By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
The Public Library of Enid and Garfield County is asking for a second chance.
Major changes have been made over the past few years. City and county residents are encouraged to stop by their library and take advantage of all the services — new and old — it provides.
“If you haven’t been in your public library recently give it a whirl,” library director Michelle Mears said. “You might be surprised.”
Mears and Jade Powell, supervisory librarian of public services, said the library is among the most cutting edge facilities in the state and offers services comparable to libraries in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
“We’ve taken a new approach to the library,” Powell said. “We have the bookstore feel.”
Mears said the library is using social media, like Facebook, to reach younger people. An Italian greyhound named Diva also visits, in different outfits, so children can read to her.
“She’s a therapy dog,” Mears said. “She comes in, and the children read to her.”
With tablets and eReaders, the library also has embraced digital technology and lending.
“Many people don’t realize we have downloadable eBooks and audiobooks available through our virtual library,” Mears said. “They can get a lot of books for free through us. We’re really trying to promote that.”
The library is part of OK Virtual Library, a consortium of 44 libraries that work together to provide a larger number of titles and content through its members.
“It’s one of the first sort of joint collection development projects that public libraries have done,” Mears said. “It allows us to pool our resources and provide so many titles free to people.
“It’s a really exciting development of us to be able to join with other libraries.”
Those with a library card can access content through the library’s website, including tutoring programs, online news stories, an encyclopedia, ancestry software, foreign language programs and a sign language program.
It also has an ancestry program, Transparent Languages.
“A lot of people don’t know we have it here,” Powell said of Transparent Languages. “That’s what we’re trying to convey to a lot of people.”
Open this gift
Mears and Powell said the library offers services and programs people may not realize are available to them.
“It’s sort of like a present waiting to be opened,” Mears said. “We’re trying to get the people in the door to open the present. The library is still relevant as a place.”
The library continues to offer educational opportunities.
Last month, a pre-driving class was offered for teens and parents. An Oklahoma Highway Patrol representative was there, as well as someone from the insurance industry, to answer questions and cover common questions for new drivers.
“We got all this information together for them,” Mears said. “We had about 30 to 40 parents and kids who showed up for that workshop.”
“Right now we have several classes going on,” Powell said. “We’ve got a several for Computing for Seniors. We teach them how to use a computer, how to use a mouse and how to email and use Facebook.”
She said one woman who attended the class carried her laptop in the box it came in from the store.
“I’ve had grandmas come in with iPads, and they’re not even set up,” Powell said. “She did several classes, and she ended up on Facebook.”
Mears said a lot of seniors want to learn how to use computers but are afraid it will be too difficult.
“Once you get them started they take off,” she said.
“We’re already booking for March,” Powell said of the classes. “We’re going to have to do it again.”
No fine is just fine
Mears said the library saw a “lull” in patronage from the ’80s and ’90s, and the library is trying to rebuild from that down period.
“There’s no budget for PR and promotion. It’s really word of mouth,” Mears said. “They might tell a few people, but they’re not really fans like ‘You’ve got to hear about this.’ We’re just trying to get people excited about it.”
Powell said the library does anything it can to reach people and make an impact.
“We’re very cutting edge for the state of Oklahoma,” she said.
The library offers sensory integration with certain books. Some might feature a stuffed animal or character from a book.
“You can connect words, learning and literacy to the sense of touch and feel,” Powell said. “You’ve got to combine the senses in the learning process.”
Enid High School’s special education class visits the library to play Nintendo Wii.
“It’s an opportunity for them to come out to the library,” Powell said. “It’s socialization. It’s still cognitive learning.”
Another change that often catches people off guard is the library’s lack of late fees for overdue books.
“A lot of libraries still ask us ‘How you do pull off this no overdue fine?’” Powell said. “We get our books back. When you don’t charge people for overdue fines they bring your books back.”
She said if a book is past due more than 35 days a replacement fine could be imposed.
“Everything we do is centered around education and learning,” Mears said. “We’re always looking for that next thing. Our community deserves more.”
“We’re constantly looking at expanding and extending our services,” Powell said.
To see what’s going on at the library and to take advantage of services go to www. enid.org/library or www.facebook.com/enidpubliclibrary.