Has it been a while since you’ve been to the library? Libraries have always been awesome places. During a previous lifetime (when I was much younger) I worked as a children’s librarian. I loved it. But the libraries I remember from when I was a children’ s librarian are evolving to meet our changing needs.
If you haven’t been for a while, you’re about to discover that libraries are completely different from even ten years ago. They were once a more or less dusty room with books in it; today most libraries have been completely reinvented into vital community resources.
They’ve become a place of gathering, momentum and fun – a place where you can nurture not just your love of reading but perhaps also where you’ll meet new people, find out how to start your new business or immerse yourself in technology you were only dreaming about.
A library can offers almost limitless possibilities. The beauty of the library is that it can always help to open up your world and opportunities. Here are my best tips for making the most of your library;
Tip #1: Check out your library online
This is a great way to discover all the wonderful things your library has to offer. Yes, you’ll find the usual—books and movies, magazines and newspapers but libraries are offering so much more now. My hometown library also offers citizenship classes, literacy class, and computer classes.
Some libraries have really unusual things that you can check out or use. I’ve visited a lot of libraries in my day, and some of the things I’ve seen patrons borrow are puppets, games, seeds, household tools, and telescopes.
The Sacramento Public Library (SPL) offers a Library of Things with things for checkout such as sewing machines, musical instruments and video games. The items in the Library of Things were chosen in a voting process by Sacramento Public Library patrons. There is also a Seed Library for sharing seeds for vegetables, herbs, and more.
Some libraries can be your gateway to international travel with our passport application service, passport photo service, travel books and DVDs. At many libraries you can “check out” free passes to area attractions. These attractions have included zoos, aquariums, and science, art and history museums that can all be quite pricey.
Libraries offer unique spaces, as well. Often libraries will also have premier event space and host weddings, dinners, dances, speeches, concerts, political events and more. They will also provide meeting rooms that can be used free or for a nominal fee.
Tip #2: Check out a book
Sure, they still loan out books, but with a few twists. Many public libraries are now providing access to books in electronic form. You may not even have to visit the library (beyond an initial visit to join) but can sit back at home and search for electronic books, key in your library number and password and enjoy the materials on your laptop, iPad or eReader.
In the United States and some other jurisdictions, libraries are now tied in together, all the local county branches, as well as any community college or other libraries located in the county. We have reciprocal privileges at other regional libraries—such as the Sacramento Public Library (SPL.) All we need to do is a title search on the library computer for any titles not physically branch, put in an e-request, and it will be delivered to our branch in a couple of days for us to pick up.
Tip #3: Get connected to the internet
It’s hard to find a library without a computer nowadays and most of them will provide some form of internet access, whether free or paid by time slots. You may need to use your library card for “time” on or simply purchase slots of time – ask the librarian for details. As well as surfing online, you may be able to take online classes through the library. The library may even run its own online classes in certain subject areas – ask them. They also offer other tools such free Internet access, printers, copiers, and more.
You can even bring in your own device to use with the free Wi-Fi. We’ve made use of this while visiting libraries during our travels ‐ even while abroad! This feature can be especially helpful when researching your location during a trip.
Tip #4: Treat your local library as the place that expands your horizons and keeps you well informed The library is a place where you can go along at your own pace, read in a quiet corner, or maybe take a free lunchtime seminar. It’s a place to learn about anything at all whether you’re going through a transition, finding a job, learning specific subjects, wanting to understand about your body and health, looking for new recipes and ways to keep house, getting DIY answers, learning about pets, planning a trip abroad or whatever.
Tip #5: Encourage your children to spend time discovering the library on a regular basis
Children who grow up loving books, information and all the other things a library has to offer are children who will be reassured that they can find answers to the questions they have through life by researching it for themselves.
The sooner they feel comfortable searching for and absorbing information, the more likely they will be to embrace lifelong learning and the benefits that this assures them for a solid future. And be sure to let them see you enjoying the library too – that will impact them positively.
I want to instill this love for the library in my grandchildren. We make weekly trips to our local library and to other libraries in the region that offer reciprocal privileges. I’ve always heard Leaders are readers. Reading helps you learn about whatever it is you want to know about. You can study up on an exotic travel destination. There will always be those willing to share their knowledge with you. Reading and learning really are the ticket to getting around the globe.
The library is more than rows of dusty bookshelves. It is evolving with the times to meet the needs of our future generations.