When most people think of libraries, they think of books and getting shushed by librarians. Though public libraries still have plenty of books, the quiet buildings where people only come to read and study are largely a thing of the past. Sure those things are still prevalent, but these days the public library has almost become a community center of sorts and has much more to offer than just books.
Armed with a library card, patrons have access to all kinds of materials and information in one spot that they used to have to get from multiple sources. Thus, in honor of National Library Week, which runs from April 9-15, 2017, head out to your local library and discover all the awesome things it has to offer.
No matter how old you are, the library has a program for everyone! While many programs are geared towards children and teens, such as weekly story times and summer reading programs, there are programs such as author visits and community conversations geared towards adults as well. Some library systems even have game days and movie viewings that are meant for the entire family. Not all programs are focused on reading, either. Many libraries have STEM programs for kids and teens and ESL classes, tech help, and tax preparation assistance for adults, and that’s just a small sampling of the kind of programs that are available at most libraries. Though book groups and story times will always be prevalent, make sure to check out your local library’s calendar of events. You’ll be surprised by the variety of programs that are offered.
More than just print books
Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of books in the library, but nowadays there is a lot more to check out. Public libraries have DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, magazines, and so much more that you can borrow with your library card. Some libraries even lend out mobile wifi hotspots to patrons. Forget Netflix and Red Box, most libraries have a huge selection of DVDs, including non-fiction and foreign language films that are hard to come by elsewhere. Most libraries also allow access to e-books with your library card, as well as access to all kinds of databases and subscription services that would cost a lot of money to access on your own. And there are still plenty of books, encyclopedias, and other reference materials to appease traditional library lovers too.
The library is also a great place to get access to and help with technology. Almost every public library has computers for patron use, as well as free wifi in their buildings. Some even have laptops and iPads that they lend out for people to use while in the library. Certain library systems around the country are even experimenting with lending out wifi hotspots to patrons so that they can have internet access at home that they might not have had otherwise. Computer and tablet classes, as well as tech help sessions with library staff, are also very common at public libraries, including some specialty classes on things like 3D printing and basic game design. The modern public library is not only a hub for access to computers and the Internet, but is also a place where people can learn about and get help with emerging technologies.
These days many public libraries function almost as community centers in addition to their traditional purpose. They serve as a cornerstone for every community as they’re a place where everyone can go and be treated equally. People from all different walks of life patronize the library, so it’s a good place to go to really get a sense of the neighborhood. Librarians also often put on programming that would be of interest or benefit to the community or neighborhood they’re located in, and many libraries have special collections relating to local history or news, including books and archives of local newspapers. From community postings to specialty programs, the public library is a great place to come and get connected to your local community.
One of the best things about going to the library is getting to engage with librarians and other library staff. They are a wealth of knowledge on many different subjects and can help with almost everything from book recommendations to troubleshooting your e-book reader. Library workers take pleasure in providing a welcoming and helpful environment for everyone who walks in the door. Whether patrons have in depth research questions or just need help printing something off the computer, library staff are always there to help try to meet all of their needs. Whenever you’re in the library, make sure to take advantage of the staff’s expertise, and make sure to tell them thanks on National Library Worker’s Day on Tuesday April 11.
Libraries are so much more than books and have so much more to offer than most people can imagine. Every library offers different things, but their intent is always the same – to provide access to information and do everything in their power to meet the needs of their patrons. They are pillars in their communities and have a little something for everyone. Oh yeah, they have plenty of books too.
What’s your favorite thing about your local library? Let us know in the comments!