Discover Monroe County's Library System: FAR More than You Think! | Beyond the Nest (Rochester)

Discover Monroe County's Library System: FAR More than You Think!

-by Carol White Llewellyn


If you ask most people what is available at their local library, they’ll reply “books to borrow” and “computers to use.” A few might add that they offer lectures from time to time. Parents would probably add “story hour for the kids.” Most people aren’t aware of the veritable smorgasbord of services available at libraries across Monroe County.


For example, did you know that you can borrow fishing poles, art prints, sewing machines, toys and ukuleles, rent AV equipment, or get access to Braille, Russian and Spanish language resources in some libraries across Monroe County? There is also a 3D printer at Central Library, 115 South Ave. Click here for a list that may amaze and delight you!


Because several friends recently mentioned their use of the library for activities and resources most don’t commonly associate with libraries, we decided to reach out to friends in the Monroe County Library System to become better acquainted with offerings. The wealth of services frankly astounded us!


Each of the libraries designs offerings to serve the wide array of residents in their community. So there are services and activities for children, tweens and teens, adults and seniors, and for people with disabilities. In addition to this list below, you’ll also want to check with your individual library to confirm new or changed offerings as well as upcoming activities, exhibits and features not yet on the calendars. Honestly, there are so many services offered, try though we did, we simply couldn't include everything in one article!


The Monroe County Library System (MCLS) is an association of independent public libraries including the libraries of sixteen towns, two villages, a school district and the City of Rochester. Each member library is governed by an independent board of trustees and funded by local taxes.


The Rochester Public Library is a system of eleven libraries (the Central Library in downtown Rochester and ten urban neighborhood branches).


The non-profit organization Friends & Foundation of the Rochester Public Library (FFRPL) supports the Rochester Public Library by raising funds, buying supplemental equipment, presenting special programming, helping to create spaces and supporting unique projects that benefit the community. 


It's all there for your use, and all it takes is a library card!


Available in Monroe County Libraries:

  • Inter-library Loan System - Access films, audio books and traditional and large print books at all Monroe County Libraries. You can also easily request books, microfilm, periodical articles, e-books, and audio-visual materials unavailable in local libraries through the inter-library loan system which taps into resources across a broad network of libraries.
  • Use of meeting rooms - Most libraries have one or more meeting rooms, often with AV capability, available for use by non-profit organizations, through reservation.
  • The V.I.P. (Very Important Places) Pass - This pass, available to borrow at participating libraries, offers special pricing at a variety of Rochester's favorite museums and performing arts organizations.
  • Overdrive – This system allows you to download an enormous selections of audio books, e-books, music and videos to your home computer or mobile device so you can access them anytime and anyplace! Simply download the Overdrive app to get started, once you’ve secured a library card.
  • Digital Books and Magazines available as Braille and Audio (BARD) - BARD provides downloads for the blind and visually impaired.
  • Book Sales – Purchase gently used donated books very affordably from the libraries throughout Monroe County. Check the schedule for dates and locations. In addition to the individual library sales, the Friends & Foundation of the Rochester Public Library runs a huge Used Book Sale at Central Library every March with tens of thousands of books available for purchase.
  • Computer and Technology Classes – For those who would like to learn new computer or tech skills, the library’s a great place to start! Classes are offered at libraries throughout the county on a revolving basis. Click here for the computer and technology class page of upcoming offerings such as how to use computers, using the internet, mastering MS Word, Excel or Powerpoint, getting started with a smartphone, intro to tablets, etc.
  • Special Events, Programs, and Lectures – In the Central Library, and throughout the system, there is a variety of programming open to community residents, such as:
    • Children’s storytime, play and crafts programs - These programs range from preschool dance parties and baby, child or family story times, to opportunities for kids to read with furry friends. Other programs are as varied as the imagination of those running the programs and can include everything from a stuffed animal pet show to a Pokémon Trainers Club. Search by library, topic or date on the library system event calendar.
    • Tween and Teen Programs - From anime clubs to chess, and from Iron Chef challenge and teen escape room to pizza party, each library programs a variety of activities guaranteed to engage adolescents. Search by library, topic or date on the library system event calendar.
    • Books Sandwiched in – This series of weekly book reviews, presented at the Central Library, and programmed by FFRPL, was launched in 1956, and runs between March and May in the Spring, and between September and November in the Fall.
    • Tuesday Topics – Programmed by FFRPL at the Central Library, this annual series that runs between January and March brings in local experts to discuss current issues in science, the arts, the economy, health care and government.
    • Discussions, lectures and presentations – Almost every day, libraries across Monroe County offer exciting discussions, lectures and presentations on a wealth of topics ranging from healthcare issues and financial literacy to business startup, employment assistance and book reviews. There are also "virtual travel" presentations, writing classes, discussions on environmental concerns, legal services assistance, and presentations on historical subjects. For a list of what’s happening, find the list of the day’s activities on the system’s homepage link, or visit the calendar and search by topic, library or date. Please note that you can request an ASL interpreter for these programs. Simply use the request form at least ten days in advance.
    • Recurring Special Events - As part of its enrichment program, Friends & Foundation of the Rochester Public Library offers such recurring special events as Rundel River to Roof Tours, Spooky Stories in the Stacks, June Jazz Combos and The Jazz Starts Here. FFRPL also partners with other community organizations to offer a surprising variety of programs.
  • Exhibits – The Central Library installs special exhibits on a regular basis, including the Central Library's annual, juried "Art of the Book" exhibit (samples shown at right), which has grown since its inception to include works from all over the world. The exhibits are displayed in the Anthony Mascioli Gallery, on the 1st floor of the Rundel Memorial Library Building. Other branches also feature exhibits, particularly murals, that are underwritten by Friends & Foundation of the Rochester Public Library.
  • Research - Whether you're looking to do internet research, or need one-on-one assistance from a librarian, the Monroe County Library System is the place to go. Each library offers access to many databases, and the Central library is the main archival repository for information on history and genealogy, life recordshistoric Rochester images, patent and trademark research, Grant Resources,  and the Federal Depository Library Program. The Central Library also contains a fascinating collection of digitized resources including maps, newspapers, business periodicals and publications, postcards, regional municipal archives and more.
  • Adult crafts at the Library – Many of the libraries offer crafts-oriented programming for adults that includes interests such as knitting and needlework, use of a makerspace, open crafting opportunities, and more. Visit the calendar and search by topic, library or date.
  • In-home service - If you know someone with a physical or medical disability, some of the regional libraries offer delivery of materials to those who cannot visit their local library.

Click here for a list of Monroe County Libraries, their locations and hours. 

If you haven't visited your library recently, isn't it time you rediscovered one of the best resources in Monroe County for free information and activities?!


Carol White Llewellyn is Editor of and the host and producer of Conversations with Creatives, a cable and online TV program that explores the arts and celebrates artists and their work.