I've always loved reading, and have frequented libraries all my life. It's nice to have two branch libraries, Dusenberry-River and Kirk-Bear Canyon, to serve the Foothills and Tanque Verde Valley.

I'm especially fortunate to have three librarians in my close family (Pat, covering my local needs; and son Steven and his wife, Lynne, in Houston, for genealogy research and book recommendations for the grandchildren).

We've certainly gotten our money's worth (as in free) at our neighborhood Dusenberry-River Library. Pat tells me that in the past year we checked out more than 100 books, 50 movies or DVDs, a handful of CDs, a couple of audio books and a few magazines.

We're reading more and more e-books as availability increases on the library's downloadable-media site.

We preview books we might want to buy (such as "Appetite for America," the recent Fred Harvey biography).

We also like to review travel guides ahead of trips. And the audio books (usually mysteries) keep us entertained on long road trips.

Pat and I each have library cards and have learned that we can link them so either of us can check out items on the other's card.

We make full use of the library's reservation system and sometimes find ourselves up against the limit of 30 items for the two of us.

We pay attention to book publishing dates, book reviews and movie schedules to get a heads up on reserving copies, sometimes even before the library orders a particular item. Also, the library emails us newsletters with book recommendations.

We submit our reservation requests and then go online to check our reserved item position (e.g., 3 of 124). When the item is available, the library emails us.

There are numerous library reference and research tools available online. Using a newspaper database, my son Steven just found articles written in 1851 that detail the safe return of my great-grandfather Eugene Ring to the United States after a remarkable trek across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico.

This confirmation of Eugene's memoir produced great excitement in the Ring family.

We can search libraries all over the world for availability (or ask the library to do it for us), then request an interlibrary loan. I've used this system to get transcripts of the old PBS show "Meeting of the Minds" with Steve Allen from Yavapai County Library in Prescott and copies of articles from a 1961 engineering magazine from Purdue University. I had to pay a fee for the copies, but that beats traveling to Indiana.

When I was researching my great-grandfather's California Gold Rush experience, Pat's search of a library database found a rare book available in the University of California at San Diego library. We stopped by on a visit to San Diego to review the special collection materials.

For items available anywhere in the Pima County Public Library System, a simple request will usually bring the item to our library within a few days.

When we go to the Dusenberry-River Library, 5605 E. River Road, we immediately scan the "Express" display of new books for anything we missed. These books can be checked out for three weeks, but can't be renewed.

At the library we can use a variety of reference materials or connect to the Internet on hard-wired computers or with our own laptop via WiFi.

There also are regularly scheduled community programs and meetings and art exhibits, plus community communication boards and stacks of take-away periodicals. You can even reserve space for your own community meetings.

Pat and I certainly have found our library experience to be tremendously educational and satisfying!

Sources: Pima County Public Library Web site: "About Dusenberry-River Branch" and "About Kirk-Bear Canyon Branch." E-mail Bob Ring at ringbob1@aol.com or view his website, ringbrothershistory.com