Serving The Mill Valley Community: The Mill Valley Public Library
You might think that this age of technology and the internet, when information is readily available through Google and Wikipedia and when books and even magazines and newspapers are only a few quick clicks away at any time of the day or night, that the functions of a brick-and-mortar library are less relevant to people than they once were. But a public library is more than just the books and periodicals that it houses. A public library is a community space which serves many of the needs and interests of its patrons.
The Mill Valley Public Library is a wonderful example of a library that strives to do just that. It offers many services above and beyond the borrowing of physical books and other forms of entertainment, all of them beneficial to the community, and many of them innovative.
One of these services is the ability for members of the library to borrow a museum pass that allows them free or discounted entry into 46 different cultural institutions around the Bay Area, and even further abroad (one of the participating institutions is the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History). At the Mill Valley library, we believe that community members should get the chance to explore many different cultural outlets beyond the library, and our partnership with these institutions allows patrons to do that conveniently. Patrons can even check out a pass from the comfort of their own home, making it even easier for them to take advantage of the service.
Another very unique and interesting service that the library offers is its ‘Experience Backpacks’. Library patrons can check out one of these backpacks at the library, and keep them for one week. In the backpacks are, as the library website states, “all the materials needed for a local, Mill Valley adventure”. The materials in these backpacks lead the users on one of two 1-2 hour guided walks, one of which is a birding walk, and the other of which is a wildflower walk. Providing community members with the ability to experience their natural surroundings in an informed, interesting way promotes an enhanced understanding of the Mill Valley environment, and mixes entertainment and education in new and novel ways. Programs like these are what the public library strives to provide for patrons, in addition to its normal services.
Then there are the more standard educational services that the library offers to its patrons. There are regular computer classes offered for members of the community to take, which cover a wide range of topics. On the library’s website, patrons are invited to fill out a survey asking what kinds of courses they would prefer to take, and what times are the most convenient for them. Taking this information into account, library staff attempts to offer the most valued courses at times when community members are able to attend.
In an attempt to provide all patrons to access all the services that the library offers, Mill Valley Public Library also owns 7 e-readers that are available to any member of the library who is in good standing. In this way, the library hopes to bridge the gap between patrons who already have access to these devices, and patrons who do not. Library staff is available – and can even been booked for certain periods of time – to provide information on how to use the devices, along with any other informational needs a patron might have.
However, to provide support to a community, a public library needs the support of its community. Libraries are often understaffed and underfunded, and you – a member of the Mill Valley community – can help out your library with both or either. You could donate to The Mill Valley Library Foundation, become a member of the Friends of the Mill Valley Library, or even just donate a book or two to the monthly book sales the Friends hold to support the library. Even if you are not able to contribute physical items in support of the library, you can always donate your time. The monthly book sales always need volunteers to help staff them, and there are a number of opportunities within the library itself, especially assisting patrons in computer lab classes and in the library’s Local History Room.
Please consider how you can help your local library to continue to help you as much as it can. There is great potential in what the Mill Valley Public Library can do to serve its community. Allow us to show you.