This isn’t some PSA to tell children the library is the most wonderful place on Earth. This is to let adults know libraries contain plenty more than just books; they have resources that can make your life (and plenty of other people’s lives) easier if you just know where to look.
As a quick note, we titled this “Everything You Could Find” rather than “Everything You Can Find” because some libraries have things that others don’t, and it really depends on how much support they get from their communities.
We’ll discuss later what you can do if your local branch doesn’t have these things, but for now, we’ll stop holding out.
All but the most old-fashioned libraries have updated their inventories. Modern American libraries now have digital media sections.
These aren’t just an afterthought. They’re often well-stocked with DVDs and Blu-Rays of movies and TV series, along with old VHS collections that are probably somewhere in the back these days.
Getting a movie from a library is just like going to Blockbuster back in the day, except you don’t have to pay!
They also have CDs and other music formats; your branch likely has some vinyl records available for checkout. Most libraries also have video games for both PC and consoles.
If you don’t have a DVD, Blu-Ray or CD player, maybe they have one you can borrow. Many libraries may also have electronics like VCRs, record players, projectors, and converters to help you digitalize your media from old formats (CD, VHS, etc.). You may even be able to borrow a portable antenna or a Roku box!
But what if all you want is a book, just not a big, bulky, physical book? Some libraries are starting to loan e-readers, which you can load up with books free from the library’s collection. If you’re in the mood for a book, but not for reading a book, audiobooks are also available for check-out.
Of course, libraries have numerous books to help with your research projects, but they also have computers for online research for those who otherwise wouldn’t have Internet access.
But it gets better: those computers often have access to paid databases which you can access for free on the libraries’ dollar. All you need is a library card.
If you aren’t doing a project but just want to learn, libraries often hold classes and workshops to teach skills such as yoga, genealogy, Microsoft Excel, or English as a second language, just to name a few. Since libraries are meant to serve their communities, they seek to always help their patrons improve themselves.
Business and Creative Resources
If you aren’t doing research and you just need help making something, the library’s got your back.
The copiers and scanners are yours to use if you have a library card, as are 2-D and 3-D printers and laminators. To help you run a small business or make a piece of art, the computers also often have access to software such as graphic design programs and image databases. Did we mention free wi-fi?
Perhaps you’re in no position to start a business and just need a job. Libraries often have resources to help you get employed. These resources can be as simple as giving people access to job-finding websites on the computers or to physical postings of local jobs. They may hold classes that provide tips on getting more interviews and call-backs, too.
For some people, the library is the most happening place in town. All but the smallest libraries have event spaces which may hold public gatherings such as those classes we mentioned earlier, public seminars, community meetings, or activities like bingo, movies, and book clubs.
These rooms may also be booked out for private events. If you need a quiet space for some people to congregate, see if your local branch has an opening.
Libraries can have whatever they want to lend to their communities, and some choose miscellaneous stuff you might never expect.
Children’s toys and games are often available, sometimes for enjoyment in the library and sometimes they’re eligible to be taken home. These range from puzzles and board games to dolls and vehicles. Don’t worry, a library that knows what it’s doing will clean and sanitize the toys before reuse.
Do you need a suit or a tuxedo for an upcoming event, but you’re not sure whether you’ll ever wear it again? Renting a suit is also pretty expensive, but knowing this, some libraries have started loaning out formal wear; again, they will wash them between borrowers. Even if you just need a tie, you’ll be covered.
Need to get some minor repairs or light construction done? If you don’t think you can justify buying the tools, consider the library. While this is a rarer thing to find at a library, loaning out tools is growing in popularity. There are even some specific “tool libraries” popping up around the country; one might even be in your neighborhood and you don’t even know it yet!
You know what else is booming in popularity? Seed libraries. These are libraries for gardeners looking to plant some new plants. You may be asking, “How does that work? Surely you can’t return a seed you already planted.”
No, but you can give seeds from what you harvest and pay it forward to the next gardener. Like tools, seeds are slowly becoming available at municipal libraries across the country – and if you need gardening tools, you know where to look.
Now here’s a list of other stuff we’ve heard is available at different libraries around the country:
–kitchenware and baking tools
–children’s Halloween costumes
–video cameras and laptops
–health accessories like health monitors or step counters
–musical instruments and sheet music
–sewing and knitting supplies
…But What If They Don’t Have It?
We’ve just listed a whole lot of stuff, and your local branch probably won’t have all of it unless you live next door to the main branch of a big-city library. But things can change.
Like we’ve said, libraries are what their communities put into them. If nobody in your town frequents the library, then it probably won’t have much; if enough people go there regularly, the library will be more inspired to cater to different needs.
Libraries are funded by government money, so for a library to add something to its inventory, the community needs to make it clear it’s what it wants.
If you see something on this list you like that your local branch doesn’t have, pay your library a visit and talk to someone about it. Express your interest and ask what you can do to help improve your library – and yes, if you live in that town, it’s your library as much as the employees’. The first step of change is for someone to express desire for change; why shouldn’t that person be you?
Some people see libraries as a waste of taxpayer dollars and want them abolished completely. As of this writing, those people aren’t having much luck, but if future generations in this Internet Age don’t value libraries, then that opinion might become more popular.
We won’t tell you how to live your life, because we know that probably won’t go over well. But we say if you don’t already show some love to your local library, we strongly encourage you to do so. You never know what you’re going to find.