By Johnny Jackson
Public libraries across the state are celebrating National Library Card Sign-up Month, encouraging children and adults, alike, to sign-up and re-acquaint themselves with what public libraries offer.
Since the observance was launched in September 1987, thousands of public and school libraries have joined the nationwide effort to increase library access to residents.
"Getting a library card is a great deal," said George Ajzelton, assistant director of the Henry County Public Library System. "Libraries, of course, are something that people of all ages can use free of cost. There are tons of books, and all [libraries] want you to do is keep them clean and bring them back on time."
At last count, there were some 74,000 Henry County residents who held library cards. In Clayton County, there are about 127,000 library card holders.
"Library cards are a great way for people to get access to all the different resources we have," said Ted Bazemore, the virtual services librarian at Clayton County's Headquarters Library in Jonesboro.
Bazemore said libraries are not only about traditional book resources, but they also provide online resources. "Many people aren't aware of what's available to them through the local library," he said. "There are a lot of different reasons to get a library card. We are definitely trying to promote the library in September, so that people will know more about the library."
Both Henry and Clayton library systems are members of the Georgia Public Library Service program, known as PINES. Georgia Library PINES, which started in 1999, is the public library automation and lending network for nearly 300 libraries and affiliated service outlets in some 140 counties in the state. The program creates a statewide "borderless library" that provides equal access to information for Georgians.
PINES library card holders have access to resources beyond what is available on their local shelves and share collection of 9.6 million books and other materials that can be delivered to their home library free of charge.
"The library has always been my own personal time machine," said former NBA player, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, this year's honorary chair of National Library Card Sign-up Month. "I can walk through the doors and land in any place, any time period in history. I didn't have to wonder what their worlds were like; I could experience it first hand."
Card holders may checkout as many as 50 books at one time for a period of two weeks at a time, and they may return those books to any PINES library anywhere in the state.
To get a library card, you must be a resident of the state of Georgia, have picture ID and proof of address. When a child signs up for a library card, a parent or legal guardian must fill out and sign the application along with proof of residence.
Those who apply for a PINES library card will receive information about the library system.
In both Clayton and Henry counties, library staff members routinely visit local schools and will do so more often this month to promote library card sign-up.
In Clayton County, youths, ages 12 and younger, who apply for a card in September, will get their photos posted in a library display (parental permission required) and will receive a coupon for a free Kid's Meal from Joe's Crab Shack, with the purchase of an adult meal.
Youths under age 18 will also each receive a pencil and, with parental permission, may have their photos posted both in a special display in the library and on the library's Flick photo gallery. And at Henry County's newly opened Fairview Library Branch, new teen card holders will be eligible to receive prizes as well.
"I think it's important for everyone to get a library card," said Allison Moyer, children's librarian at Henry County's Fairview Branch. "It's free, but the rewards are priceless."
On the net:
Henry County Public Library System: www.henry.public.lib.ga.us
Georgia Public Library Service: www.georgialibraries.org/lib/pines
Clayton County Library System: www.claytonpl.org