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A Back to School Essential

Uncover what you can do with the most essential school supply of all

What's the most essential school supply of all? "A library card," says the American Library Association (ALA). The observation began in 1987 when U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett urged a national campaign for all kids to obtain and use a library card.

Today's libraries offer a broad array of free materials, services, and activities for kids and adults alike. Here are just a few great reasons to make the library an integral part of your and your child’s life.

Movies & films – Today’s libraries offer a great selection of mainstream movies and television series as well as educational, independent, and foreign films on DVD for kids and adults alike.

Music CDs – Music is the universal language. You'll find a large selection of pop, rock, and country music CDs at the library. You can even introduce your kids to classical, jazz, blues, international music, and more.

Computer software & games – If your kids are into video games, the library has an array of children’s educational software and video games. You can also find teen and adult video games, instructional and reference software, and productivity software ranging from Microsoft programs to graphic design.

Periodicals – Newspapers, magazines, and niche periodicals are available for both in-library use and check out.

Books, audiobooks, and ebooks – In addition to vast collections of print fiction, non-fiction, and reference books, libraries offer audiobooks on CD, including unabridged editions. Many libraries also provide ebooks in multiple formats.

Computer & Internet use –  The library offers free computer access for Internet browsing and research. You'll also have access to basic word processing programs, Excel, PowerPoint, and more.

Inter-library loan – If you can't find a book or item you're looking for, most libraries have inter-library and reciprocal loan programs. Just ask if they can request the material from another library for you. Some library systems also have arrangements so you can use your library card at libraries in nearby communities.

Online catalog – Most libraries have a website with access to their complete catalog. You can browse or search for materials from home to determine their availability before you head out. If an item you want isn't available, you can usually reserve it or request an inter-library loan right from your computer.

Special events – A wide array of programs, events, and activities are found at libraries throughout the year. These may include children's storytimes, computer classes, enrichment programs, book discussion groups, used-book sales, author events, children's and teen movies, craft activities, and more. You can find this month's storytimes in our events section.