Your local library is much more than just a place to read. A library can be your escape, your home and even your source of education.
Librarians are highly educated professionals that take their job very seriously, but they’re also humans who sometimes make mistakes. Check out these funny librarian confessions.
Free Internet Access
Whether you need to use a public computer with high-speed Internet, borrow a Chromebook and WiFi hotspot device, or learn how to use computers and the internet, your library has what you need. Unlike cable or phone companies, many libraries provide free Internet access to everyone. This access can help people with e-government services like paying taxes or applying for benefits, staying connected to family and friends, navigating healthcare, and more. It is considered a human right to have Internet access, and it’s a vital part of a strong economy and community.
Library computers have Google Chrome with “plug-in” enhancements, Microsoft Office Word, Excel, and Publisher, plus JAWS screen reader software for visually impaired users. The Internet workstations also offer the full range of Web resources including full-text databases, government information, social media sites and educational games for children.
Patrons may save files from workstation desktops to personal data storage devices (USB or other) during their session, but the Library does not guarantee the safety of these items. Files downloaded to library computers are deleted at the end of each session.
Patrons are expected to follow Library Internet guidelines and policies, which are available at each library location. The Library reserves the right to limit or terminate a patron’s Internet session at any time for violations of the policies, or when a patron’s behavior is disruptive or dangerous to others. There are many types of information resources on the Internet, and some of this material is inappropriate in a public setting shared by people of all ages. The Library seeks to balance the rights of all customers to access all types of information with respect for the sensibilities of all ages.
Ebooks have become a popular way to read, but many people don’t know that their local libraries offer free ebooks. Many libraries partner with Overdrive, which lets users access millions of titles for free. All you need is a library card and an e-reader or tablet, and your library will have the latest bestsellers available for download. Depending on your device, you may need to install an app like Kindle or Adobe Digital Editions before reading.
For readers who prefer audiobooks, Libby also allows you to borrow free e-books and eaudiobooks with your library card. The Libby mobile app provides easy reading and listening on any smartphone, tablet, or computer. You can even download eaudiobooks to your device for offline reading. Libby partners with over 45,000 libraries, so you’re likely to find your local selections there.
If you’re looking for a little more variety, try Open Library, which offers free e-books that have entered the public domain. You can browse or search for books, poetry, short stories, and plays on this online database. Alternatively, you can choose from thousands of full-text books on Project Gutenberg, a volunteer effort to digitize cultural works and distribute them as free eBooks in long-lasting formats. This site includes full-text versions of classic literature, as well as more modern texts by authors like Mark Twain and Edgar Allan Poe.
For those who don’t want to read on a screen, the Book and Bed is less of a hotel than it is a bookstore and reading lounge. Guests can stay up all night and enjoy the quiet and comfort of the space, which is meant to encourage reading and creativity.
Your local library isn’t just a place to check out physical media, it may also be your ticket to free streaming movies. Almost all libraries subscribe to the Kanopy film service, which provides patrons with access to more than 30,000 ad-free movies and educational videos. You need a library card to create a Kanopy account, and you’ll receive “play credits” each month to watch videos on the platform. Each video uses one credit, and once it’s used up, you have three days to watch another. The service launched last year, and New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library were among the first to offer it to their cardholders. Queens Public Library joined the party later that year, and NYCPL taught classes on how to use it as recently as this week. Kanopy’s pricing structure made it too expensive for both NYPL and BKPL to continue using the service, and they announced this morning that it will be shuttering July 1.
Many library cardholders are familiar with OverDrive’s book app Libby, but your local branch may also offer free streaming or downloads through its own app or website. The exact content varies by library, but it may include popular films and shows, documentaries, and even educational and cultural archive footage. The Kansas City Public Library, for example, offers a 7-day trial to IndieFlix, a streaming service for independent movies, and Naxos Video Library, which lets patrons stream classic music performances, opera, ballet, and live orchestral concerts. The collection focuses on primary source media, so most titles have either an educational or historical lean.
Whether you’re on the road or in the office, audiobooks can make the time go by faster while keeping you entertained. And you’re likely to find a wide selection at your local library. But did you know that some online services offer free audiobooks as well?
Some of these sites also offer other media like videos, podcasts and courses as well. Some of them are a little pricier than the free options, but you can try out a free trial before committing.
OverDrive and its mobile-focused sister app Libby are two of the most popular services that work with local libraries. They provide free access to the top bestsellers, audiobooks and more using a library card. You can download an OverDrive or Libby app and connect to your library’s catalog manually, or let the app do it for you via location sharing.
LibriVox offers a huge library of free, public domain audiobooks – including classics like War and Peace and Anne of Green Gables. The site is run by volunteers and the audio quality varies. You can stream the titles or download them in MP3 format.
StoryNory offers free, clearly read audiobooks for kids. The library features stories by authors like Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling, fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm and Aesop and myths from around the world. The site also features music, poems and songs.
Another popular option is Reedsy Discovery, which specializes in indie books. This website has a large selection of fiction and nonfiction books that are free to listen to in exchange for a review. Reviews are a huge deal for indie authors, so this is an easy way to support them.
Free Meeting Space
Most libraries have meeting rooms available for free to non-profit groups. You can reserve a room online through the library’s system or in person at any service desk. Rooms are reserved in one hour blocks on a first come, first serve basis. Meetings are required to end in sufficient time to vacate the room before closing. Groups must provide their own refreshments and clean up after use. Nothing may be taped, tacked or stapled to the walls in the meeting rooms. Meeting rooms are not available for private parties or for profit-making or commercial activities. For more information, see your library’s meeting room policy.
Almost every library has an organization called the Friends, who work to support the library with funds and volunteering. Volunteering is a great way to learn more about the library, and to see what goes into making it run smoothly. Plus, you’ll have a new appreciation for all of the things your library does for your community, and be able to promote those services to others!
Most libraries have a gift shop with neat book gear, and many have book sales that are great for finding deals. You can also support the library by voting, contacting your reps, and watching your local legislation like a hawk. Finally, spread the word about the library – talk to friends and neighbors about the things you love about it, Instagram your book stacks, check in on Yelp, and tell everyone that the library is worth $30 per year in taxes! You can even become a member of the Friends to help support the library and get cool stuff.