Those who did not make it out of the house on Sunday, March 14, the day after the horrific rain and windstorms swept through town, will be pleased to hear that the first annual celebration of Pi Day and Einstein’s birthday in Princeton still went off with many participants and few glitches.

While everyone learned a little bit about Einstein and a lot about pi (one nine-year-old recited it correctly to 107 digits!), U.S. 1’s Pi Day reporter also learned a little about the Princeton Public Library. We print her letter below:

To the Editor: ‘Library by Mail’

Anyone who has been housebound by sick kids or a broken leg, anyone who commutes interminable hours, and anyone who just can’t stand the thought of struggling with Princeton parking, will rejoice to know that Princeton Public Library has initiated a pilot project aimed at bringing all of its resources to your front door. Library by Mail will send books, videos, audio books, and any library resource to you at the click of mouse.

Begun in August, 2009, this project is the result of a request for a proposal by the Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative for ideas that would increase library outreach and accessibility. The CJRLC is a consortium of libraries in Mercer, Monmouth, and Ocean counties, and it awarded Princeton Public Library a two-year grant to pursue this venture.

By simply going online to the library’s website, www.princetonlibrary.org, and clicking on the quick link Library by Mail, library cardholders have access to reserve any material and choose home delivery. It all goes out in a bright red pouch through the U.S. mail with the same checkout limits as for patrons who pick up their choices at the library. Renewals can be done online as well, and when patrons want to return the items, it gets even easier. Simply pop everything back in the pouch, drop it in the mail or into either of the convenient drop boxes at the Dinky or the Princeton Shopping Center or take it back to the main library itself.

This service is definitely not your grandma’s book bag. Rather, think of it as Netflix for books. The pilot started out slowly while kinks were worked out of the system but now Lindsey Forden, development director at the Library, reports that about 80 pouches a month are sent out and the number is increasing. Patrons report favorably on the ease and convenience, and Forden anticipates the service will become a favorite means of using the library’s resources.

As someone who commutes three hours a day and who blasts through audiobooks, I can attest to the drain on my time taken to stop by the library. Just finding a place to park and then perusing the stacks adds to an already long day. Nothing will replace the serendipitous joy of prowling the shelves and stumbling on a riveting work by an author you’ve never read, but having books arrive at your door and practically walk back to the library themselves is a four-star service that makes you wonder, “Why didn’t someone think of this ages ago?”

E.E. Whiting, Sayre Drive

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