BORROW A TUNE
Why not check out your trashy summer poolside reads? Or do away with your Netflix account and borrow DVDs from the library for the summer. Most area libraries will let you create an online account and "reserve" a copy of a book or DVD. At the Phoenix Public Library, for instance, you can put any three items on reserve at any time. When the item becomes available, the library will either phone or e-mail you to alert you that your item is ready for pickup. So perhaps it's not as extensive as a Netflix — but the price is right.
And how about some new music? Many libraries have wide-ranging CD collections. Sure, you could buy a song at 99 cents a pop on iTunes, but why not just check out a CD at the library? It's yours for free for the three-week checkout period. (And though it's not legal to burn it, we won't tell.) A Danielle Steel audiobook would set you back $15-24, but it's yours to borrow with a library card.
You could also hang around for the free Internet and/or Wi-Fi and free computer classes offered by most libraries.
DOWNLOAD A GOOD READ
There's been a great increase in downloadable titles available as audiobooks or e-books. The Greater Phoenix Digital Library is a consortium of libraries (Apache Junction, Casa Grande, Chandler, Glendale, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, State Library, and Tempe) that pooled resources to offer this extensive selection of downloadable audiobooks. They are compatible with most MP3 players, including Apple devices (though the title selection for Apple products isn't as large). If you are a library cardholder you can access the digital library from your member library's Web site. You will need to download Overdrive Media Console onto your computer before you can start using the service. The "help" links are useful in guiding you through the process.
FIND YOUR ROOTS
Summer is a great time to tackle a project such as, say, tracing your genealogy. Go look for old photographs of your neighborhood in the Arizona Room, on the fourth floor of the Burton Barr Central Library. This collection focuses on the history of Arizona and its communities, as well as Southwestern Native American tribes. For more on genealogy, visit the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records Law and Research Library Division (1700 W. Washington Street, Suite 300, 602-926-3938, www.lib.az.us/is/), which offers wireless access and lunchtime family-history lessons.
The Mesa Family History Center (41 S. Hobson, Mesa, 480-964-1200, www.mesarfhc.org) features extensive classes free of charge. Classes include one-day drop-ins such as "Planning a Search" and geographic specialties such as Hispanic, British Isles, or Scandinavian ancestry. You can also register to learn about using genealogy databases such as Ancestral Quest and Roots Magic.
GET SOME CULTURE
This summer, there is an even better reason to stop by a Valley library — the Culture Pass. The Culture Pass Program (which began April 1 and continues through April 1, 2010), for library cardholders, allows free admission for four to one of 15 participating Valley arts and cultural institutions, including the Arizona Museum for Youth, Arizona Museum of Natural History, Arizona Science Center, The Bead Museum, Cave Creek Museum, Children's Museum of Phoenix, Desert Botanical Garden, Heard Museum, Mesa Contemporary Arts, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix Zoo, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and Taliesin West.
Pick up a Culture Pass and a brochure at a kiosk at your library. Take it to the checkout counter as you would a book. Once it is checked, you have seven days to visit the institution of your choice before the pass expires.
One catch: The program is popular, so don't be discouraged if your number-one choice is gone. The participating Valley libraries include Chandler, Glendale, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe. For more information, visit www.tempe.gov/library/events/culturepassprogram.htm.
In a worst-case scenario, you'll go to the library and the passes will be checked out. But at least you'll be at the library — for more books, DVDs, and CDs. Sounds like a pretty good summer.