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The unexpected potential of a library card; Check this out: Life jackets, camping gear among the many things available

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The number of things a person can get with a library card has steadily increased in Perham over the last 90 years, as the local library has been offering more and more services to its members.

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With an estimated 35,000 items available for checkout, the Perham Area Public Library has both expected and unexpected benefits.

As one would expect, the library offers a plentiful selection of books to its readers. From the hardcover board books for the young to the large print editions for those with poor eye sight, offering titles in every subject continues to be the main focus of the Perham library system.

But today's library is so much more than books. Members have access to more unexpected things, like desktop and laptop computers, CDs, movies, VHS and DVD machines, overhead projectors, carousel slide projectors and even camping equipment.

The camping equipment is available to check out for a weekend getaway. The four person tent, lantern, cook stove and flashlight was donated a number of years ago by KLN Family Brands, with the intent of allowing people to enjoy the lakes area without having to invest in equipment.

Life jackets are another example of non-typical items available to library patrons. Donated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Perham library has mostly children's life jackets available for borrowing.

"It's a really good service, especially for grandparents who are on a lake," and have children as guests for a weekend, Perham Librarian Susan Heusser-Ladwig said.

The library has dipped further into the electronic world, too, in recent years, offering four Kindles to borrow for a three week chunk of time. Each Kindle comes preloaded with different book collections -- one is mystery and suspense, another is romance, and two are general titles. The Kindles seem to be a popular choice among members; most of the time, there's a waiting list for them.

The selection of downloadable items is steadily increasing, too. Perham's library has audiobooks and eBooks available that can be downloaded to personal devices for stretches of seven, 14 or 21 days. And in the next couple of weeks, the library will start offering downloadable magazines to patrons.

The aisle of fiction, non-fiction, documentaries and children's videos continues to be a popular area of the library.

"I can't buy enough videos to keep people happy. It's a good deal to be able to come in and check out videos at no cost," Heusser-Ladwig said.

Some things surprise Heusser-Ladwig, such as the fact that cassettes and VHS videos are still checked out -- items they will keep as long as there is a need.

The library itself has had some reorganizing in the last couple of years, in order to meet the needs of all patrons. The young adult novels, for example, were moved to their own corner. Before that, the books for teenagers were shelved with children's books and were rarely checked out.

Today, though, the young adult section has "gotten to be a real popular place." Heusser-Ladwig said.

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