OFFBEAT: Bargain bookshelf

I’m a newspaper reporter who covers politics, so I generally avoid expressing opinions on a candidate or issue. When my previous car
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

I’m a newspaper reporter who covers politics, so I generally avoid expressing opinions on a candidate or issue. When my previous car died a few months ago and my wife gave me her old car to drive, the first thing I did was peel off the John Kerry 2004 bumper sticker.

But I love books and won’t pretend to be objective about libraries.

The library is asking for a 1.5-mill continuing replacement and increase levy. Voters in the Sandusky and Perkins school districts will decide the issue.

There’s an element is self-interest at work here. The library is a block away from the newsroom, convenient when I want to run over and pick up a book. (If you spot with me a science fiction novel under my arm, let me clarify the term for this in journalism is “research.”)

But I believe the library has worked hard to make its services convenient for everyone.

Library director Julie Brooks and her board aren’t just going it alone. They wisely have made the Sandusky Library part of CLEVNET, a consortium of libraries in northern Ohio led by the Cleveland Public Library.

When I’m looking for a book (or audio CD or movie) in the catalog at the library’s Web site, I’m not just searching the local library’s holdings. I’m looking through the combined catalog of many different libraries. When I find what I want, I direct CLEVNET to send it to Sandusky. When it arrives, the Sandusky Library e-mails me and tells me it’s there, and gives me several days to pick it up.

Every Wednesday morning, I get an e-mail updating me on which materials I have checked out and which materials are on hold, waiting to be sent to Sandusky Library. When I need more time to read one of my books, I click on a link and renew it. I don’t have to go to the building to keep the book longer. I don’t have to make a phone call.

I have noticed the same attention to detail in other services the library provides.

The library has a large number of computers, providing access to the Internet for folks who need it. It also has wi-fi for people who want to bring their own computers.

Many libraries make their wireless Internet users log in first, offering an extra layer of hassle. At the Sandusky Library, visitors simply turn on their devices and connect.

The library stacks are well-organized and orderly; it’s easy to find what you are looking for. The building is large and comfortable, has adequate parking, and can accommodate decent-sized groups in its meeting rooms. The library is actively involved in promoting education and culture. The staff is consistently friendly and helpful.

The history and archiving staff run a museum, Follett House, and make archival documents and photographs available. Museum curator Maggie Marconi, and her staff look for ways to reach out. Every year, Marconi conducts cemetery tours, inviting folks to visit Oakland Cemetery and meet famous Sandusky residents who are buried there. She and her staff maintain a blog on Sandusky history (sanduskyhistory.blogspot.com).

The Huron Public Library has a 0.8-mill, five-year replacement levy on the ballot.

I know rather less about Huron’s library, but it, too, belongs to CLEVNET and is housed in a nice building.

The director, Anne Hinton, obviously cares about community service. She has tried to help the local economy by assembling a library for entrepreneurs, and hosts meetings at the library for people trying to start a business, allowing them to meet with experts and get advice.