New clothes, pencils and papers aren't the only essentials for returning to school, Delaware County District Library officials said.

New clothes, pencils and papers aren't the only essentials for returning to school, Delaware County District Library officials said.

They believe access to local libraries and their materials is equally important to the scholastic success of Delaware County students.

The library has designated September as "Library Card Sign-Up Month," and aims to make library cardholders out of at least 4,000 additional youths and adults.

"As of August 2008, we have 47,566 people with DCDL cards," said Shea Alltmont, DCDL communications manager. "Considering the population of Delaware County is about 131,000-plus, that's not too shabby, but we still are looking to get those 4,000 new cardholders."

To bolster the ranks of cardholders, the DCDL will send library card applications to elementary schools in the Delaware, Buckeye Valley and Olentangy school districts, as well as local private elementary schools.

While area teenagers and adults also will be encouraged to obtain cards, grade-school students will be a particular focus of the campaign, Alltmont said.

"We're really starting out with our young readers because, hopefully, they're going to be our long-time members.

Library cards are free. Applicants -- or parents of applicants for those 17 or younger -- are required only to provide the library with proof of address and photo identification.

Once armed with a card, individuals have access to computers and the more than 800,000 items at the DCDL's Delaware, Ostrander and Powell branches. This includes videos, compact discs, magazines and electronic books, Alltmont said.

Consequently, she added, cardholders have access to a treasure trove of information and library programs.

"We can offer them many, many opportunities for pleasurable reading and things they might need help with," she said. "All of our items are free, and it's such a good opportunity to learn and save money.

"A library card has always been the most important school supply of all. Kids can come to the library to get homework help and check out books, but they can also check out DVDs and use the Internet to make after-school life a little more fun."

Given that the library generally issues 300 or fewer new cards per month, officials acknowledge their goal of 4,000 in September is a tall order. They hope publicizing the campaign through the media and at the Delaware County Fair will help them accomplish the feat.

"The library really hasn't run an official campaign for that," Alltmont said. "We're ready to start some relationships with the schools and members of the community."

Additional information about the DCDL or obtaining a library card is available by calling Alltmont at (740) 362-3861, or visiting the library's branches.

Card applications also can be downloaded at www.delawarelibrary.org.

A Spanish-speaking version of the application is available at the Web site, as well.

nellis@thisweeknews.com