Like the Tardis, Dr. Who’s blue phone box spaceship, the Aldergrove Library’s exterior is just as deceiving. Step inside and you feel as if you’ve been transported to galaxies far, far away with the over a half million items in the Fraser Valley Regional Library collection.
Some people know the potential, but many do not. The knowledge gap is most significant for people over 50 years of age, said community librarian Rand Walker.
“The electronic materials are the hidden resource. If you don’t know what’s there, you won’t go looking for it.”
Many in the 50-plus group look for manuals to solve problems and need to be encouraged to explore other resources, he said.
“Now you use ‘Help,’ not a manual… Yes, it’s a tiger, but it’s safe.”
Recently, members of the knitting club, which meets on the first and third Thursday of the month, asked if the library had knitting patterns.
“Of course,” came the answer, but not in the format they were used to. Walker wasn’t talking about print magazines, he was referring to the database with thousands of craft and hobby articles and patterns.
People coming to look for car repair manuals might be disappointed to only see guides for the most popular models on a shelf, but, with just a few clicks, Walker was able to pull up information about more exotic makes and models.
Most people who are familiar with computers rely on Google for their information searches and then go only as deep as the first or second pages. Sometimes they simply click on the first reference.
“But why is it at the top?” Walker asked. “People don’t realize that money, advertising and the number of times it’s been clicked have pushed it to the top. But who says it’s relevant? People don’t know the risks of the open market and they’ve eliminated a lot of other things. In a hyper-linked world, it’s all spider web connections.”
Walker, a former elementary school teacher, said educators and students in high schools and post-secondary institutions know how Google functions and how to find more credible and useful sources. Your public library card gives you access to many of those same sites: Academic Search Premier (full-text articles from peer-reviewed journals and texts) and EBSCOhost (which links to multidisciplinary databases on virtually any subject).
You can access the B.C. Building Code and provincial government legislation.
“It’s free and up-to-date but it’s not easy to find on the Internet,” he said.
However, any librarian would be happy to direct you.
Walker said he sees his job as “teasing out people’s curiosity. We try to engage them when they come in so we can provide relevant programs.”
Today’s libraries are much more than rooms with shelves of printed materials. The Aldergrove Library has hosted several informative programs. One of the most popular was a presentation on trade with the U.S., given by the Canadian Border Services Agency. Invitations were sent to the Rotary Club, Aldergrove Business Association and small business owners.
“Libraries have become places for dialogue,” he said, “and at no cost to the user. We’re trying to remove barriers and make this a safe place, but it’s hard if people don’t know we’re here or expect we’ll give them heck because they have library fines.”
Walker pointed out that so many media formats are now obsolete—reel-to-reel tape recorders, cassettes, videotapes, etc. It’s hard to predict how much longer today’s technology will last.
Interestingly, the most enduring media is microfiche, he said.
“It lasts over 100 years and all you need is a light and magnification.”
However, he predicted that “printed books will never go away because we always need a straightforward way to pass along information to the next generation.”
Visit your library and check out these online resources:
• Canadian Newsstand (219 major and rural newspapers)
• KnowBC (information about all significant B.C. people, places and things)
• Streaming music (several genres) and sheet music
• WorldBook Online (three encyclopedic resources aimed at different age groups)
• Gale Virtual Reference Library (with access to many reference materials and encyclopedias)
• Searchasaurus (a graphic-rich reference for young students)
• Primary Search (70 popular magazines for school children)
• Mango Languages (online language learning system for the major languages)
• Hobbies & Crafts Reference Centre (detailed how-to instructions)
• Ancestry Library Edition (find out who your ancestors were)
• Business Source Premier (market research and industry information by country)
• OverDrive (downloadable eBooks and audio recordings)
• BC Codes (building codes, fire codes, plumbing codes)
• Auto Repair Reference Centre (for domestic and imported vehicles)
• Small Engine Repair Reference Centre (step-by-step instructions)
• MasterFILE Premier (Consumer Reports and thousands of full-text reference articles)
• QP LegalEze (search B.C. laws and government publications)
• Global Road Warrior (up-to-date travel information)
-Story and photo contributed by Leslie Dyson