On July 11, I walked into the Selma branch of the Fresno County Library a couple minutes after 10 a.m.
The day was important because that was the release date for "House of Spies," the latest spy novel by bestselling author Daniel Silva, who happens to be a California State University, Fresno grad.
The time was important because I knew once "House of Spies" was placed on the new-books shelf, it could be gobbled up by someone other than me.
I had alerted the Selma librarians on July 10 that I would be in the door as soon as they opened the next morning. When I walked in, Librarian Carolyn Espino smiled and handed me the Silva book.
That's the kind of service that has me coming back to the Selma library. As an old retired guy and a constant reader, I'm what you might call a regular at the house of literacy.
And I'm not the only regular. Stick around the library long enough and you'll see a lot of the same people. Reading magazines and newspapers. Working on computers. Escaping the heat with their children and grandchildren. Browsing for CDs and DVDs to rent.
In fact, at 10 a.m. on July 11, the lobby was filled with dozens of adults and children, in chairs and on the floor, watching a demonstration about reptiles as part of the Selma library's summer reading program.
It's just one of the many things our local library does in addition to renting out books, CDs and DVDs.
A literate and educated society is a stronger society. Scientist and Author Carl Sagan cited abolitionist Frederick Douglass' contention that literacy was the path from slavery to freedom.
"There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom, but reading is still the path," Sagan said.
Whether its books, magazines, newspapers or computers, that's what a library offers adults and children.
But that's not all it offers. Espino, a library assistant who has worked at the Selma branch for 30 years, describes the library as a "community resource and meeting place." And those resources are numerous.
"It just depends what a person needs," she said. "Sometimes people just come in and visit."
Senior library assistant Anna Solis agreed that the library offers assistance to a lot of folks.
"Free access to computers," she said. "Lots of people don't have computers."
That includes internet access, free Wi-Fi and inexpensive color and black/white printing. The library also has services to help people with tests such as the SAT or for citizenship, and programs such as crafts classes and talks by guest authors.
It's all part of the services available to anyone with a library card.
"It's a friendly library," Solis says. "We try to keep it clean and safe."
That's why — alongside my lifetime National Parks pass (a perk for being old), my bank card and my driver's license — my library card is one of the most valuable pieces of plastic I carry.
What's in your wallet?