12 Ways You Could Be Getting More Out Of Your Public Library

by Charlotte Ahlin

When you think about it, it's fairly miraculous that public libraries exist. I mean, can you imagine if such an idea was proposed today? A public institution where absolutely anyone can obtain books and knowledge for free Supported by tax payers? Ludicrous. Lucky for us, we grew up in a world with libraries, and most young book nerds have fond memories of checking out more books than we could carry, or hiding away among the shelves to read on long summer afternoons. But if you thought libraries were only good for checking out books and playing Zoombinis after school, think again. Here are several ways you could be getting more out of your local library, because libraries provide a lot more than just books.

Firstly, though, if you don't have a library card, go get one. Right now. I'll wait. All you need is a proof of address (a photo id and a piece of mail will do just fine) and five minutes to swing by the library, and you'll have access to basically every book in the world for free. It's so simple! You have no excuse not to! And now that you have your library card, here are all the ways you can make the most out of hanging at the library (besides reading everything in sight):


Borrow audiobooks and e-books

It was a huge game-changer when I realized that I could download library books onto my phone. Huge. The free app Overdrive links to your local library's catalog, and you can use it to download audiobooks and e-books directly to your phone or tablet, immediately improving your daily commute by about 1000%.


Find magazines, DVDs, CDs, and newspaper archives

Books aren't the only kind of media that libraries have to offer! Borrow movies or albums, find old newspapers, or keep up with your favorite magazines without buying a subscription. Certain libraries will even have recordings of Broadway plays, old TV shows, operas, obscure films, and pretty much all those other gems that are impossible to find on the internet.


Reserve computers and other technology

You probably know that most libraries offer free computer access. But most libraries will also let you reserve a time slot for a particular computer, and many will lend out laptops, tablets, A/V equipment, etc.


Get access to paywall content

Libraries have all the subscriptions to pretty much all of the online databases. You know those websites that let you read some of the article, but then a thing pops up that says "MEMBERS ONLY"? Your local library is probably a member. Head to a library computer, and read free Jstor articles with abandon.


Book meeting spaces

Libraries are one of the few indoor, physical spaces that are completely open to the public. Most libraries offer meeting rooms that you can book for private meetings, and/or a general seating area in which reasonable talking is permitted. Book a library space for your new book club, your board meeting, or your monthly meet-up for singles who own hamsters.


Join classes, clubs, and workshops

Seriously, check out the online calendar for your local library, and you might be surprised to find that libraries offer a wide range of free classes, clubs, writing workshops, author signings, meet ups, mixers, and so on. The New York Public Library alone offers more than 93,000 programs on everything from knitting to coding, for kids and adults of every conceivable age and expertise.


Request books from other libraries

Sometimes you might look up a book in your library's catalog, only to discover that it's missing/checked out/unavailable. But, rather than weeping over your keyboard, you can actually request a book from your librarian. Many libraries will order the book from another library for you or, if there have been enough requests, obtain the book for their own permanent collection.


Print tax info and legal forms

Legal forms! Exciting, right? Well, it might not be the sexiest service that the library offers, but if you don't own a printer it's an invaluable resource. The library will print any vital tax paperwork or other legal forms for you, and even help you fill them out if you're completely stumped.


Get career counseling

The free classes vary from library to library, but almost every library will have some form of career counseling. Get someone to look over your resume, or help you figure out where to apply. The library also offers a lot of resources for non-citizens to figure out their work options, and frequently hosts job fairs and recruitment events.


Get free tickets to museums, concerts, and festivals

A lot of libraries offer free museum passes, as well as free tickets to local events. Seriously, just walk up and ask if your library is offering any free passes or tickets at the moment. And of course, most fun events hosted by the library are going to be free for everyone.


Make the most of that free wi-fi

Coffee shop full? Can't concentrate at home between your five chatty roommates and the people upstairs renovating their kitchen? Hightail it to the library with your laptop, and get some work done with all that sweet, sweet free wi-fi.


Talk to the librarian!

Librarians are your friend! They want you to get the most out of the library! If you're curious about how to find a book that's not in stock, or how to sign up for a class, or how the library can help you feel better about your recent break up, just ask. Librarians are full of book recommendations and library secrets. They'll be happy to help you, as long as you're not being too loud.