Beyond Books

St. Louis County Library updates inventory with more than books for checkout

Shoshana Weinstein, Staff Writer

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As information becomes more accessible with the rise of the Internet, many libraries have struggled to remain relevant. However, this is not the case for the St. Louis County Libraries. Made up of 21 separate libraries, the St. Louis County Library system has been actively updating their services for the past several years.
One way that the library has been adding to its inventory is by offering more than just books for checkout.
“We do have telescopes and other science kits that families can use at home to learn about all kinds of things. So that’s another opportunity for us to share with the community, and bring knowledge to them; there’s usually a waiting list,” Carla Bandle said. Bandle is a circulation assistant at the Sachs branch of the St. Louis County Library.
Furthermore, they allow patrons to check out more than just books; they lend musical instruments and cameras, too. “The new Theta 360 kit contains three Theta 360 cameras, each paired with its own corresponding phone also in the kit so students can take 360 degree photos remotely,” school librarian Liz Lyons said. “Students can use the 360 degree photos for web design, photography, etc. or they can build their own Google Expeditions slide shows using their own photos. This would be a fun way to do a virtual tour of Central High for the 8th graders or new students, a virtual tour of an off-site student activity or special event at the school . Lots of possibilities.”
The library has also attracted more patrons by increasing its appeal to children and teens. Most students at Parkway Central likely have fond memories of visiting the library as a child, checking out picture books and listening to stories. The Sachs branch has kept all of these favorites, as well as adding interactive elements.
“We have story time, we have book discussions,” library assistant Cathy Lask said. “We have chess programs, we have Legos, just all kinds of programs. I think it definitely is more hands-on.”
Additionally, the St. Louis County Library system has incorporated more online services to bring it into the twenty-first century.
“We have computers that our patrons can come in and use,” Bandle said. “And then there’s a number of different [computer] classes that we offer. Some of them are specifically geared towards just learning the fundamentals, and then there’s other things that we do on a specialized basis where people actually sign up for classes in doing some of the more sophisticated things on the internet, building up the skill set to set up a website for example.” The library also offers streaming services with tutorials on the use of popular software, such as Photoshop and Adobe Premium.
Those internet resources have been especially popular with Central students. Many students turn to the Parkway Central library to find information for research projects, and the library’s databases offer a wealth of material. Unfortunately, these databases cost money, and the school’s library has a finite amount of money. That’s where the St. Louis County Library system comes in. “We have a bunch of databases here at our school that we purchase for students, but there’s a number of databases that were just too expensive to purchase,” Lyons said. “So for example, they have a biography database that’s extremely useful for students that are having trouble finding information on particular famous people. We also have a literary criticism database that we use for the upper level English classes.”
In fact, the St. Louis County Libraries play a large role in the academics of Parkway Central. The library’s dedicated staff work closely with the librarians here at Central. On a regular basis, they bring everything from books to community outreach programs to Parkway schools.
“They’ll deliver to our school some of the copies of the books that we need for students to be able to borrow whenever they’re working in their ELA classes,” school librarian Angie Watson said. “They also can come down sometimes and booktalk for us. One of the librarians came down a few years ago and did a library card drive at lunch for students, and they’re also very knowledgeable about young adult literature, so sometimes they’ll come in and talk about books that are out. They’ve been really helpful for us.”