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Libraries are known as community centers for controlling books and accessing computers, but did you know that card holders can see more than just information?
Palm Beach County Libraries offer classes, clubs, and services far beyond books, movies, and CDs. During the coronavirus pandemic, libraries have been COVID-19 testing sites, remote Internet connection points for online students, and polling stations.
The expansion of library services in recent years has libraries adapt to communities who are more online and, in some cases, less connected. Writers refer to libraries as deeply important spaces for a democratic society.
“Public libraries are the only community centers that remain in America. The degree to which a local library branch is connected to the larger culture reflects the degree to which the community itself is connected to the larger culture,” American writer Russell Banks wrote.
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With that in mind, here are some unexpected library offerings in Palm Beach County:
1. A bird watching backpack (bird guide included)
Palm Beach County Library card holders can purchase a backpack to take on outdoor birding adventures.
The backpack includes a pair of birding binoculars for an adult, two pairs of birding binoculars for children, and a pocket guide to birds found in Florida.
The backpack is available by checkout at the following Palm Beach County library branches:
- Beautiful Glade
- The Clarence E. Anthony branch in South Bay
- Palm Beach Gardens
- Glades Road, suburb of Boca Raton
- Hagan Ranch Road, suburb of Delray Beach
- Loula V. York branch in Pahokee
- The main library in the suburb of West Palm Beach
- Okeechobee Boulevard in the suburb of West Palm Beach
- Boca West
- West Boynton
This is an unexpected service because specialized binoculars are generally expensive. By checking the backpack, birders can save around $ 150 on binoculars, according to the library’s website.
2. A driving simulator with virtual roads
Drivers 15 years and older can register to use Mandel Public Library Driving Simulator train for the next test drives. The library is located on Clematis Street between Quadrille Boulevard and North Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach.
The simulator teaches drivers how to operate automatic transmission and shift lever vehicles in a safe environment during hour-long sessions. The machine provides step-by-step guidance on simulated roads. Registration is required to start a driving session.
Need to train outside of the virtual route?
The Mandel Public Library and Palm Beach County Libraries offer practice tests administered by the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles so that future drivers can prepare.
3. Help fill out student loan forms
Students and parents looking for answers on how to complete the FAFSA form for Federal Student Loan Assistance can go through the process with an expert from the Boynton Beach Municipal Library.
The library at East Ocean Avenue and Seacrest Boulevard offers classes in the fall.
Registration is compulsory and can be completed online.
4. Studio open to artists
The Mandel Public Library also offers free time in open art studio for adults on Saturdays.
Registered participants can create art using acrylic, pastel, watercolor or Cricut machine stations. The library provides paints, pigments, canvases, paper and brushes. Artists using Cricut machines must bring their own equipment.
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Open studio hours are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on select Saturdays. The open studio time specific to acrylic paints is also available from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on select Tuesdays.
For more information or to register, visit Mandel Public Library website.
5. Passport services
Looking to get a US passport?
Applicants can use the routine and expedited passport processing systems of the main library branch of the Palm Beach County Library System. It’s at Summit Boulevard and Davis Road in the suburb of West Palm Beach.
The library requires an appointment for passport services. The appointment must be within the following hours:
- Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
- Wednesday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
- Thursday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
- Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The library does not offer photo services, so applicants will need to bring an appropriate passport photo taken within the past six months. A list of documents required to apply for a passport can be found on the library website.
Before submitting your materials to the library, you will need to pay a fee of $ 35 to the library in addition to the standard passport processing fee.
6. Laptops and Internet Access Points
Two Palm Beach County libraries, the Main Branch and the Okeechobee Boulevard Branch, allow card-holding members to collect laptops for use in the library for up to two hours at a time.
The City of Lake Park Public Library and the Town of Boynton Beach Town Hall also have self-service check-out kiosks for laptops.
The Lake Park Library also offers instant Wi-Fi hotspots for payment up to one week at a time. The hotspot can provide Internet in a classroom or throughout the house.
Lake Park library card applicants do not need to be residents of Lake Park to obtain a card.
How to get a library card
Individual library systems handle library card requests differently, but most residents of Palm Beach County qualify for a free card through the county library system.
Here’s how to get a Palm Beach County Library System card:
Go to any county library branch with photo ID and proof of current address. For address verification, bring one of the following:
- Florida Driver’s License
- Florida Voter Registration Card
- Rent receipt, lease or deed
- Stamped mail (must be accompanied by an ID verifying the name)
- Vehicle registration
- Checks with name and address
- Vehicle insurance card
- Condominium ID with address
- Palm Beach County Tax Bill with Library Tax Included
Children under the age of 18 can obtain a card with the identification and signature of a parent or guardian.
Most cards are valid for five years. When your card expires, you can visit any library with photo ID and proof of your current residential address to renew your card.
Other people can use your library card, but you are responsible for anything borrowed from that card. If you lose your card, report it immediately.