“Love Day,” as most everyone knows, is right around the corner. Popular culture would have us believe that February 14 must be a day filled with roses and romantic cards and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and dinner at a fancy restaurant and, perhaps, expensive jewelry. But Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to include any of those things. It can simply be a day to focus on the people, places and things we love. Near the top of my love list is a single name.
“Who’s Libby?” you might ask. Is she a dog? A cat? A horse? Might she be a long-lost relative I’ve recently reconnected with? Or a beloved rag doll from my childhood I found squirreled away in a storage box?
No. Libby is none of those things. “She” is an app on my cell phone, one that pictures a little girl, her auburn hair adorned with a turquoise bow and her face completely hidden behind the cover of an open book. Libby is the library app, one that allows me and millions of others to access a mind-boggling selection of electronic books, magazines and audiobooks. It’s “free,” though, of course, that’s not really accurate. Our tax dollars pay for Libby. I’m hard-pressed to think of many ways I’d rather see them spent.
Libby has replaced the less-user-friendly Overdrive library app, which will soon be retired. Seventy-eight countries around the world and 90 percent of the libraries in North America provide reading material to their patrons via the Libby app.
It’s simple to use, even for someone as technology-challenged as yours truly. All you need is a smart phone or tablet and a valid library card. Simply visit the site where you get apps and search for Libby. Once downloaded, it will walk you through how to select your local library and sign in with the Patron ID number on your card. The only hard part after that is deciding what you want to read or listen to.
I’ve been a book lover and a library lover all my life. Truth be told, the books I love best are made of paper and ink and belong to me. I like to dog-ear the pages and write notes in the margin and highlight passages I like. Also, I often read while I eat, which isn’t the best way to treat a borrowed book. But owning every book you want to read doesn’t make sense for lots of reasons. That’s where libraries—and Libby–come in.
Used to be, I’d check out audiobooks on CD to listen to while taking car trips. But here’s the thing. Once a disc was finished, I had to pop it out of the player and insert the next one, not exactly a safe thing to do while operating a deadly weapon. Sometimes the CDs were scratched or didn’t play well for other reasons, which was frustrating if I was immersed in a good story. And eventually, there came a time when I couldn’t find any more titles that interested me in the library’s collection.
These days, because of Libby, I can choose from 36,000 audiobooks. I can play them at home or while I walk the dog or through my car radio. If I want to read rather than listen, 96,000 books and 3,000 magazines are at my disposal. If the titles I want aren’t immediately available, I can place a hold and then hunt for something else. So far, I’ve borrowed 25 e-books and 56 audiobooks. (I know this because Libby keeps a list.) I didn’t read or listen to every one, but I enjoyed most of them immensely.
If you’re looking to add something to your love list on Valentine’s Day, why not give Libby a try? She’s every bit as wonderful as flowers or candy or dinner at a fancy restaurant. Maybe even better.
(February 11, 2023)