If you know me, you probably know that I’m a huge advocate for supporting public services like public schools, USPS, and your local public library. I’ve been going to the library for as long as I can remember and I keep discovering new features that my public library has! In this post, we’ll be chatting about some awesome things public libraries provide that you might not know about.
1. Cheap book sales
It’s not secret that reading can become an expensive habit if you’re not careful. Buying new books all the time isn’t cheap. For that reason, I often try to buy books secondhand. If you don’t have a great secondhand bookstore near you, check out your local library!
Most libraries offer occasional used book sales for RIDICULOUS prices. Like, books for less than $1! These book sales function as a fundraiser for the library, so you can get yourself some cheap books and support your library at the same time. Lots of libraries also include magazines, CDs, and movies in their sales as well. Just be sure to bring small bills, because your library sale might work like mine and function on an honor system with just a box to put your payment in.
2. Classes and events
If your childhood was anything like mine, you probably attended all kinds of events at your library in the summer. I remember going to story times, reptile shows, craft events, children’s concerts, and more. What you might not realize is that libraries also offer classes and events for adults!
My library offers book clubs, movie nights, crafting lessons, computer classes, writing workshops, concerts, genealogy help, Spanish lessons, and more. Right now, with in-person events being more limited, they are adapting by hosting all kinds of events online.
3. Meeting spaces
If you’re not interested in attending someone else’s event, you might want to check out your library’s meeting spaces. Whether you want to host an event, meet with your book club, or coordinate a study group, the library might be the place to do it!
4. Free audiobooks
One of the things I use my library for the most is to listen to audiobooks! My library uses the app Libby, which is so easy to use. There are lots of different audiobook apps used by libraries, so definitely check out your library’s website to see what they use.
It works just like getting a physical book from your library, except you can do it all from your phone. I like to browse the “what’s available” section to discover new-to-me books and branch out of my comfort zone. I’ve discovered a bunch of favorites this way! (Check out all my audiobook reviews here.) I also like to search for specific books I want to listen to and put holds on them. I listen to audiobooks when I’m walking, driving, showering, getting ready, cleaning, and just about any other time I want to think about something other than what I’m doing.
If you want to hear more about why I love audiobooks, check out my YouTube video about it!
5. Free ebooks
Just like the free audiobooks, your library probably also offers free ebooks! My Kindle was one of my best purchases of 2019. I’ve saved a ton of money on books and it’s easy to take with me wherever I go (not that I’m going anywhere lately). I’ve loved exploring my library’s ebook offerings through Overdrive. If you don’t have an e-reader, you can download the ebooks to the Kindle app and read it on your phone, or directly to the Libby app.
6. Free tv shows, movies, and music streaming
This was a recent discovery for me, but my library doesn’t just offer audiobooks and ebooks through Overdrive, but I can also stream tv shows and movies! There’s a limit to how many things you can borrow per month, but if you don’t have a streaming service, you might find your library useful for this. I’d also recommend checking it out if you’re looking for a specific show or movie you can’t find on the streaming services you do have, because your library might have it! (I wish I knew about this offering when I was trying to find certain movies for classes in college.)
7. WiFi and computers
You probably know that the library offers computers, but libraries also have WiFi so you can get on the internet using your own computer. For a lot of us, this might not seem like a big deal, but for a lot of people, this is a super important resource. Especially for people living on a lower income or people experiencing homelessness, the library might be the only place they can access the internet, which is important for job applications, schoolwork, and just being a part of the 21st century.
If you want more information about how the technology and other services libraries offer help disadvantaged populations, check out this article!
If you’re a student, definitely look into your library’s tutoring offerings. This will differ widely depending on the library, but you might be able to find tutoring on a number of subjects, especially languages, computer skills, and SAT prep. If you want to put your knowledge to work, you could also look into becoming a tutor through your library!
9. Access to databases
Another resource that can be incredibly useful is the access to databases that libraries have! I know when I was in college, I really took for granted the access to information I had at my fingertips through my university’s subscription to numerous academic journals and databases. Once you’re no longer affiliated with a university, it can be harder to access academic research and papers, which can be a barrier to knowledge. As always, enter public libraries! Your public library likely has a subscription to many of the same databases you might have used in high school or college for research papers. If you’re looking for the data to back something up or looking to learn more in depth about a new topic, check out the databases page on your library’s website.
10. Cheap printing and copying
Buying a printer can be extremely expensive, and it’s not always a worthwhile investment if you’re not going to print often. (And nobody has a copier in their house!) Most libraries offer cheap printing and copying, which can be really useful if you need to print resumes, articles, a paper for school, copy an article for class, or any number of other things. If you’re confused about how to use the printers or copiers, go find a librarian!
11. Rewards, contests, and giveaways
I never win anything, EXCEPT for giveaways from the library! I think I’ve won at least three or four giveaways from my library, which is way more than any other type of giveaway I’ve ever won.
In addition to giveaways and contests (make sure you poke around all the corners of your library and its website, sometimes it’s a hidden away little box you put your email in and then win free books!), most libraries also offer some sort of summer reading program. This is probably something you remember from your childhood — filling out a form and earning ice cream coupons, frisbees, and more stuff that’s super exciting for a kid. Did you know lots of libraries also do adult summer reading? Yep, I’ve seen adult programs offer anything from wine glasses to tote bags to scarves as rewards. Definitely check out your library’s website or ask a librarian if there are any adult reading program offerings; you might be surprised!
12. Resources for authors
If you’re an author/writer, you should definitely look into what your library might offer you. If you’re still working on your great American novel or book of poetry, there might be a writer’s group where you can get motivation and feedback. If you’re already published (wow, you’re impressive!) lots of libraries like to work with local authors to give them more publicity in their community by setting up events and prominently displaying their books.
13. Book recommendations
Where better to go for book recommendations than the place where all the books are? One of my favorite things to do in a library is to look at the curated displays the librarians create. They often display popular books, staff picks, or great books that fit a particular theme. Lots of libraries also have big lists of recommendations by genre or topic.
Some libraries even offer services where you fill out a survey about your reading habits/preferences and a real person takes those into account to create a personalized list of book recommendations!
14. Book club resources
If you’re looking to join a book club, your local library probably hosts or sponsors many of them. My library has book clubs in all kinds of genres, including science fiction, classics, romance, contemporary fiction, and more. There’s also a book club that reads a book and then watches the film adaptation at their meetings. The library even partners with local breweries to host books & beer clubs!
Maybe you already have a book club, or you have dreams of starting your own. Your library can help with this too! My library offers tons of “book club kits” that include copies of books, reader’s guides, and discussion questions.
15. Community outreach
Lastly, perhaps the most important role of public libraries is their community outreach. Libraries are a pillar of the community and they do so much both behind the scenes and out in the open to support the citizens of their communities. There are tons of programs for people in need and opportunities for people who want to volunteer. If you want to be more involved in your community and feel called to help those in need, I strongly recommend reaching out to your local library and seeing where they need help.
Those are just a few of the amazing things that public libraries offer. I definitely encourage you to check out your library’s website, use your library card, and take advantage of the resources they provide! Make sure to be kind and appreciative to your librarians as well, especially now. They work really hard and are currently being asked to make some big sacrifices for their communities.
Leave a comment down below with your favorite resource your local library provides! I’d love to add more cool things to my list of resources to check out.