Across the Northeast, librarians plan programs designed to appeal to a broad range of tastes.
Did you get a Nook or Kindle over the holidays and it’s still in its box because you don’t know how to use it and you don’t know anybody who does?
Evidently, your situation is common enough, because the Free Library of Philadelphia has scheduled a class next month in which the techno-peasants among us can learn how to use our electronic reading toys.
The Bustleton branch library, for instance, has scheduled its e-reader training for 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14. Show up at the branch at 10199 Bustleton Ave. and librarian Kristin Sawak will not only bring you up to speed, she’ll also show you how to download free e-books.
It’s a program that was partly inspired by questions from library patrons, said Andrea Shumsky, the Free Library’s Northeast area coordinator.
Getting readers caught up with what their e-readers can do is a program started by staffer Jamie Wilson about a year ago at the Central Library at 19th and Vine streets. The Bustleton program will be the pilot for the Northeast, Shumsky said, adding that she expects it will be repeated regularly at the branch.
Shumsky stressed library card holders can download e-books from the freelibrary.org Web site. In most cases, she said, the e-books will disappear from your reader after three weeks. There’s no worry about returning them.
“They just go away,” she said.
The e-reader help is just one example of programs the Central Library, the Northeast Regional Library and various neighborhood branches have for adults.
A lot of what the libraries are offering are how-to or educational programs — computer classes, smart board tutorials, stop-smoking seminars, business-skills workshops, tax tips for senior citizens and gardening suggestions.
The Northeast Regional Library on Cottman Avenue has a lab with 12 computers that are used regularly for instructional programs, Shumsky said. Regularly is an understatement; the lab is in use for classes sometimes twice a day, she said.
There are bilingual Chinese-English computer classes and some in Spanish and English, too, she said. Not all programs are listed on the Free Library’s Web site’s events page, she said. Some are posted at the branches.
Shumsky said branch librarians come up with their own programs. There is some emphasis on children’s programming, which draws the bigger audiences, but some branches put together adult programs.
The Fox Chase branch has a workshop on jewelry making, she said, and next month will host a program on the movie, Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders. The film, by Philadelphian Joan Sadoff, is about black and white women in the civil rights era.
The Tacony branch hosted the “Financially Hers” workshop to help women get their financial houses in order. The same branch also participated in a speed-dating program, Shumsky said.
The Central Library has a March 1 instructional on how to get the most out of government resources.
Of course, a library is a government resource, too. It’s one that almost two-thirds of Philadelphians don’t even tap, if the number of people who have library cards is any indication. There are about 1.5 million people in the city, but only about 31 percent of them have cards.
Those in the 69 percent on the outside are missing out on books, music, audio books, movies and live programs — all or most of which are free. Well, maybe not completely free. Whether they use the library or don’t, they pay for it with their taxes.
The biggest draws are meet-the-author events at the Central Library at 19th and Vine. Readers can meet the people who have written their favorite books during the more than 100 sessions slated every year. Most of the sessions are free.
Turnout is a good indication of popularity, and the average number that attend author events is about 200, said Andy Kahan, director of author events.
The authors are well known. For example, James Patterson and Salman Rushdie have spoken at the Central Library. Some authors are so popular that the events have to be moved to larger venues, Kahan said. Some events have a small charge, but tickets never are above $15.
Former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter will make a stop at the Central Library at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 29, to promote his book, Life Among the Cannibals: A Political Career, a Tea Party Uprising, and the End of Governing As We Know It in a free event. Call 215-567-4341 for information.
Author visits follow a pretty set pattern in which the writers read from their work, answer questions and sign copies, Kahan said.
The events are popular with readers, Kahan said, and the visiting authors are promoting their most recent books, so they want to make their audiences happy.
More than five years ago, however, one author was so late for his appearance that Kahan had to walk over to his hotel to ask where he was. He found him eating dinner, so Kahan went up to him and reminded the writer, a freshman U.S. senator from Illinois, that he had a speaking engagement.
You might have heard of the guy. His name was Barack Obama. He was touting his book, The Audacity of Hope. ••