To many people, public libraries represent buildings full of books, nothing more. Libraries are where a person goes to look up information or borrow a novel, but if you’re not interested in reading, there’s no reason to visit one.
Many modern libraries buck this trend. They provide books, to be sure. They also offer many other types of resources and entertainment items and provide a central place for varied activities and services, almost all for free.
Here are eight valuable, free resources offered by many public libraries in America.
Like they do with books, many libraries now offer movies for checkout. The selection often matches that of a video store, with the difference being that you can check out movies for multiple nights for free.
The selection isn’t limited to dry documentaries. Libraries often acquire copies of newly released blockbusters, comedies, romances, dramas – anything you would find at your local Redbox or on Netflix – minus the cost.
Most libraries have a robust audiobook selection, which is a great option if you’re about to depart on a long road trip. They provide entertainment while allowing you to keep your eyes on the road.
As with their book selection, most libraries offer a wide variety of audiobooks of all kinds. You’ll find exciting fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, horror, literary fiction, mystery and romance. You’ll find nonfiction in all flavors, including biographies, military histories, business books, personal finance books and many others. If you have an interest, the library likely has an audiobook to match.
Libraries often provide a meeting place for community groups of all types, not just book clubs. While the selection might be limited at smaller libraries, larger libraries typically offer meetings for many kinds of groups, from political groups and discussion forums to youth groups and special-interest groups.
Many libraries have a number of meeting rooms set aside for just this purpose, closed off from the rest of the library, so people can converse without disturbing quiet spaces. You don’t have to keep your voice down at these meetings.
Libraries often have an auditorium in which public presentations are given on all kinds of topics. Visiting authors will present on the topic of their book. Politicians will hold public question-and-answer sessions. Local experts will talk about their specific area of expertise.
Most libraries keep a schedule of their free presentations on their websites. You can also stop in and pick up a printed copy if you prefer.
Many libraries have arrangements with local attractions, such as zoos, museums and theaters, to provide passes that can be “checked out” from the library. You simply stop by the library, check out a pass, just as you would with a book, then use that pass to visit the local attraction for free.
This is a great way for your family to visit a nearby museum, zoo, aquarium or other attraction of interest without the expense.
If you ever need to access the internet while traveling or when internet access is unavailable at home, check the local library. Almost all libraries offer free high-speed internet access to the community with little restriction on usage. Many libraries have computers available for use as well, which is perfect for checking a website or two.
Many larger libraries even offer an “internet help desk” service where they will answer questions and help people with internet-related difficulties.
A new feature in many libraries is tool and machine rental. Libraries offer patrons the ability to check out items that can be used to build or repair things at home.
Many larger libraries even have small “maker spaces” where volunteers offer classes on how to use various tools for making and repairing items.
Libraries are stepping into the digital era by offering the ability to check out e-books that you can read on your phone, tablet or home computer. Often, you can check these out without even visiting the library, as the checkout process is handled by an app or a website.
Many libraries use the OverDrive platform as a checkout service for e-books. Simply go to the app, choose the book you want and “check it out” for a number of days. It’s then available on your phone or tablet for your reading convenience.
Your local public library offers far more than just piles of dusty books. The next time you’re near the library, stop in for a while and see what it has on offer. You might just find yourself leaving with a new movie in hand or a new addition to your social calendar.