If you’ve been reading this blog very long, you know that by profession, I’m a librarian. If you haven’t been reading this blog very long, welcome! I’m glad you’re here. Pull up a chair and grab a cuppa, let me teach you something!
On a daily basis I’m surprised that many people wander into my library without knowing even half of the services we provide. With that being said, not all libraries are the same. Duh! Your library may not have everything I’m about to share (they might have more!), but it’s always helpful to ask what services your local library offers.
E-books are one of our lesser known services. People often know that we carry print books, but they tend to forget that we also have a generous e-book collection. Most libraries are venturing out into e-book territory. Some even have access to Overdrive, a global distributor of e-books. Overdrive carries amazingly current titles and sometimes you’ll get the e-book before the print book gets on the shelf!
- Tax Assistance
During tax season, many libraries will offer tax workshops or professional advice. Public libraries are great at offering this service.
Most libraries offer some sort of workshops and programming. These programs can range from computer classes to gardening classes and everything in between.
People always seem shocked to know that our library checks out DVDs. We’ve got DVDs and occasionally even screen movies. Sometimes the movies screened at libraries are educational, but sometimes the movies are just for fun. And the best part is that the movies are free!
When did magazine subscriptions get so expensive? I don’t know, but it’s a little out of control. Many libraries subscribe to a wide range of popular and scholarly periodicals. Some libraries will even let you take the magazines home for a limited time period!
- Interlibrary Loan Services
Don’t think that your library is limited to just the books that it has on it’s shelf. Libraries work with each other to get you the books that you need. You won’t even have to visit the other library to obtain the book, the book will be sent to your home library! On a related note, in my state you can also walk into any public university and use their services because you pay for them with your taxes! Often university libraries have more money than public libraries or community college libraries (like mine). And more money equals more books!
This is a new thing that some libraries are setting up in their facilities. Makerspaces are a place that people can go to tinker, fix and learn to create stuff. Makerspaces first started as places for people to tinker with technology, but I’ve also seen makerspaces that teach users how to sew or create woodwork. The possibilities are endless and this is a really exciting new aspect of libraries.
- Meeting Rooms
Meeting rooms are nothing new for libraries, but they are a service that is often forgotten. Many libraries offer room usage for free or a very nominal cost. Some libraries even have event space for weddings, conferences or family reunions.
- Technology rentals
Calculators, e-readers and laptops– libraries are venturing out and letting users check out all sorts of technology-related objects. Call your local library and check to see what they are lending out today!
- Out-of-the-box rentals
Libraries have been known to check out some wild stuff. I’ve seen instances where libraries check out everything from gardening tools to gaming systems. The last library I worked at checked out art work!
- Kid’s activities
Public libraries are the best for kid’s activities. Story time, yoga for kids and all kinds of arts and crafts will keep those little ones busy long enough for you to browse the collection!
- Research help
I would love to help you with your research questions. Please, just ask me! If you encounter someone at the reference desk, often times, research is their favorite thing to do. Most of my questions involve the location of the bathroom and I would love to help someone research something interesting. Heck, I’d love to help someone research something boring.
- Free Wi-Fi or Computer Use
A home Internet connection is getting more expensive by the day. Seriously. When will someone put a cap on that?! Anyway, libraries offer free wi-fi and computer use. Even if you have your own computer and Internet connection, it’s nice to know that if something ever goes wrong, your local, trusty library should be able to help in that department. I’ve also known people to forgo paying for a personal Internet subscription and just use the library’s wi-fi.
- Copying and Faxing Services
I think every library I’ve ever been to has a copier. Usually library copies are way cheaper than at a print shop too. Many libraries also having faxing services for a small fee. Much smaller than a big box printer, I guarantee it.
- Job Services
With the downturn in the economy, many a brave library took job services onto their already overloaded plate. I’ve seen libraries with resume workshops. I’ve seen libraries partner with superb non-profits like Dress for Success to help women get the business attire they need. And I’ve even seen libraries host job fairs! Holy canoli. Libraries do it all.
- Legal Issues
One of the most common questions I get at the reference desk (other than where is the bathroom?) is about legal issues. Many libraries respond to this by setting up a program to host a lawyer and answer legal questions for free. At the very least, your library should be able to point you in the right direction for legal help.
- Free Books to Keep or Books on the Cheap
Libraries often host an annual book sale to weed out their old collections and gain a little profit for new books. Library book sales keep costs insanely low. Like anywhere from 10 cents to a dollar low. That’s cheaper than Amazon prices, people. At my library, we even have a book rack at the door where we give away (nice, new!) books that have been donated that we can’t use for whatever reason. For free.
Genealogy help is a growing trend in libraries and man, is it interesting. Oftentimes with your library card, you’ll be able to access expensive sites like Ancestry for free! Libraries also often have local history collections that can be helpful in the search for your own history.
I hope you’ve learned a little something-something today and will reach out to see what cool and interesting things your home library offers. Is that too Reading Rainbow-lesson-ish? I don’t care, call me LeVar Burton ‘cuz libraries bring it out in me. Let me know in the comments if your library offers something out of the norm!