Shhh! Do you Know About the Secret Library?


I wrote this piece for Pacifica Patch a while ago.  Since then the library has added even more online resources.  The most exciting new addition is Discover and Go.  With your SMCL library card, you can print out free passes to local museums, zoos and aquariums.  Check it out!


Shh!  Do You Know About the Secret Library?

Okay, so it’s not really a secret. But a lot of people don’t know that your San Mateo County Library card gives you access to a mindboggling assortment of online resources. You can read your favorite magazines and newspapers, download an audiobook onto your iPod, get an ebook for your Kindle, learn a foreign language, fix your car, research your family history, and figure out how to use your new computer software. You can even sit your kids down in front of an animated book (although we’d rather you come to one of our library storytimes).

What if your son tells you at 9p.m. that he needs three sources for his report on Thomas Edison that’s due tomorrow? No problem! The Biography Resource Center has 111 books with sections on Edison that you can read and print, with the source citation handily listed at the bottom of the page. (Some teachers don’t allow Internet sources for projects, but these are actual books, just made available in an online format).

All of these resources are available on the San Mateo County Library website with your library card. You do have to create a username and password, but once you log in with those, you can get to most of the resources without having to enter your library card number. You can also check your library account, pay any overdue fines you may have, and order books, CDs and movies to be sent to the library closest to you from any library in the county (there is a 75-cent fee for each item, although the fee is waived for kids using their own library cards).

Here are some of the resources available on the website:

General One File: search for and read articles from 5,800 popular magazines.

Peninsula Library System Digital Book Library: Download e-books for your Kindle, iPad, Nook or other e-reader, or audiobooks for your iPod, iPhone, or MP3 player. (Note: this collections works like a regular library, so there are only a few copies of each item available for check out. Only the ones that say “Add to Cart” are available to download right now. Otherwise, you can place a hold, and the software will email you when it becomes available.)

Safari Tech: Search for information and read from a large collection of computer and tech ebooks. Many of the standard books on programming and different types of software are here in full text.

Mango Languages: Use this software to learn Spanish, German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and more.

Heritage Quest: Research your family history using census records and other resources.  (The library also provides access to, but only from computers within the County branches).

Chilton Library: find manuals and instructions to help you perform car repairs.

Bookfile and Tumblebooks: Your child can watch and listen to hundreds of animated picture books from popular authors. Tumblebooks is also available in Spanish.

This is just a small preview of some of the major resources. There are also a vast number of databases to help students with homework, including History and Science Resource Centers, and World Book Encyclopedia.

Also, check out HelpNow. You can chat live with an expert tutor for homework help in English & Spanish, seven days a week from 1p.m. to 10p.m. Kindergarteners through adult material is covered.

Questions? Write them in the comments below, or click here to email a librarian.

Enjoy! Our electronic resources are always being updated and added to, so check back often for the latest changes.


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