10 Things to do at a Library that Don’t Involve Renting Books
Libraries have long stood as a cornerstone of neighborhoods across the world, offering access to books and other resources for entertainment in addition to research purposes. In their continuing devotion to nurturing a love of reading and knowledge in the citizenry, many have expanded their offerings beyond the ability to rent books. Some newer features embrace technological advances, while others provide free services blending education and enjoyment. No matter what extras these libraries offer, all of them continue the tradition of intellectually and creatively stimulating their respective communities.
- 1. Access digital media : In addition to the usual databases filled with millions of journal articles, libraries across the world have expanded their virtual offerings in order to keep up with new media trends and advances. MP3s, WMAs, and iPod-compatible audiobooks from a broad spectrum of genres are all available for download or streaming. eBooks have also been made available as well, either for reading online or as a download to a portable device such as Kindle or the iPhone. Some even offer videos of children's books that blend the illustrations with narration to replicate traditional storytimes. And with an automated checkout and check in system, users entirely dismiss the fear of late fines.
2. Have coffee: Literature and coffee share an undeniably intimate connection, and many libraries celebrate this revered union with their own shops and cafés. Such measures serve the dual purpose of generating much-needed extra revenue as well as catering to the interests of those who prefer flavoring their mochas with a little Murakami. They also act as an alternative study space for students and other researchers wanting immediate access to information and data while under the influence of a generously stimulating caffeine jolt.
3. Take a computer class : Because of their status as an integral aspect of communities everywhere, libraries seek to empathize with and address the various stresses and complaints of their patrons. With technology advancing at an alarmingly rapid clip, it comes as no surprise that many individuals – most especially seniors - find themselves intimidated by computers, software, and the associated peripherals. As a result, many libraries have opened up their computer labs and stations to teaching free courses in Microsoft Office, the internet, HTML, and other basics as a means of helping people assuage their reservations and anxieties regarding technology. These classes also help grant established workers and those eagerly seeking employment a much-needed résumé boost as well.
4. Entertain children. : Not surprisingly, libraries seek to instill their core values of knowledge and curiosity in children while they still remain impressionable and open to new ideas. They accomplish this by hosting a slew of educational and fun events specially tailored to appeal to kids and their interests. Parents can take children to regularly scheduled storytimes, where librarians read books out loud and play games or organize activities around subject matter relating to that day's featured book. Storytime makes for a fun, stimulating, and no-pressure introduction to recognizing and analyzing themes, characters, symbols, and other literary devices that children will face later on in their schooling. Most libraries also host summer programs, offering prizes, certificates, coupons, and other incentives to children based on how many books they read during their break from school. Best of all, these services come entirely free of charge, allowing parents to keep their children's attentions occupied in a safe, educational environment without having to worry about denting the pocketbook.
5. Rent movies and music : Libraries have carried documentaries and other educational or instructional films and videos for decades now, but recently many have expanded into carrying mainstream movies as well. While they frequently lag when it comes to offering very new releases, most of them offer a back catalogue brimming with DVDs of classic, foreign, and older contemporary films. They also carry many television shows and specials as well. Likewise, many libraries stock an impressive amount of music to check out as well. As with movies, they may be slow to acquire recently released albums, but will not balk at offering the back catalogues of popular, independent, and obscure artists alike, either. In defense of the First Amendment, several libraries take no issue with renting music with controversial lyrics, allowing parents to personally discern what they do and do not deem appropriate listening for their children.
6. Entertain young adults : Like their children's programs, libraries also offer after school and evening events centering on the needs and interests of young adults. They tend to emphasize a more eclectic variety of activities than the more youthful counterparts, with art or craft classes, book clubs, fiction and poetry workshops, video and board game nights, and cultural exchanges ranking as some of the most popular events. Some have even hosted dance lessons and poetry slams targeted towards young adults as well. For parents concerned about their teenager's safety and overall mental, emotional, and physical well-being, these programs offer wholesome entertainment that seeks to engage and educate rather than exploit or isolate.
7. Join a book club : Library activities are not solely relegated to the entertainment and education of children and adolescents. Many also host book clubs for adults, sometimes forming different groups for different genres so fans of one don’t have to slog through the others to find a title that piques their interest. With a librarian assisting in the selection process, the featured reads come recommended based more on merit rather than popularity – a welcome solace for anyone who cringes over empty celebrities or talk show hosts proselytizing about dodgy, flavor-of-the-month novels with little regard to actual content or literary style. Some may even supplement discussions with lectures or workshops regarding themes and subjects similar to the current read. Book clubs make for an excellent, economical way to make new friends, get exposed to some great literature, and learn how to become a more informed, analytical, and intelligent reader in the process.
8. Take an SAT or ACT Practice Exam : Scourge of college-bound high school students across the United States, the SAT and ACT exams require an exhausting amount of study in order to master. While practice tests can be found online and on the shelves, many students are opting to take advantage of library programs offering free or heavily discounted run-throughs of the real thing. Occasionally accompanied by a prep course, these practice exams replicate the quiet, restrained experience of taking a standardized test without the distractions inherent in the computer or book versions available at home.
9. Attend a job fair : In light of layoffs, unemployment, and other hallmarks of a crumbling economy, libraries have been hosting job fairs for struggling locals to network with other professionals and employers. Every opportunity to learn of new openings and meet with potential connections ought to be explored, and taking advantage of the library’s services opens up so many valuable doors. Some counties also offer complimentary classes on writing striking cover letters and résumés and interview etiquette to help their patrons gain an advantage when trying to re-enter the work force. Interested parties may also want to supplement their job search with the aforementioned computer classes, as it means one more admirable trait to add onto a list of skills. As a necessary component of a healthy community, the library provides a number of valuable resources and services for its friends and neighbors to get back on their feet as quickly as possible.
10. Book a meeting room : Most libraries have a conference room or two available to rent, either for free or a small fee - some may even check out AV equipment and peripherals for presentations as well. Many local chapters of national organizations and charities elect to convene at libraries due to their convenient proximity to potentially necessary information and free wi-fi connections. Whether or not a library chooses to allow business meetings varies from county to county, but in the event money is to change hands in order to take advantage of their resources, at least it all goes back into the community.
In spite of offering a wide variety of valuable services, activities, projects, and events, many people still view libraries as merely a means of renting books and nothing more. However, these treasured institutions have deftly adapted to shifts in technology and patron interests in order to both expand their role in society as well as preserve their allegiance to the pursuit of knowledge and education. Whether they provide safe entertainment for teenagers, computer lessons for the elderly, or employment assistance and placement for the harried jobless, every auxiliary activity these libraries host helps to reinforce and stabilize the backbone of their surrounding communities.