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Since the dawn of time — Sept. 1, 1987, to be exact — public libraries across America have been celebrating Library Card Sign-Up Month with giveaways, programming and the evergreen glory of access to free, local resources.
Originally chosen by the American Library Association (ALA) for its proximity to the school year, September was deemed the best month to help potential patrons of all kinds save hundreds of dollars on educational materials and services for students. Now some 30 years later, this same money-saving priority can take many shapes, like that of a laptop, a hotspot, a dozen ebooks or an hour of after-school homework help. It can also look like access to current tools for SAT preparation, global NewsBank articles or language learning programs like Mango. Often, it can even look like a borrowed instrument, projector, or Washington State Discover Pass. All for even less money than your average Amazon purchase.
As an avid library user, I often wonder what sum we all might save if we added these things up? Moreover, if we multiplied them by three.
Why, you may ask, would we multiply them? Enter the regional reciprocal agreement between the Whitman County Library District, the Latah County Library District, and the Neill Public Library. A beautiful thing, this agreement allows residents of both counties to hold all three library cards with few limitations. I’ll let that sink in. As a resident of either Whitman or Latah county, you can have three different library cards.
Together, those cards equal access to the physical collections, reference staff, local knowledge, event calendars and digital resources of 21 different communities throughout the area. So, for the price of gas and maybe a coffee, you could spend your afternoon reading comfortably at the libraries in Tekoa or Deary or Colfax. You could use one of your new library cards to explore area histories in Troy or Albion. Or why not mix up your work-from-home scenery by utilizing some capable Wi-Fi in either Endicott or Palouse?
Even if you haven’t set foot in a library building since the ALA launched their first Library Card Sign-Up Month campaign in 1987, you are welcome. If you’ve never set foot in a library building at all, you are welcome. If we see you every day, you are welcome. Even if you don’t read books, you are welcome.
So why not consider, or reconsider, the library card this September?
No matter who you are — how young or old, how rural or how busy — September is the time to take the library card for the golden ticket that it is. It’s the time to reimagine your library card as a theme-park pass, a map, a blue ribbon, a key, a coupon, a badge of honor. Or a reason to remember where you are and why.
If that’s not compelling enough, consider how many possible raffles you could enter. Here at the Whitman County Rural Library District, signing up for a library card (or even just using the one you have!) could win you or your loved one a $25 local gift card to the business of your choosing. That’s free money. Really, it seems to me that the benefits of being a library card holder are boundless, but how can I convince you?
If you were to see a recent ALA advertisement for Library Card-Sign Up Month, you would find the characters of the new “Elemental” movie attempting to inspire potential readers. Each year, the spokesperson is different. Though if I were to choose a celebrity to stand up and say “What are you waiting for?” then it would be the local kid with their coin purse, full-up with dimes and two shiny new library cards — the third incoming.
You too can have that same sense of richness this month. Just swing by one of the 14 branches across Whitman County Rural Library District, Neill Public Library in Pullman, or any of the Latah County Library District branches throughout the month of September to register for a library card. We’ll certainly congratulate you.
Sarah Bofenkamp is the Palouse Branch Manager and marketing specialist for the Whitman County Rural Library District. This article was originally published in the Moscow Pullman Daily News.