10 Ways to Use Your Local Library

Do you visit your local library?  It's a rare week that my kids and I are not at our town library, so much so that the wonderful ladies at the circulation desk know me by name.  We absolutely love it there.  We are really fortunate to have a somewhat-recently renovated library that doubled the size of the building and we try to take full advantage of what they have to offer.  Even though I've been going there for nine years I still find services that they offer that I didn't know about - most of them completely free if you have a library card.

Here are 10 things to take advantage of at your library:

1. Books!  I mean, obviously.  But not just old books that have been there forever - our library is constantly getting newly released titles in all genres that keeps the collection up-to-date.  It's hard for me to walk in there and not grab something that catches my eye, and I am constantly rifling though the "New" section and checking out a stack.

2. Movies.  We don't have a television service other than Amazon Prime, and even that is fairly new to us actually using it, so we have been checking out DVD's for years.  Our library has a huge selection of movies (DVD and Blu-ray), television shows, foreign films, and documentaries to choose from.  And again, they have so many of the latest releases, and it's so convenient for us that we generally don't even bother with trying to see something in the theater because we know the library will have it soon enough (for free!).  The same goes for music - they have racks of CD's in all genres.

3. The children's department.  People with small children in tow: when you need to get out of the house with the kids but you don't want to spend money going somewhere, head to your library!  Most children's departments are separated from the adult library so kids can play and be loud.  They typically have toys to play with as well as computers and/or tablets to work on, and lots of chairs for the adults to sit on (it makes a great playdate spot!).  Our library often has storytimes, art classes, movies in the afternoon, and other programs like a magician, Legos, or an ice cream social, and anyone in the community is free to participate!  Plus, our library has a separate teen room within the children's department and they do a bunch of programs especially for that age group.

4. Museum passes.  Our library has free-to-use membership passes to probably two dozen local attractions, including state parks, historical homes, and our Science Center.  Some of the passes will get you in for free, others are for reduced admission, and you check them out with your library card just like a book.  We have borrowed several of these and have made a fun afternoon for ourselves at a greatly reduced cost.

5. Digital downloads.  Sometimes a book isn't carried by the local libraries, but they have access to a digital collection that you can access with your library card.  Our library uses OverDrive and Hoopla as lending services and I've been able to read a bunch of books on my iPad using their apps.  I'm very much a physical-book-in-hand person, but if I can't get a copy, this has been a great option.

6. Community programs.  Our library hosts a weekly farmers market in the summer that has grown significantly over the years, they have author talks in the evenings, they present special topics lectures, they have a used book sale once a year (everyone's favorite), and they do matinee movies, just to name a few.  Again, these are all free for anyone to attend!  They have an events calendar posted on their website so you can see what's coming up.

7. Technology.  Lots of it.  Not only does ours have a copy center for those who need to print/scan/fax/copy, but it has a digitization station to convert old movies and audio, a 3-D printer in the computer lab, and Macs to use for movie editing.  You can borrow an e-reader or an iPad, or you can just come in and use the wi-fi, which is cheaper, quieter, and less crowded than your local Starbucks.

8. Learning.  Our library is connected to Lynda.com, which is a site that offers self-paced courses in a variety of topics, and you can also access Mango.com, which helps you learn different languages.  Both are included with a library card.  They also offer access to test prep software, like the driver's test and the SAT.

9. Meeting spaces.  Not only can you meet within the main library, as I see many people researching, tutoring, and hanging out with friends, the library has conference and meeting rooms for larger and more formal gatherings.  Most rooms can be reserved by the public.

10. Interconnected system.  Bonus: our library is connected to a system of local libraries, so if my town library doesn't have what I'm looking for, I can search the 30-library catalog online, put it on hold at another library, and the book or movie will be sent over to my library by their courier system.  Materials can be returned to your home library, so there is no running around to different buildings.  This is an incredible system that I take full advantage of constantly.

If you don't have a library card you are missing out on so much good free stuff!  And even if you don't have a card there are so many ways your library can help you out.  I highly suggest visiting your local library or looking up their website online to see what they have going on.


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