We walk with the other kids, single file, past tall shelves of books. My best friend and I still have damp hair from a morning at the NCO pool. After bright sun and shouting kids, the cool, quiet library is a relief. It smells like books instead of chlorine. Here, kids are whispering, sneakers shuffling, friends finding friends to sit with.

Our librarian tells us today’s film is “The Nightingale.” We sit in rows, cross- legged on worn carpet in the darkened library.

The projector rattles and hums. The movie flickers on the screen, bringing the story to life in still watercolor pictures. An old man’s voice tells the tale of a little brown bird who charmed the Emperor of China.

I’ve read that story many times since I was in the third grade, but I’ll never forget hearing it then, at the summer reading program at my hometown library.

I’ve always loved the library: Books on every subject imaginable, with crackly plastic covers, yellow cards inside, stamped with checkout dates and penciled signatures of previous readers.

Now at my base library, I can use my laptop and tap into wireless Internet. My kids check out movies that — unlike old filmstrips — don’t rattle, flicker or hum in our DVD player. Each book has a UPC sticker, so we hear a beep, rather than the smack of a rubber stamp, before the clerk slides the stack across the counter and says, “Due back in two weeks, please.”

“At libraries, it used to be that you walked in, you got your books, and you walked out,” said Melinda Moseley, USAFE Command librarian.

Now libraries do more, she said. This is especially true at military libraries.

“One of the most valuable things military libraries can provide is a way to keep in touch with people at home,” said Melinda, whose husband retired after 24 years in the Air Force.

Despite its quiet reputation, the library has a lot going on:

Many military families use the computers at the base or post library. If wireless connections are available, laptops can be used almost anywhere in the library.At some USAFE locations, Melinda said the library has laptops especially for parents of young children. They can take the computer and little ones to the wireless-enabled children’s room. Parents can access the Internet while the kids enjoy picture books.Military libraries also support the military mission by supplying reference materials for all kinds of training and professional military education.Deployed military members are not left out of the library loop. Troops at some downrange locations can contact the USAFE Library Service Center and request books, DVDs, audio books and magazines, said service center chief Lance Wiscamb.Library Web sites provide access to resources ranging from professional journals to children’s books and games. Users can also reserve and renew materials online, including movies, music and “Book Club in a Box” kits.This week is National Library Week, and military libraries are celebrating. Just a few examples: Guess the number of books and win a prize at the Kleine Brogel Library in Belgium; Go to a Mad Hatter Tea Party at the Izmir AB Library in Turkey; and “Read to Bowl” at RAF Lakenheath, UK.If anyone is showing “The Nightingale,” call me. I'll bring the popcorn. But here’s my little secret about the library: I still go there just for the books.

See the Spouse Calls blog for a list of military library Web sites, and click here for a directory of military libraries worldwide.

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany, where her husband is stationed at Ramstein AB. Send questions or comments to her at

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