Getting the Most Out of Your Library

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I'm feeling so much love for my workplace that I felt I should dedicate a post to all the wondrous things you can find at your local library...some of which you may not have been aware of. I definitely want to include the caveat that your local library may not have all of these programs/items available...but my small military library does, so chances are yours might too...and if not, ask your librarian about it. Generally speaking, most library workers love talking about their facility, and will go out of their way to make sure you're happy.

If you haven't been inside a library in awhile (shame on you!) you may be surprised to find it isn't the hushed sacred stacks environment of yore. Well, that is unless your "local" library happens to be of the large academic variety, in which case it may be a bit more conservative. But most libraries, in an effort to stay relevant and continue to receive funding, have taken on the roll of community center...so the noise level can get up there, especially if there is a kid's program taking place. The stereotype of bun wearing old ladies with glasses, shhhh-ing you if you so much as mumble is no longer relevant. Most librarians work very hard to keep current on local trends, and really don't want to make folks terrified to walk into the building. It sort of defeats the purpose.

Now that I've got you inside the doors, let me introduce you to some lesser known items or programs you might find.
  • Interlibrary Loans: If you walk into your library just dying to check out a specific book, and they don't have it...please ask at the circulation desk if they do Interlibrary Loans. Basically your local library will "borrow" your book from another library, and you will pick it up and return it to them. This is a magical program, in my opinion. It means I can go through my "To Read" list on Goodreads, whether we have the item in my library or not. Libraries only have so much space...but they are normally more than happy to try and get an item in for you if you want it. This works best for books at least 6 months in publication because most libraries don't want to lend out their hottest bestsellers. Sometimes if they can't get it in ILL, and it's a recent book, they will just order it to add to their collection...just to accommodate you. It's like magic!
  • Zinio magazines: FREE MAGAZINES ONLINE. I'm not sure that I have to do the hard sell on this one. But, I have always been a huge fan of magazines. My husband, on the other hand, isn't a big fan of my magazine piles laying all over the house. Enter online magazines. The library I work at offers this program for FREE, all you have to do is make your account through our website. Zinio offers TONS of magazines which you can read from your computer or other electronic device. These are new magazines, and not just strange titles you've never heard of. I'm talking Runner's World, Esquire, O Magazine, ESPN, Allure, Outside, Parents, GQ, Architectural Digest and Seasonal Home Magazines. Now, not all libraries have this, but it's worth asking.
  • Overdrive: Through Overdrive you have access to free Ebooks, Audiobooks and Videos all accessible on your computer or electronic device (I use my Kindle, but I know they have an app for your smartphone). You can check out items just like you would at your local library, for a set amount of time, and when the checkout period is over with...poof, it is taken off your device (you get a warning email beforehand). Most libraries will have slightly different titles on Overdrive than they have in their actual facility. I have a friend who listens to audiobooks when she runs, and asked online recently for tips on getting more books to listen to at a cheaper price. More than a few mentioned Overdrive at the library. The plethora of free audiobooks you can download (sorry Audible) from the library makes it a valuable resource. They even have exercise DVD's available...how cool is that? 
  • Tutor.com: My library offers the use of Tutor.com for FREE with your library card. This means homework help for your kid, or you, at the touch of your hands. It may not be free at a regular public library, but I know the service is free for military...whether a military kid, or active duty/reserves. I know a lot of my readers are affiliated with the military, but I don't know that everyone got the memo we offer this service. Tutor.com has homework help by REAL PEOPLE...not a computer program. I have a coworker whose daughters use this fairly regularly...and have had nothing but good to say about the website. If you're not military...ask your librarian. 
  • Language Programs: If you, or someone in your family, are interested in learning a foreign language, you can find many helpful resources at your library. At mine we offer CD/DVD programs to check out (your Pimsleur/Rosetta Stone type resource)...but we also offer an online program called Transparent Languages. You sign up in the library, and then can use the website from anywhere. Terrific additional resource if you or your child are taking a language course, or traveling to a foreign country. 
  • DVD's: This one is simple. My library gets new release DVD's every week...just like Redbox, only FREE. We have the latest children's animated programs, documentaries and blockbusters. I know some libraries charge a nominal fee for the program, but ours is free. AND, if there is one coming out in the future you can't wait to get your hands on, we may even order it for you! Because chances are, if you want it enough to request it...someone else will probably be interested in watching also. With more people getting rid of cable, I think not using the library as a source of entertainment would be a shame. 
  • Programs: Okay, this is an area that will vary tremendously depending on where you are located, but my library offers a plethora of programs for every age range. We have weekly Story Time's for the little munchkins (today I did a fabulous Pirate Story Time, complete with eye patches for the kiddos!) which include a few stories and a craft. Once a month we have a large kid's program, with different varying themes. We have done Star Wars, Frozen, Christmas, a Valentine's Prom, Field Day, etc. Sometimes we even do a Puppet Show, which the kiddos LOVE. My library has monthly book clubs for elementary age on up to adult. We have a chess club for all ages. We offer an adult craft club, which does different Pinterest style crafts every month. Game day sees different games for all ages on tables throughout the library. OH, and we have a Lego Table for kids to play with, and often hold Lego creation contests. We have also done teen/adult programs for Doctor Who, Marvel, Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, with much success. Like I said, different libraries will have different programs, but you can bet their calendar is pretty full.
So, if you are still thinking of the Library as a place to just check out books, stop by your local one sometime soon and see what they have to offer. I think you might be surprised!
(I feel like I should say, this public service announcement brought to you by copious amounts of wine and a very healthy love for my job!!)

Let me know if your library offers any of these services, or others I may not have mentioned. I am always curious what other libraries are doing! Let me know in the comments here or over on my Facebook Page

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