Since learning how to read as a tiny fellow, the public library has been one of my favorite places to browse. Even without the glimmer of an idea about what I might like to read, I can spend hours just looking. And as long as I can contain my excitement enough to keep quiet and leave the other patrons in peace, the staff has promised to let me remain (at least until closing time). The library is truly one of the purest sources of joy I’ve ever counted among the many blessings that life has to offer. I may leave with an armload of books stacked high like firewood, or just one novel, but it’s rare that I’ll leave empty handed. I’ve spent more than a few lazy afternoons scanning microfilm of newspapers from decades past to get a glimpse into how people lived around historical events with outcomes not yet known to them. It’s the closest to being a time traveler as I’ll ever get, I suppose.

Check Out Kindle Books at over 11,000 Public LibrariesAs the popularity of the World Wide Web has made the Internet accessible to people from every walk of life and every level of technical expertise (or lack thereof), libraries still serve a useful purpose to their communities. Even for people who don’t get a kick out of reading traditional books, most libraries have adapted to offer them a variety of ways to soak up their information. CDs, videos, audio books, magazines, and newspapers are commonly available, and it’s rare to find a library that doesn’t have a dedicated computer area where people can take their turns browsing the Internet for free. For people on the hunt for a job, for instance, this is a very valuable resource.

In another step in the right direction for keeping libraries relevant to the needs of the modern community, Amazon has announced that Kindle books are now available at over 11,000 public libraries. So far, the Kindle is the only eReader that delivers library books wirelessly, but you don’t even need a physical eReader to enjoy the benefits of this arrangement as there are free Kindle apps for the iPhone, Windows, OS X, BlackBerry, iPad, Android, and Windows Phone 7.

Amazon Kindle’s director, Jay Marine, says: “Starting today, millions of Kindle customers can borrow Kindle books from their local libraries. Libraries are a critical part of our communities and we’re excited to be making Kindle books available at more than 11,000 local libraries around the country. We’re even doing a little extra here — normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no. But we’re fixing this by extending our Whispersync technology to library books, so your notes, highlights and bookmarks are always backed up and available the next time you check out the book or if you decide to buy the book.”

Visit your local public library’s Web site to see if it’s included in this program. If it is, you should be able to select the eBook you’d like to borrow, click the Send to Kindle option, and follow the redirection to log into your Amazon account to complete the process.

How’s that for progress?