I absolutely adore libraries, and in the past few years I’ve been a member of four awesome libraries. But it wasn’t until recently that I started to realize all of the amazing services they offered. From digital tools like free streaming and music downloads to actual power tools and musical instruments, libraries around the country are getting creative with what they have available for patrons. Now that I have the 411 on all of this cool stuff, I’m using my library more than ever. Not every library will have the same services, but it is worth taking a look, you may be surprised. Here are my tips on how to get the most from your local library:
- Holds, holds, holds. One of the keenest pleasures of going to the library for a book is browsing, unbothered through the stacks and stacks of books. But if you are anything like me, that takes time that you don’t always have. Rather than forgoing your trip, put your book on hold and it will be right at the front of the library when you need it, waiting just for you.
If your library has multiple branches, holds can also help you utilize more of the books they have available (as well as DVD’s and even CD’s in many places). If you search for a book in the library catalogue you can choose books from other branches and have them delivered to your library to pick up. How convenient is that?
Sometimes you hear about a popular title, and have to wait forever on a holds list to get your hands on it. But, if you know in advance that an author you love is coming out with a new book, or have heard buzz about a hot new release, you can usually put it on hold ahead of the release date in the catalogue and beat the rush. To the top of the list you go!
- Check the website. This is the place where you can find what digital resources your library has to offer. Chances are, if you want to check out e-books, they will be available through services like Overdrive and 3M Cloud Library. In fact, 95% of American libraries now have e-books. Free services like Hoopla also allow you to stream movies, TV shows, and audiobooks. With the rise in popularity of audiobooks, more and more services are popping up to allow you to listen to books for free, wherever you like. Spending a few minutes browsing your library’s website will show you the many new ways you can experience you favorite stories.
Digital services don’t stop there though. Online magazine subscriptions, free, legal music downloads, and even Android apps are all possibilities. Right now I’m crushing on Freegal, a free music service from my library. It lets me download six songs a week, and has a great selection of new music and old favorites. For years my iPod has been filled with music that wasn’t always above reproof. And the sketchiness of my methods made me hesitant to update with the latest songs. But now my music library is full and happy again :).
- Don’t limit yourself to one library. You may be thinking that this all sounds great, but there’s no way your library has any of these cool services. While I would encourage you to give your hard-working librarians a chance, you’re right that not every town has the same resources. However, I have found that libraries are increasingly teaming up to bring you the best stuff. Several libraries I have joined are part of an e-book collective with other area libraries, allowing more cities to use the system. Plus, you can often join a neighboring town’s library by being a part of the same county.
Beyond all of these great options, there is always the interlibrary loan system. It lets you check out hard to find materials from other libraries in a network that can reach across entire states. If you are lost as to where to find a book, try looking it up in WorldCat, and maybe it’s closer than you think.
There is no one right way to use the library. If you still read only print books, or if you have gone totally digital, there are plenty of options for you to make the most of what your library offers. And while I hope you feel like you have learned a library hack or two, the best way to get the most out of your local library is to talk to our librarian. They are more than happy to help, and will be a wealth of knowledge.
Now it’s time to go forth and show libraries some love!