Libraries are something humans got right. They must be protected at all costs. (This post isn’t about that, but the ALA has a great resource for ways to help with library funding etc. in the US.) If you’re a reader who is lucky enough to live near one, you probably already know all the resources they offer. Or maybe you don’t. Or maybe you’re someone who doesn’t read often. Perhaps you’re someone who if asked to name some of what libraries offer, you would answer “uh, books?” Well, I am here to tell you there is MORE. “Like DVDs?” Yes! “And I can go on the computer there?” Also yes, and yet… there might still be more.
This post is brought to you by how often I talk about something I’m able to get or do via a library and someone is surprised by it. It has made me realize that a lot of people don’t realize libraries are more than just a place with a book collection where you have to be quiet. So here’s a list of some things you might find.
- E-Books and Audiobooks. This one is not so surprising, but I still come across people who weren’t aware ebooks and audiobooks are something you can borrow now. You can get a free book without even leaving your couch! Most libraries have their electronic collection powered by Overdrive which recently released a new app Libby, which makes browsing a lot easier.
- Movies. Television. Music. So we’ve established this one, but it’s worth repeating. Not everything is available online. Blockbuster is essentially dead (RIP). Sometimes your source for (potentially illegally) downloading movies/tv/music isn’t working for you. Libraries stock DVDs (and CDs if you still use those.) You might have to pay a fee (mine charges $1), but still cheaper than most online rentals and it goes towards library funds instead of a company.
- Streaming. This sometimes blows people’s minds when I mention it. Many libraries offer movies and television shows via online services! Libraries near me provide movies on services like Hoopla and Kanopy. There are also sites such as Acorn TV (for British TV) which are normally paid subscriptions, but some libraries obtain licensing for their patrons. These sites might have some limitations on how much you can rent a month and you’re not going to find every blockbuster. But I’ve watched a lot that isn’t streaming elsewhere.
- Back to Hoopla. Hoopla doesn’t just have movies. They are also another resource for ebooks, audiobooks, comics, movies, television, and music. Sometimes if your library doesn’t have something in their system, it might be provided by another service like Hoopla. I probably use them for comics and graphic novels the most since the selection of physical ones aren’t always great.
- Museum Passes. Museums can be pricey to visit. Luckily, there are libraries who obtain yearly passes that can be rented out for a day. So if you’ve been meaning to visit a museum nearby, check if your library has passes before paying for tickets.
- Other Electronic Resources. I’ve already mentioned the big electronic draws, but the list of what each county offers can be extensive. My closest library system has a few pages online where they list things such as magazines, newspaper archives, language programs, research databases, and more. People don’t always think to look at their library’s website other than to maybe check hours or search for a book. But look for their electronic resources page. You might be surprised by what you find.
- Programs and Education. Story times are pretty well known as a library staple. And you probably know there are computers you can use. But it’s worth digging into what else might be going on at your library. There’s often a lot more offered than what’s related to books and research. Classes, homework help, teen clubs, dinners, movie nights, painting instruction, and so forth. I’ve seen a lot.
- Community. A little cheesy, but libraries do offer an access point for your local community. They can also help with things like taxes and job searches. Often I find out what’s going on in my county (or state) because of the library.
Challenging you now to go explore your local library’s website! And get a library card if you don’t already!! RIGHT NOW. Also remember that your library is most likely also part of a system. So if your individual library doesn’t offer something, another one in your county might. In Pennsylvania we have something called Access PA, which allows residents to use ANY library in the state. We also get free transfers of books between libraries the same county. And if you live in one place, but work elsewhere (and therefore pay taxes in both) you might be eligible for a library card somewhere else as well, which could have different services.
Maybe you don’t foresee yourself using many of these resources. But it’s important to remember what an invaluable resource it is for others. When funding is cut for libraries, it often affects the most vulnerable in our communities the most. You may have a computer of your own with easy internet access. But there are many who don’t. They’ve become a necessity. (Many jobs aren’t taking in person applications anymore.) Not everyone can afford to buy books they need for a school assignment. Classes provided can make a big difference for someone. Always keep in mind who libraries may be helping the most. When other government programs are cut, sometimes libraries are filling the gaps.
So research your library system right now. Donate if you can. Check for library book sales as another way to support them. And take advantage of all they have to offer.