From The Beacon: Library's references a local treasure

These days, everybody's doing more with less. And doing more often means we need more resources to support us through the challenges we face. But where's the best place to find those resources?

Look no further: The Beaufort County Public Library System just might have what you need. As of 2009, the library had slightly more than 75,000 cardholders. By the end of 2010, that number should be closer to 90,000. Most of our customers are aware the library offers access to print materials, audio books, movies, periodicals and the Internet. And yet, the library still has some gems that are widely unknown to even some of our most dedicated visitors.

Did you know that your public library branches offer:

  • Reference databases: The library offers several reference databases that provide an array of pertinent information. If you thought databases were just for school research assignments, you're mistaken. Our databases can do everything from helping you trace your family history (Library Ancestry Edition) to finding an address (reference USA). Customers who want to learn new languages can sign up for BYKI online accounts. This service teaches users new languages through phrase flashcards.
  • Computer literacy classes: Several library branches offer computer literacy classes for users with varying ability levels. Classes on basic Microsoft programs, the Internet, and online social networking are some of the most popular. Contact your local branch for a schedule.
  • Social networking opportunities: If you're already an Internet whiz, the library offers many ways for you to stay up to date with happenings online. Systemwide, library staff members post happenings on Twitter (twitter.com/bftcountylib). In addition, some branches maintain Facebook accounts to keep you in the know. On top of that, our website offers program calendars and recommended reading articles and blogs.
  • The Beaufort District Collection: The purpose of this special collection is to create, maintain and share valuable research materials pertaining to the history, culture and environment of Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton counties. Library staff who maintain this collection are just as proud of the "virtual BDC" presence they have created as they are of the historical documents they preserve. This portion of the library's website gives customers access to photographs, an obituary index and advice on how to approach family research. The physical collection is temporarily closed while it moves to a renovated space in the Beaufort branch. It opens again Sept. 30. Information housed in the BDC is for customers age 12 and older.
  • Downloadable audio books: The library offers users access to free downloadable audio books that can be played on your computer. We also have a great collection of play-a-ways (books on a small MP3 device) that can be checked out.
  • Print reference material: Sometimes an old-fashioned book is what does the information-seeking trick. Our librarians are itching to show off some of our most prized assets. According to reference staff, some of our most underused resources include volumes of literary criticism.
  • Programming, programming, programming: Whether you're looking to acquire a new skill, join a book discussion group or listen to a great children's story, the library has something to offer for you. Popular events include free shag dancing lessons, digital photography classes, "Read the Book, See the Movie" screenings and more. Stop by your local branch or visit us online for details.
  • September is National Library Card Sign-up Month: If you don't already have a library card, now's the time to stop by and sign up. Library cards are free to residents, property owners, students, the military and county employees, so don't miss your opportunity.

After all, with great resources like these, you can find ways to do more with less -- and possibly change your life -- at the library.