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Treasures of the Library

Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip for February, 2004

Ah, February! It's cold outside, the kids are on vacation for a week, and you're going nuts.

The local library may be just the thing to shake off those winter blues.

If you remember the libraries of your childhood, dark, disturbing places full of moldy old books and librarians who ran around shushing you, let me tell you that libraries have changed. A lot.

Libraries understand that their purpose is not just to collect and catalog books or magazines, but to make information and entertainment available in many different formats.

The typical library now offers--at no charge--videos and CDs to take home for a week or two, Internet-connected computers that bring the world directly to you, and a friendly, helpful staff that doesn't expect or enforce silence. In fact, children's and adult librarians just love to help you find books that match your interest, books that you may not have found on your own. And if you need to research something, no one can steer you through the process more efficiently than a well-trained reference librarian.

And in many communities, the buildings themselves have been modernized. They offer bright lights, comfortable armchairs, and a complete computerized index of the collection--no more poring through old wooden card files trying to understand the cryptic numbers of the catalog system.

Many libraries also offer museum-quality exhibits, children's story hours and reading programs, concerts, meet-an-author events, and more. My own local library even houses the official Calvin Coolidge Presidential Archives, since Coolidge was a city councilor and mayor before he ever rose to national prominence.

Most libraries will have an event calendar; sign up for it. Libraries are a tremendous resource on those "I'm bored" days when you really need a break.

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