My Digital Library Card

My Digital Library Card

On one of our periodic shopping trips to Halifax (which is about two hours away), we made a visit to Halifax Central Library, a new library building that opened in 2014 on the site of a former parking lot and serves as the flagship library for the Halifax Public Libraries system that serves the entire province.  The new library is a beautifully designed building (resulting from an international architectural design competition) and reminds me more of an Apple Store than a traditional library that had row and row of “stacks”. 

This new facility is a very popular gathering place and features a striking central atrium with staircases criss-crossing the open interior space (featured in the photo accompanying this blog post).  The spaces in the library have an airy feel throughout, as the exterior glass walls seem to be everywhere you go.  A roof-top cafe and a cantilevered reading room with views of the surrounding cityscape are among the spaces that draw you in.

While the primary purpose of our visit was to experience the building for the first time as “tourists”, I stopped by the main desk on my way out and discovered that all Nova Scotia residents are eligible for a free library card.  Little did I realize at the time how useful this library card would turn out to be. The library card serves as a passport not only to the library’s onsite resources such as computers and books and publications for borrow, but also for access to their digital collections from home.  This was of particular interest to me, as checking out physical books is not especially practical, given the driving distance from home.

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Their web-based e-library, with its sizable digital collection of both written and audio books is a real treasure trove for those willing to engage in the digital method of consuming the written (or spoken) word.  In addition to the Library’s own collection of digital books, which can be placed on hold or borrowed directly if available, the Halifax Public Libraries card provides free access to such services as Lynda.com and RBDigital.com

As stated on their website, Lynda.com (now offered by LinkedIn) is “an online learning platform that helps anyone learn business, software, technology and creative skills to achieve personal and professional goals.” Lynda.com provides a video library of top quality courses on a range of topics, but typically with a technology focus.  Major categories include: 3D + Animation, Audio + Music, Business, Computer Aided Design, E-Learning, Marketing, Photography,  Video, and Web Design. Free access to Lynda.com through your library system can be a godsend to those looking to maximize their potential but not otherwise having access to such resources through an employer, educational institution or government entity.

RBDigital.com is a site (and mobile app) hosting a wide-ranging collection of about 300 magazines covering over 30 different genres. The magazines can be read or downloaded for offline reading, using your web browser or a mobile app for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire devices.  “RB” stands for “Recorded Books” The magazines included are high-quality publication such The Atlantic, Cooks Illustrated, The Economist, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and Wired, to name just a few.

There are still other resources available to Halifax Library card holders that I have yet to explore fully that look intriguing.  One is called Rocket Languages, design to help people learn other foreign languages.  Another is “hoopla”, which is a source for borrowing a variety of digital assets, including movies, TV shows, audiobooks and music.  “hoopla” even has an Apple TV app, which makes borrowing the movies and TV shows particularly appealing, as they are free (with a limit of five items borrowed per month).  These are titles that would otherwise cost money to rent from iTunes, Amazon, and other streaming services.  More about “hoopla” in a future blog post in the “TV + Home Theater” category.

What makes Halifax Public Libraries’ own digital collection easy to browse and borrow from is a mobile app for iPhone and iPad called “Libby” (an obvious derivation of the word “library”).  The Libby app allows you to view the entire digital collection and see what’s available now and what will require a “hold” so that you will receive the book as soon as your turn in line comes up. Libby maintains a “shelf” of books that you have checked out and keeps track of your current place in each book, keeping your various devices in sync.

The Halifax library card allows up to 10 digital books to be borrowed at any one time, and any books you’ve placed on hold will display how many copies are out on loan and what your place in line is, with an estimate of when the book likely will be available to you.  The standard lending period is 14 days but you can request a longer term and also renew the book when you get within a few days of the due date.  However, very popular books may have restrictions on renewals.

I hope you are as fortunate in your own location as we are in Nova Scotia to have such an innovative approach to digital books and related content. I would enjoy hearing of your own experience with your local library’s offerings. 

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