Home > Uncategorized > A new card for a new year

A new card for a new year

I can now say something that I haven’t been able to say since college: I have a new library card!

I’ve known for some years that the Kenton County Public library, whose nearest branch is just across the river from Cincinnati in Covington, Kentucky, had a fair number of books and comics that the Cincy library system doesn’t have, and vice-versa. But I visited there infrequently over the years, and the route there is a bit tricky. Well, there’s a quick route through Downtown Cincinnati and over the Roebling Suspension Bridge (essentially a prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge that John A. Roebling built later), but that bridge has been frequently closed for repairs over the past decade — more often than not, it seems, at least at those times when I’ve gotten around to considering a library visit — and the other routes are kind of complicated. So I never got around to applying for a library card there, since I wasn’t even sure I’d be eligible, as a non-resident.

Lately, though, I found that the KCPL has a number of recent Star Trek novels that the Cincinnati library doesn’t have, and I realized it could be quicker to get them (and other items) from there than to request them through the SearchOhio library loan system. So I finally looked into their library card policies, and it looked like Greater Cincinnati residents were eligible. At least, I was able to apply online by entering my address and putting Hamilton County into the “Other County” box on the form, and a day or two later, I got confirmation that a card account had been created and I’d get my physical card in the mail in a few days.

The card came yesterday, along with a letter saying I’d need to go into the library physically and get it activated for in-library use, as opposed to just online access. I could probably have just requested items through their site and then gotten it activated when I went to pick them up, but just to be sure, I decided I should get it activated first. And the library was still open for a few more hours before its New Year’s closure. Plus, I had a new library card and I was eager to try it out!

I checked first to find out if the Suspension Bridge was open (it’s the only suspension bridge out of the six on the Cincinnati riverfront, so we just call it the Suspension Bridge), and it turned out that it was closed for repairs yet again; indeed, it had been slated to reopen at the end of 2021 but there had been delays. So I had to take the more roundabout route Google Maps recommended, the I-71 route over the Brent Spence Bridge (the one in the foreground of the photo linked above, which a family friend used to call the Bent Springs Bridge due to its reputed effect on car suspensions). Apparently that bridge is overdue for repairs or replacement and there are doubts about its safety, but I didn’t know that until I looked it up just now. Hopefully the infrastructure bill that Congress finally passed last year will bring some much-needed improvements, though it will take a while.

Anyway, that route isn’t fun for other reasons, since I had to do some scary merges from the left onto the freeway, and there were some confusing branches where the Maps voice told me to take the left fork when the signs told me to get in the right lane, that sort of thing (luckily I followed the signs, which was the right thing to do). It’s a route I’ve taken before a few times to get to social gatherings at a friend’s house, but that hasn’t happened since before the pandemic, and I never did it often enough to get familiar with the route. Still, I managed to survive the perilous merges and the antiquated bridge and reach the library intact.

The letter said I needed to show two forms of ID to get my card fully activated, but the library clerk didn’t even ask to see them, just doing a quick setting change on the computer and handing me the card back. I didn’t want to hang around too long indoors, even though I’m vaccine-boosted (a bit over 2 weeks ago, so I should be good) and everyone seemed to be masked (myself included, of course). So I just went over to their science fiction shelf — I remembered roughly where it was from my last, pre-pandemic visit, after interviewing there for a job I didn’t get — and made a few quick picks, then took them to the desk to be checked out. Apparently that’s still done manually there, as opposed to the Cincinnati library where there are automated stations for checkouts. (I have mixed feelings about that, since it’s preferable in pandemic conditions but regrettably impersonal.)

The last time I drove back from Covington, I found the Maps directions confusing and took a wrong turn, getting lost for a few minutes before I found my way back to the route. So this time I selected a different route back on my phone, eastward over the small Licking River into Newport, KY and across one of the bridges there, which I’m more familiar with from trips to the mall and movie theater in Newport in past years. Unfortunately, Google Maps’ directions for how to get out of the library parking lot were confusing; they told me to go north on a certain street, but I didn’t know which way was north or what street it was, and the display on my phone didn’t make it clear (since Maps doesn’t always get your starting point or direction quite right before you begin moving). So I just improvised and let Maps recalculate as I went, and unbeknownst to me, it completely ditched my eastward route and sent me back the way I’d come, something I didn’t realize until I saw signs pointing to I-71. Or really I didn’t quite realize it was the same route until just now, checking routes on Maps as reference for this post. It was much simpler going back the other way, without the harrowing merges and confusing branches, so it didn’t feel the same. Luckily it wasn’t the same confusing route as last time, just straight onto the interstate. Still, I’ll be glad when the Suspension Bridge reopens. It’s narrow and a bit scary to drive over, but at least it’s direct.

For future reference, I’ll have to remember that from the library parking lot, north is toward the library. I probably won’t visit too often, but hopefully my sense of direction in Covington will improve on future visits.

One more difference between libraries, by the way, is that the KCPL’s checkout period is four weeks instead of three. That’s handy. On the other hand, by coincidence, the KCPL’s online catalog just recently upgraded to the same system the Cincinnati library uses, so it’s a familiar interface.

Going forward, I’ll just have to be careful not to get confused about which library to return things to. It shouldn’t be too hard right now, since I currently only have DVDs borrowed from Cincy and books from Covington. But I can be forgetful. Still, that’s a minor concern. I now have access to even more library materials than before, and that’s unambiguously a good thing.

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