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The island's libraries have plenty to offer foreign visitors and residents - and are happy to take in any media and literary treasures that you no longer require

In Winter, when days are short and the damp cold lies like a blanket over the islands, staying in to spend a cosy evening in the company of a good book or a great DVD can be a tempting prospect. As is the idea of sending e-mails to friends across the world. If you don't have a book at hand or don't have access to the internet from your home, you don't have to head for the nearest bookstore or computer shop. The libraries on Ibiza and Formentera have a lot more to offer than many foreign residents might imagine. A whole world of international literature, newspapers and magazines, DVDs, videos, CDs and free internet access is just a stone's throw away.

ibizaIn theory, all of the Balearic libraries are part of one large network and are linked to one another. If you have internet access and speak good Catalan, you can go to cabib.uib.es and take a virtual discovery tour for yourself from the comfort of your own four walls. It is possible to search through the library contents to find specific titles, although the site is available in Catalan only, so far.

But the search function is pretty transparent and you won't need extensive linguistic ability to find what you're looking for. Just click on €Titol€ or €Autor€ to find the title or author of the book you want and then press €Enter€ When we tested the system by searching for €Sophie's World€ by Jostein Gaardes, results came up for two libraries on Majorca, located in Calvià and Can Torò.

€We request the titles, and after a couple of days, customers can stop by and pick them up here,€ explains Pepe Garibo from the Island Council Library in Eivissa, as he tells us how the network can be put to practical use. There is one small catch, however: so far, this service is only offered to customers by the two large libraries - the Island Council and the Eivissa Municipal Libraries - while library users in smaller towns and villages still have no access to this service.

It's just as easy to get hold of a library card as it is to order a book: just provide proof of residency on the island (certificate of residency) and two passport photographs. No fee is required. As a rule, books can be taken out for two weeks at a time, and audiovisual material can be borrowed for a week.

The choice of non-Spanish language material often depends on how well the library and the local community cooperate. Most of the books in English, German and other languages were donated by members of the community. So if you have a book, DVD or video that you no longer need, the libraries will be delighted to take them off your hands, provided, of course, that they are still in good condition... This way, the number of materials on offer to library users will keep increasing.

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