Beyond the Shelf: Behold the power of the library card

Beyond the Shelf logo
(Daniel K. Lew)

Beyond the Shelf is a monthly column about the activities and people at the La Jolla/Riford Library.

September is Library Card Signup Month, which inspired my asking friendly faces around the library one simple question: “How do you prefer to use your library card?”

Some of the answers might surprise you.

When asked about her favorite thing to do with a library card, library assistant Cindy Vuu definitively stated: “E-learning. Next I want to take a computer skills course.”

Accessed via the San Diego Public Library website,, Gale Courses offers a wide array of highly interactive, instructor-led classes that library card holders can take online at no cost to them. Courses run for six weeks and new sessions begin every month.

Rosetta Stone is a terrific offering for library card holders looking to learn a new language. I personally use it to further my quest to learn French. During the previous academic year, Afghan refugee students enrolled at La Jolla High School obtained library cards with the specific aim of using Rosetta Stone to strengthen their English.

Did you know a library card provides access to newspapers? That’s right. You can read The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune on us. “Really?” patron Alice Feng exclaimed as I walked her through how to access the newspaper digitally the other day. We then visited the Newsstand database, which provides access to more than 2,300 major U.S. regional, national and local newspapers, as well as leading titles from around the world. And because she was curious, we lastly looked at the Flipster database so she could see which magazines she can digitally access with her library card.

Emily McKinnon and her children Jack, 8, and Nina, 11, visit the La Jolla/Riford Library.
(Courtesy of Katia Graham)

Now consider the vast e-book collection available to library card holders. La Jolla/Riford Library patron Emily McKinnon and library staff member Shadi Sarikhani love accessing e-books and e-audiobooks via the Cloud Library app, which you can download to your preferred device.

All this and more, such as an abundance of research databases and academic journals, can be found under the “eLibrary” tab of the San Diego Public Library website.

Oh yes. We have physical resources, too. More than 68,000 books line the shelves at the La Jolla/Riford Library. A library card gives patrons access to all of them, plus alternate resources like DVDs and magazines, not to mention the millions of books in the San Diego Public Library collection and Cloud Library e-books. Patrons may check out up to 40 books at a time. Since children are also able to obtain library cards, a family of four potentially could leave the library with 160 books in tow!

Holds are where the heart is, and the “SDPL to Go” app makes that happen. Patron Anna Marie Cameron said her library card plays an essential role in her weekend routine: “I love to place books on hold while I scan the Sunday paper for book recommendations.”

Supervising librarian Kelly Pepo said: “I use my library card to the max for placing holds and accessing audiobooks. But as someone who loves cookbooks, I really rely on borrowing cookbooks so I can try before I buy instead of buying them outright and realizing there’s not much there I’d be interested in cooking. It has saved me lots of money.”

We all use our library cards differently. We love that. The public library is here for you to use in the way that best supports you.

La Jolla/Riford Library’s branch manager, William Mallory, stands by that statement: “Whether through teaching yourself new skills, bettering your chance at employment or enriching your life through new ideas, everyone with a library card can pursue their passions.”

Where will your library card take you?

Katia Graham is the youth services librarian at the La Jolla/Riford Library. You can email her at To sign up for a library card, stop by the library at 7555 Draper Ave. or complete the online application form available at Follow @lajollalibrary on Instagram.