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More than books

Juniata County Library expands offerings well beyond printed matter

MIFFLINTOWN — There’s long been more than books to check out at the Juniata County Library — and Vince Giordano, the county’s librarian, has been working to add new (and perhaps unusual) offerings for members.

“You’re kind of having to think beyond books,” Giordano said.

Not that his — and other — libraries aren’t already doing that. But Giordano has listened to ideas offered by other libraries, and added board games, puzzles, even computers that can be loaned.

“I went to a library conference and they had different sessions. One of them was how to lend out board games at a library,” he said. “They showed what games they’ve tried, where to buy them, what to do with missing pieces — logistics, like don’t make your staff count the pieces.”

He said he’s actually wanted to bring games in — they have five now, all high-quality offerings that most people wouldn’t want to buy due to limited usage — for three years. As of Tuesday, all of the were in the hands of library users.

Although it’s new to Juniata County, Giordano is quick to admit it’s an offering that other libraries have had longer.

“My wife grew up going to the Schlow Library in State College and she said they’ve had them there for years and years,” he said.

He is worried about disappearing puzzle pieces.

“That could definitely happen. That could be frustrating,” Giordano admits. “We have a couple volunteers that come in each week and they’re actually going to help count the pieces.”

Most of the puzzles currently in the library — 20 of them — were donated; a few were purchased. Giordano also plans to have a community puzzle in the library that patrons can work on together.

One of the more unusual items added to the library’s collection is based on a need, or at least a perceived need — a means for younger readers to be more literate in cursive.

“We had a grandma come in who had been writing cards to her grandson, and her grandson was frustrated because he couldn’t read and understand what she was writing because it was in cursive,” Giordano explained. “And he wasn’t learning cursive (in school).”

The library didn’t have any books on cursive writing, he said, and most of the books on the market were intended for individual use, not sharing, because you’d write in them. He found a board book with small cards and a marker you can wipe off.

“You can trace it and erase it,” Giordano said.

Juniata County’s library, like most, has computers in the building that patrons can use. But his latest acquisition isn’t tied down. Borrowers can now take a Chromebook laptop with them.

Chromebooks are laptops that run Chrome, from Google, instead of Windows or MacOS. They are limited in some ways, but generally offer a means to browse the World Wide Web and use office applications. The first person to check one out, he said, was ecstatic because she could complete job applications on a real computer instead of her phone.

“I never personally owned a Chromebook so I don’t know it real well,” Giordano said. “But they’re great. It is like a no-brainer.”

The library added a new audiobook service, RB Digital, partly in response to the actions of some publishers. He said it will supplement the current system, and is superior in that it offers borrowing without a wait list.

“Audio listening, if it’s podcast or book, like the audiobook you get on your phone, is the fastest growing readership format,” Giordano said. “Those (checkout) numbers continue to climb each year pretty sharply. eBooks are kind of climbing a little but leveling off. Print books are going down.”

The future, he said, is based on more technology that serves library customers.

“We’re always going to have books here, but I think now two places are really becoming a need of people and we can’t ignore them. The technology — people need to scan things, fax things, print things. We bought a copy machine where you can print right from your phone to the copy machine,” he said. “The other place that’s really growing, is we’re seeing so much demand from people needing space to do meetings (and the library created second community room in response).”

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