10 Awesome Things Libraries Offer That You Probably Didn’t Know About

10 Cool Things You Probably Didn't Know Libraries Offer

The twenty-first-century library remains a beloved American institution, according to a Gallup poll that showed that visiting libraries was by far the most common cultural activity in 2019. In this Gallup poll, visiting the library even outstripped going to the movies. 

Libraries, by their very nature, are particularly important in education. Librarians will tell you that some of their greatest resources – money-saving, timesaving resources – go underutilized because patrons simply don’t know they exist. But no more!

Here are 10 services you might not know that libraries offer:

1. Audiobooks

Audiobooks are booming in popularity right now, and a lot of that has to do with ease of access. Gone are the days of books on tape or CD – now, audiobooks are downloadable right into phones or other devices, making them easy to listen to in the car, while folding laundry, while showering, or while at the gym. Subscriptions to audiobook services cost about $15 a month; libraries give you this service for free. To check out and download audiobooks, most libraries require you to use an app like Hoopla or Libby. Once you download the app, simply log-in with your library card number and browse the audio offerings. If you’re new to this system and unsure about which app to download, call your local librarian and they will walk you through it. It’s easy and a huge money-saver. 

2. Movies

Like Redbox, but free! Libraries offer several formats for movie checkouts. First, you can check out physical DVDs from all your local library branches, take them home, pop them into the DVD player and enjoy with popcorn for a homemade movie night. Also, apps like Hoopla, mentioned above in the audiobook section of this article, allow you to download and watch movies and TV shows.

Lots of libraries also give patrons access to Kanopy, which allows users to watch classic films, indie films, and documentaries from their computers at home. 

3. Interlibrary loan

Most libraries have multiple branches in their system, and some are connected via consortium to even more branches in neighboring communities. Using the online card catalog, library cardholders can search the collections of other libraries in their system for the perfect book, audiobook, movie, or magazine. Patrons can place a hold on an item, and then the item is shipped – for free – to your home library, where you can then pick it up and use it just like usual. Some libraries even use a service called WorldCat, where patrons can request to have a particular title brought in from another library elsewhere in the country. 

4. Cultural Passes

Many public libraries offer cultural passes for patrons to check out. Cultural passes are basically tickets that get pass holders into local cultural destinations for free. Destinations can include aquatic centers, gardens, museums, and more. Passes operate just like books, though they usually have shorter checkout periods before they become due so that even more patrons can take advantage of such a great freebie.

5. Borrow “things”

A little-known secret about libraries is that they don’t just let patrons check out books and digital materials. Many are now hosting “libraries of things,” which allow patrons to check out, use, and return physical items, all for free. The Tillamook County Library in Oregon has a seed library, where community members can grab seed packets each spring to plant in their gardens. The Pierce County Library System in Washington State allows users to check out a hiking backpack filled with binoculars, field guides, state park maps, and a Discover Pass that gets the holder into state parks for free through its Check Out Washington program. The Fletcher Free Library in Burlington, Vermont has a Library of Non-Traditional Things that contains items like musical instruments, tools, outdoor games, sports equipment, and baking supplies. 

6. Food pantries

Some community libraries have paired up with local food banks to help distribute food to those who may need it in their communities. Libraries are safe havens in communities where folks who need a warm room and a place to rest may find respite. Now, many are going a step further by stocking mini food pantries from which people may take needed food items.

7. Digitizing and archiving

Check with your local library to see if they offer digitizing and archiving services to help preserve precious memories. The Toledo Lucas Public Library in Ohio, for example, offers patrons an extensive list of digitizing and archiving services including VHS to DVD converters, studio equipment to record audio and video, GoPros and cameras to check out, editing software to use, and more. They will even digitize print materials such as yearbooks. Students in classes such as newspaper, yearbook, and broadcast journalism, in particular, will find a wealth of resources to support classroom curriculum. 

8. Test prep

Students preparing for college entrance exams may want to check out their local library’s test prep resources. They often have digital and print copies of test prep materials including sample tests. The Boston Public Library, for example, has “test preparation materials and practice exams for K-12 subjects, high school equivalency, college, and graduate admissions, military, U.S. citizenship, and professional licensing and certification exams,” according to its website.

9. Reserve study and meeting rooms

Students looking to work on group projects or study for upcoming tests may be interested in the ability to reserve a private meeting room or study space for a couple hours at a time. Libraries often host community meetings, book clubs, and study groups, all of which can be housed in library study rooms. These rooms can be cozy but are often equipped with tables, chairs, and a white board. 

10. Book Club kits

Libraries love book clubs, and some offer Book Club Kits, which contain multiple copies of a single book (often 10-15 books) plus a discussion guide to guide club conversations. Kits are typically checked out to a single patron, who then distributes books to club members. The Santa Clara County Library in California currently has kits for books like White Fragility, So You Want to Talk About Race, Circe, 1984, and The Goldfinch.


10 Awesome Things Libraries Offer That You Probably Didn't Know About

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Veteran Legend

I am an unrepentant lover of words - and lucky me, I spend all day, every day immersed in them. When I'm not teaching, I'm reading. Or writing. Or teaching eager (and sometimes not-so-eager) adolescents about the power of the written word. I live on the scenic Oregon Coast with my dog, two cats, and five-year-old son.

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