As not-so-wealthy college students, my husband and I fell in love with our local library for free entertainment, as well as some good lessons in delayed gratification (waiting and waiting for the new release instead of rushing out to buy it). I'll assume most of you use your local library, but do you use it to the fullest? Here are some tips and tricks to get the most out of your library.
Use the online reservation system. For the hot new best-seller or the old favorite. Either way, it's awesome to get an email telling you your book is available for pickup. I fear my kids will never learn their way around a library via the Dewey Decimal system, but convenience like this can't be beat!
More than just novels. So you aren't into the NY Times Bestseller list? Then check out your library's music selection, their DVD collection, or their magazines. (Our library just started allowing year old magazines to be checked out instead of languishing in the reference section.) What about activity kits in the children's section, with books, music, puppets and other activities?
Avoid late charges. Does your library have alternate drop-box locations? I find it quite handy to drop my books off at the grocery store! Or, if I'm not going to make it to the library or the drop-box, I renew my books online.
Take advantage of programs offered. Story Time is a classic toddler rite of passage, but many libraries offer so much more. Does your library offer a lecture series? Not only will The Hunger Games be featured this week at mine, but there is also some yoga instruction being offered. Keep up with the library calendar and enrich your life.
Access databases. Even if you're beyond required college research, online database access can still be valuable. Read up on things that interest you in scholarly journals, newspaper archives or magazine articles. Retrieve legal forms, download audiobooks, or search for scholarship money. My personal favorite: read Consumer Reports online for free through my library's subscription (reviews from a source I trust!). See what your library offers.
Become a pro. This past fall, a friend taught herself to knit, and quite proficiently, almost entirely from library resources. She had books, magazines, audiobooks and patterns all at her disposal. There is something satisfying about checking out a whole stack of books on one topic and reading your way to knowledge. Are you interested in cars? Horses? Chocolate? Paris? Cooking Indian food? Quilting? Economics? I'm sure your library has enough reading on these subjects to keep you busy for a while.
Use their space. I was intrigued by an article in the February 2011 Martha Stewart Living magazine. This craft group uses space at the New York Public library to hold their "Crafternoons." According to the website for my local library, public meeting space is offered for "responsible not-for-profit organizations and groups." I think me and my gal pals qualify! Check with your library for their offerings, policies and scheduling.
So, if you thought libraries were just about books, I hope you've had your eyes opened to some more possibilities. Start at your local library's website and see what you can find. Anything awesome your library offers that I missed? Did you learn of any new resources at your disposal?
Photo by Ashley Gammill. My husband and I love the library so much, we used it for a backdrop at a photo shoot last year.