van carried more than 5,300 requested books to other branches. Through the regional library’s website, users can download books from a collection of more than 123,000 fiction and non-fiction tiles, Short added.
“We have our rare book collection, and each branch has its own history and genealogy collections,” Short said. “They are pretty heavily used.”
Ponish said those specific genealogy collections also draw library visitors from outside the region.
The card catalogs of past decades have been gone for years, but Short said the regional library’s digital catalog has gone through upgrades beyond the old Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress shelving systems. Through the library website’s visual catalog, users can search for books by subject and see the book jacket as well as where the book is located within the system’s branches.
Various magazines are also available free for reading on the website, Short said. The Mailbox Library allows readers who cannot physically go to library branches to order, receive and return books via pre-paid mailers at the library’s expense. An updated catalog offers paperback versions of recent titles as well as large-print books and crafting pamphlets.
“You can do it all from home,” Short said. “It’s all right at your fingertips.”
Short said library patrons can request holds on titles through the website as long as they have a library card. That brings up the subject of National Library Card Sign-Up Month.
“If you’re an adult, all you need is a photo ID, and your first library card is free,” Ponish said. “Parents can get cards for their children, and you don’t have to be a certain age. We have babies who have library cards and, when their parents get them, often the first thing they do is put them in their mouths.”
Short laughed and said the cards are moisture-resistant.
“When I started working here,” Short said, “a child had to be able to write their name to get a library card, but that’s changed.”
“We’ve reached parents who remember what it was like to come to the library,” Ponish said. “They’re proud to have their children have their own library card. One can check out books for two weeks, but we have children who are back after one week looking for more books.”
“As soon as they start their own families, they return with their families in full force,” Short added.
Computer and wi-fi services at all branches offer patrons places where they can access online government services such as Social Security help or Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles registration or driver’s license updates and ordering.
“Our computers stay pretty full,” Ponish said. “People use them for resume writing and job applications too.”
Students doing school research also have access to numerous academic databases, Short said. If a patron has to take online driving school, Short said, the Lonesome Pine Regional Library system handles test proctoring for people completing the courses.
“We have 24-hour wi-fi at all of our locations and outside of our walls,” Short said. “At Haysi, where there’s a lot of mountain biking trails, a lot of cyclists keep in touch with their families by parking outside the library.”
“You do need to reach a balance with all the new technology,” Short said. “Our boards of supervisors and city and town councils have been supportive, and they try to prioritize funding for us.”
“While you can do a lot at home, for a lot of people this is a social outlet,” Ponish said. “We’re complimented by our visitors for a friendly staff.”
For more information on the Lonesome Pine Regional Library’s online and branch services and programs, visit online at http://lonesomepine.boundless.ly/