For more than 40 years, the Palm Beach County Library System and the Audubon Society of the Everglades have enjoyed a mutually beneficial partnership that has culminated in an ornithological collection of periodicals spanning decades and more than 1060 monographs, all accessible to Palm Beach County residents as well as birders and ornithologists across the United States (through interlibrary loan). In 2019, in celebration of the Library’s 50th anniversary, the Friends of the Palm Beach County Library System, along with a dedicated group of Library staff and Audubon Society volunteers, unveiled a new item geared towards enhancing the experience of novice and expert birders of all ages.

Birding backpacks were assembled as kits that provide families with items needed to find and identify birds, and ultimately to enjoy exploring and falling in love with the natural world. Backpacks are intended especially for families who may not have the means to purchase a high quality pair of binoculars, to deepen their understanding of birds and nature, and to highlight the multitude of parks and natural preserves that Palm Beach County has to offer.

Each backpack contains a pair of professional grade binoculars, two pairs of children’s binoculars, a pocket guide to Florida birds, and wipes – all assembled inside an attractive backpack with Friends & Audubon Society logos adorning the front. Backpacks are accessible at 17 branch locations and the bookmobile spanning the entire Palm Beach County.

Palm Beach County is a world-renowned location for birders. Offering the birding backpacks to library cardholders for free enables the Palm Beach County Library System the ability to spark a love of birds and nature and removes the cost of supplies as a barrier to birding. In addition to purchased items in each backpack, a map of Palm Beach County parks and information about the Audubon Society of the Everglades are included (when available), thus augmenting the birding experience with information about educational events and the tools needed to take advantage of the vast natural resources at residents' fingertips. These kits promote multigenerational stewardship of the environment by encouraging exploration.

The Palm Beach County Library System launched birding backpacks in May, 2019 as part of its 50th anniversary community celebration, and have barely been able to keep up with demand. The initial pilot included bags for only 6 branches, but quickly it was decided that every branch needed its own backpack. Thanks to the generosity of the Audubon Society of the Everglades for sponsoring one of the backpacks, the bag manufacturer R.J.Roberts for offering a discount on the backpacks, and to the Friends for their generous support of the project, backpacks have been checked out a total of 270 times (3 week circulation period) since their inauguration.

The Palm Beach County Library System is also honored to have been contacted by other libraries across the United States (e.g. Broward County Library, Winter Park Public Library, the Dallas Public Library) who are interested in using our model to create similar kits. Improving library service to communities everywhere through sharing knowledge and experience is at the heart of librarianship, and is something that the Palm Beach County Library System takes seriously.

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