Topeka Public Library offers diverse activities

Library Art Blooming The flower print is one exhibit of the Alice C. Sabatini Museum located inside the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. The museum is one facet of the library’s many facilities available to the public.

Michelle Boltz

Today’s library offers more than just books and services that include a plethora of resources that serve Topeka and surrounding areas in Shawnee County.

Approximately 3,000 people visit the library daily, and have had an average of 2.1 million items borrowed last year alone.

With a library card, a patron has so many possibilities. From access to the online catalog, and checking out materials, one can check out up to 99 items on their card. The time those materials can be checked out vary anywhere from three weeks for regular materials, 14 days for the Best Seller Express or 7-days for a DVD for children.

The library also has a Redbox-type service for movies and video games that patrons can access from home to put on reserve. Once reserved, patrons have five hours to pick up their materials. There is a machine where they would enter their library card number, followed by their personal identification code.

“We’re a very busy and vibrant place, and very receptive for answering questions,” said Jeff Imparato, supervisor of the library non-profit resource center.

Materials can be put on hold by request, and can be picked up in one of three ways: There is a holds/reserve room that puts holds in alphabetical order by last name, they can be mailed directly to the home by $2 priority mail or they can pick their selections up from the Bookmobile.

The Bookmobile visits various locations in Topeka and throughout Shawnee County during the week. Aboard the Bookmobile are popular movies, books, and magazines and special requested holds from patrons that they can pick up. Materials can be reserved online or by calling from home or work.

There are playaways that can be checked out by request, which are dedicated MP3 players with a book already loaded on it. Software for iPad, iPods and Sony Readers are available for download and can transfer reading materials (Kindle products are not available for this service).

The Red Carpet program is another award-winning program the library offers for visual and hearing-impaired patrons. In addition there are congregation and homebound services. Available for checkout are large print books, magnifiers, Braille, as well as an audio reader program that reads to patrons.

Upstairs on the second floor, the Topeka Room, a space filled with documents about the community that bears the room’s name has many different objects of interest. Among those is a recently remodeled music box that was made in Switzerland in the 1870s. There is also a grandfather clock donated by the Mulvane family, a prominent family in Topeka’s past. The clock was a 50th wedding anniversary gift from their children.

“The Topeka Room is a great study room for Washburn students,” said Jeanne Mithen, special collections librarian.

There is a great selection of high school and Washburn yearbooks to look through to find family and friends as well. The Topeka Room works with both Mabee and Mulvane Art Museum to collect local history and genealogy sources, archives about Topeka’s history, maps and acquires art books for the Alice C. Sabatini Art Gallery, which is located downstairs.

“We’re one big happy department,” said Mithen.

Also available upstairs are four meeting rooms that can be reserved. There is almost no charge for non-profit organizations, except for a $25 charge for electronic equipment setup. In addition there are four study rooms that seat up to four people and Marvin Auditorium, which can hold up to 400 people.

The Alice C. Sabatini Museum and Mulvane Art Museum currently have an exhibition called “The Printed Image Biennial #3.” It features experimental works from printmakers all around the country. They will be on display Oct. 1 through Jan. 16, 2011, and will be featured at both museums.

The Millennium Café features coffee from PT’s Coffee Roasting Co., the coffee industry award winning Topeka coffee house. They also have soups, sandwiches, teas, salads and a new vegetarian menu. Catering is available for meetings.

Chandler Booktique has unique gifts available for purchase. Some items are donations from local estates. There are also new and used books, movies, CDs, and magazines.

“The Edge” is a hangout for local teens where they can play games on Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360. Games are rotated every two hours to add variety. “Guitar Hero” and “Dance Dance Revolution” are two of the most popular games played there.

In youth services, children enjoy visiting the fish tank and play area. Movies and books are grouped by categories, such as preschool and early and late elementary. The homework center is a place where students can work on school projects.

Wi-Fi is available anywhere in the library, as well as an instant message chat service with a librarian for any questions.

“The public library is your best investment,” said Imparato.

The Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. It is closed on major holidays and is located at 1515 SW 10th Avenue. For more information, call (785) 580-4400, or visit online at