The power of a library card can open doors to new worlds, even those outside the pages of a book.
The Fort Smith Public Library provides a variety of free services for all ages. Here are some you might not be familiar with.
Streaming and download
With four different streaming and download services, readers and movie lovers can find their next favorite for free through the library website, www.fortsmithlibrary.org.
“One real popular service is called Hoopla,” said Diane Holwick, assistant director of the Fort Smith Public Library. “What it does is it offers all sorts of things with your library card – audiobooks, e-books, comics, music, movies … television shows. They’re for all ages.”
The service can be accessed on a computer or phone by creating an account with your library card.
“The thing that’s really popular about Hoopla is you can get whatever you want right now. You don’t have to wait for it. There are no holds. You don’t have to put something on hold because someone else has it checked out.”
Other services include Kanopy, Library2Go and TumbleBook Library.
Educational resources for kids
Kids glued to their devices can learn while having fun through digital educational resources accessible through the library’s website.
The TumbleBook Library is “like the picture book, but they’ve animated it, and it reads along, and there are different age levels,” Holwick said.
Another popular resource is ABC Mouse, an online curriculum for ages 2 to 8 years old. Parents or guardians will need to create an account with a library card.
“It includes the Disney stuff, some Pixar stuff, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic Kids, so a lot of the big-name entertainment book titles,” Holwick said.
With the beginning of the pandemic, the library started hosting virtual events. The staff does not plan to resume regular in-person programming “until the county covid level is not substantial or high,” Holwick said.
One popular storytime series features Tiffany DeVries, the Miller Branch manager, reading to animals on YouTube.
“That’s really popular because they’re always pretty funny because something usually goes wrong,” Holwick said.
Annual book sales at the library cater to a wide range of readers with unique finds and affordable prices.
The upcoming sale, which will be on the library’s website from Dec. 6-12, features rare and vintage books. A list of available titles will be released Dec. 3, Holwick said.
“I think everything’s from $5 to it could go up to $100 or something,” Holwick said. “It depends on what it is. There are older vintage publications. There are art books or things that we’d like to get more than $1 from in our regular book sale that go in our vintage sale.”
The Barbara Walker Genealogy and Arkansas History Collection presents a wealth of resources for individuals interested in learning more about their family history. It is located on the second floor of the main library, 3201 Rogers Ave.
“It’s kind of renown for the region,” Holwick said. “That’s something a lot of people are getting involved with, finding out about their family.”
Online resources include Heritage Quest and African American Heritage.
“We have Ancestry.com, but you have to do it through the library,” Holwick said. “They won’t let you have it from home, but we have records from birth records, death records from Fort Smith. There are all sorts of stuff from the genealogy department, so much you can explore on the website and see what’s available.”
Free holiday fun
This year, the library transformed its annual holiday open house into the Week of Holiday Cheer, which ran from Dec. 12-18.
Winter bingo, another holiday activity, is open to all ages from Dec. 1 to Jan. 8.
“You can pick up a bingo card at all locations … they’re things like ‘read a favorite,’ ‘watch a library video,’ one of them tells you [that] you can fill in a square if you pat the head of the statue at the Miller Branch Library,” Holwick said. “Her name is Gardenia, and she’s a hog. There are different things that you can do that are library-related. When you bingo, you can turn your card back in, and you can put in for a prize drawing.”
How to get a library card
To sign up for a free library card, those who live in the city limits of Fort Smith must bring proof of address to any library location:
- Main Library, 3201 Rogers Ave.
- Dallas Street Branch, 8100 Dallas St.
- Miller Branch, 8701 South 28th St.
- Windsor Drive Branch, 4701 Windsor Drive
Children ages 5 years and older can receive a card, and those under 16 years old must have a parent or guardian signature.
“If you live outside the city limits, there’s a $35 out-of-town card,” Holwick said. “The reason we do that is because the folks who live in the city limits of Fort Smith pay property taxes that go to this library. People that live in Sebastian County but not in Fort Smith, they pay property taxes, but they don’t come to us. They go to the Sebastian County Library system.”
“That being said, we don’t card anybody at the door to come in the library and attend our programs when we’re having them,” she said.
Through traditional services like book check-out and free interlibrary loan, and community activities like the Week of Holiday Cheer, “we hope that people get a chance to check out and see what we have,” Holwick said.
For more information on this or any of the Fort Smith Public Library’s services, programs or events, call 479-783-0229 or visit www.fortsmithlibrary.org.
Catherine Nolte is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. She can be reached at email@example.com. Southwest Times Record and Report for America are working to place a new generation of journalists in community news organizations across the country. Will you support this effort today?