Q: What tiny piece of plastic can show you the world for free?
A: Your library card.
This month, St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman announced an ambitious goal: To ensure every child in St. Paul has a library card by the end of 2017. He's launching the initiative in partnership with Superintendent Valeria Silva and St. Paul Public Library Director Kit Hadley.
The St. Paul Library system is already a bustling operation; last year it had more than 5 million visitors in person and online, and loaned out more than 2.5 million items. Its operations extend far beyond books: It offers computer tutorials, language classes and job placement resources.
As technology evolves, the list of things a library card offers keeps getting longer.
Don't have a St. Paul library card? Don't fret: If you have a library card from Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott or Washington County, you can register your card in St. Paul and use library services. Most other Minnesota residents can as well.
12 things you didn't know you could do with a St. Paul Public Library card
1) Check out an e-reader
Remember when checking out a lot of books meant bringing a big bag? Now you can check out an e-reader device from select library branches and get instant access to thousands of titles through the Cloud Library. E-readers can be checked out for 21 days at a time.
2) Download free music
The St. Paul Public Library gives cardholders access to Freegal, where you can download and keep five songs from the Sony Music catalog every week week. From Top 40 hits to old classics, Freegal has a huge selection that can you use to build your own music library.
3) Get your magazine fix
With your library card, you can download full digital versions of hundreds of magazines. There's something for everyone with Vanity Fair, Atlantic Monthly, Dwell, Runner's World, Bicycling, the National Enquirer, Eating Well, Cook's Illustrated, the New Yorker, Cosmopolitan, Better Homes and Garden and more.
4) Rent vinyl
Vinyl has made a major comeback in recent years, and the St. Paul Public Library is getting in on the record renaissance. Library card holders can check out LPs from the Highland Park and Merriam Park locations.
5) Grab your books after hours
Can't make it to the library during business hours? At the George Latimer Central Library, the staff will check your requested books out for you and place them in a hold locker in the RiverCentre connection tunnel. Patrons can open the locker with their library card and grab their books.
6) Hear a story — in seven different languages
Branches of the St. Paul Public Library offer storytime programming for families in English, Hmong, Somali, Spanish, Karen, Mandarin Chinese and Amharic.
7) Learn a language
Library card holders have access to Transparent Language Online, which offers courses in more than 90 languages — from Albanian to Zulu. Whether you're learning English or trying your hand at Swahili, the online service tackles grammar, pronunciation and more.
8) Learn to build websites and mobile apps
Want to learn HTML? Or how to build an iPhone app? With your library card, you can access Treehouse, which provides online video tutorials in website design, coding, app development and business basics. (Future tech tycoons take note: Garages are apparently the best place to launch your start-up.)
9) Visit the Minnesota Children's Museum
When you check out a Passport to Play from the St. Paul Public Library, it acts as your admission ticket to the museum. Passport quantities are limited.
10) Have your documents notarized
Most library branches have a notary on hand; the cost for notary public services are $1. Check hours and availability before you visit.
11) Get online homework help until late at night
The library's Homework Rescue service offers one-on-one live online help from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tutoring help is available in English and Somali. The library also has a heap of other homework help resources which are available online all hours of the day.
12) Find customized book recommendations for kids
With over one million books in the library's collection, how do you pick out the perfect one for the young reader in your life? The library partnered with BeanStack, which provides personalized book recommendations for children, based on their reading level and interests. The online service also recommends age-appropriate mobile apps.