Discovering Joy in the Library
Originally I wanted to write this post after I saw some tweets asking who still uses public libraries. This post isn’t so much meant to be a rebuttal, but it’s meant to highlight a lot of different benefits of public libraries that people might not always be aware of.
For 3 years in college, I worked at my university’s public library. It is a university library but also is a public library open to the public. You can use your local library card to check out books, although I’m not positive about any of the equipment.
One of the reasons I loved our university library is that it had some really cool research books, Danish archives from the school’s past, and a bunch of old research materials that we don’t use much any more but they still keep on hand.
This is the most obvious use of libraries I think. But in case you didn’t know a lot of libraries now allow you to check out e-books via an app like Overdrive or various others. This is super awesome for people who don’t have time to go to the library or aren’t able to physically access due to health reasons.
Of course, libraries still have physical books you can check out. And before you ask, renting books from libraries is great for authors!
If there is a high demand for a certain book, a library might order more copies. This information gets sent to the publisher along with how many times they books are being checked out. With this information, publishers have an idea how the book is doing outside of places like independent sellers, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon.
They also have a lot of old and new books which makes it great for finding a new release or for rereading a favorite old series. Maybe you really like a book, but not enough to buy it. Well you can always see if your library has it.
Finally, they have books on CD if that’s still your thing or I believe at some libraries you can rent audiobooks as well.
Other free materials
Most people should know by now that you can also rent movies and magazines from libraries. I don’t use this feature that much, so I’m not sure how current most libraries are. My Netflix and Hulu subscriptions still aren’t pricey enough to make me drop them, but if they were, I would probably rely on the library and Redbox for movies.
So this kinda goes along with the next bullet point as well, but a lot of libraries let you rent out equipment. One of our libraries lets you get free photography equipment and you can even use Photoshop for free in one of their studios.
Not only that, but this particular library has a free craft studio which is great for when I want to work on a craft project without getting everything all over the floor of my apartment.
Cause that’s the kind of crafter I am.
Free access to classes and technology
In case you weren’t aware, besides offering free technology classes to senior citizens, they sometimes have other really cool classes the rest of the population can take.
Jewelry making, scrapbook making, cooking, design, economics, etc. Depending on the interest of their community and who wants to teach it, they might have some really interesting classes.
I really love classes at the library because it help makes education accessible to everyone no matter what their social-economic situation is.
Beyond that, like my Photoshop example above, libraries also offer free or slight fees to technology. Computers, Ipads, cameras, fancy design programs, radio equipment, etc. To find out, all you have to do is research your local library or call a library for help.
The grail of library community outreach, children programs are essential to busy moms. I remember my mom used to take us to these at the library. It gave her and other parents a much needed break even if for only half an hour.
These kinds of programs are great to get kids interesting in books, socializing to meet other kids, and they usually are educational in nature. I find these programs are great for stay at home moms and for other caretakers when you want to take the kids somewhere but not sure where.
Plus they’re usually free!
Another reason I love the library is that they offer meeting rooms for groups and other activities. This means your local library is a great way to meet other people and find out about stuff you’re interested in. A lot of community outreach events are held in libraries because they’re an easy and safe place for most people to get to.
Being involved in your community is a really great way to stay healthy. Even for introverts, it’s important to get out there and meet people.
Some cool community events I’ve seen at libraries is to have a booth to get a new driver’s license, having a garden group come and work on a community garden outside the library. Even yoga classes and other exercise classes meet at mine.
There is a nice lake and running trails around the library, so it’s a great spot for running groups to meet up at.
Assistance with social services
I think a little know thing about libraries is that a lot of social programs are preformed there. For example at the main library in town, they have a specific section devoted to getting a job which includes books and materials on different careers, interviews, resume writing, and cover letter writing.
Some librarians can even help you write a resume or cover letter. And they might have a list of resources of where to look for a job or know of programs and fairs to help you find one. Sometimes career fairs are even hosted at libraries.
Among that, some libraries assist with other kinds of social services that are crucial to helping people. And they can be a safe place to be when someone needs to get away for a while. Or they might even have resources on helping someone find a shelter.
Sometimes coffee and tea
None of the libraries in town offer coffee and tea to my knowledge but I know in other cities, library cafes are becoming more popular.
I think they might have gotten this idea from Barnes and Noble and other stores, but I personally think it’s a really great idea even if it’s only allowed in a small section. I personally always enjoy a cup of tea or coffee with my books and it just makes the experience so much cozier.
Plus proceeds could go to the library or to a non-profit or local coffee shop.
Free place to hangout and use the bathroom
So I recently found out there is a library that lets a group rent their Wii for an hour or so and this group practices bowling there a couple times of week. I think this is a fantastic and fun idea.
When I was in college, a group I was apart of would often get a Wii and look up games like bowling or dance competitions to it. It was a great way to stay active and have fun. It’s an idea that more libraries could adopt.
Beyond that, the library is a good place to meet up with friends and catch up. Like I pointed above, sometimes they have food and drinks or will let you bring some into a certain area of the library.
I pointed out the bathroom in this section because I know in some stores or places you can’t use their bathroom without paying for something. So in those cases, this is a really nice idea.
Alot of local libraries act as local museums, especially in small towns. My university library has a small museum esque place and my local hometown library does as well.
I think even a pop-up exhibit is a great idea and I know other places offer art to look at and you can buy local artist work there. I think expanding the offerings beyond books helps educate the public on ideas they might not have realized or been able to find else where. Not all museums are free, so this is a great option for low-income folks.
Book donations and sales
One of my favorite parts is the book sales. Often times they will have books for on sale for really cheap. Such as 10 cents for a magazine or 50 cents for a paperback and a dollar or two for a hardcover. This gives money back to them, helps them weed out the collection for new books, and gives books another chance at new love.
If you really want a book and can’t afford to buy it yourself, this can be a great starting place. Not all online places are cheaper and not all local book stores are equal. Plus not everyone has a discount bookstore in town. So libraries give the public a chance to get books for cheap.
Hands down the to-go spot for writing groups. Besides just making sense, writers need a place to connect in person where they can share ideas and connect with others.
My only issue with writer groups at public libraries is that often times they’re filled with folks a lot older than me and none of them write science fiction and fantasy.
But if you’re not a fan of online groups and don’t know a lot of writers already, this is a good place to start.
Book clubs are the bread and butter of library events next to writer groups, computer help, and children programs.
If you like books, there is probably several different book clubs to join at your local library. One of our local branches offers a silent reading club where you just sit together and spent time reading. Another club is aimed at adults who like YA.
I think these groups are great although I haven’t seen a science fiction and fantasy group yet so maybe that is a program I will have to start myself.
After school programs
Finally, next to children’s programs, a lot of libraries offer after school programs for students. I think these are great if you can’t afford some programs but still need your child somewhere safe until you get off of work.
A lot of these programs are actually pretty cool from robotics to computer programming to gardening to reading. Libraries offer a lot for kids and teens.