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Librarian Secrets for How to Get The Most Out of Your Library — It’s Not Just for Books!

Utilize all the library services and resources for free!

Any bookworm will sing the library’s praises, but there are secrets about the book haven few know about. It’s the best place to get new releases, your favorite nostalgic titles or books for the little ones in your life. The best part is, you don’t have to spend any money! However, as great as it is to read and check out books, that’s not the only thing libraries offer. To bring you up to speed on the best library services, FIRST went straight to the librarians themselves. Keep reading to learn more about library secrets and why you should be spending more time at your local branch.

What does the library offer besides books?

According to Emily Drabinski, president of the American Library Association, “Libraries are constantly expanding and evolving beyond traditional roles and delivering new services in new ways — from a Library of Things to mobile technology labs to vibrant maker spaces.”

What is a Library of Things?

While these public institutions are mainly known for lending out books, libraries offer much more nowadays including a “Library of Things,” a term Drabinski dubbed for “a special collection of nontraditional items available for loan from a library.” This can be anything from musical instruments to seeds and gardening supplies and even things like Roku streaming services or video and board games.

“Most public libraries provide access to magazines, online access to news sites like the New York Times, streaming videos, audiobooks, and more,” adds Nicole Branch, Dean of the University Library at Santa Clara University. “Many people don’t know that public libraries often offer museum and park passes. “

The library has free programs for all ages

“In addition to all of our circulating items, we have programs, like book clubs, lectures, and more to suit whatever folks are interested in,” says Zoe Stein, senior outreach librarian at the Fremont Public Library in Mundelein, Illinois. She hosts two book clubs, but is also in charge of trivia nights and handing out crafts each month for patrons to take home.

Libraries are some of the only places these days that allow you to sit, hang out and participate in events and services for free. Stein notes that everything is designed for the public. “I think a lot of folks think that we just have books, and yes, we do,” says Stein. “But we’re so much more than that — we’re a community hub, a space for people to go that’s open and welcoming.”

School libraries offer important life skills

Speaking of all ages, school libraries in primary schools and even colleges are just as essential as public libraries. They give children a chance to learn new skills and immerse themselves in the community. Summit Road STEM Elementary in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, is a student-run library. “1st through 5th graders can apply to be Student Librarians,” explains Rhonda Eberst, a librarian at Summit Road STEM Elementary. “They run the circulation desk, check books out to their friends and even make recommendations.”

“In addition to books, school libraries provide students with guidance in areas like digital citizenship, research skills and digital literacy,” says Sarah Stanely, a librarian at St. Timothy’s School in Raleigh, North Carolina. These areas set students up to stay safe online and become responsible researchers later in life.

Libraries provide a sense of community

Anyone who believes libraries are only meant for solo reading adventures needs to think twice. “Libraries provide opportunities for social connection, job-seeking support, specialized services for entrepreneurs and small business owners, and disaster response, such as serving as cooling centers during times of extreme heat,” says Branch.

You can easily access technology, print out resumes, or research information for specific projects as well. Some libraries even have events for singles depending on where you live. “Libraries, of all sizes and types, offer a variety of classes and services to serve the needs of their community,” adds Drabinski.

Librarians are the backbone

Librarian by bookshelves

Without librarians, libraries wouldn’t be nearly as successful as they are. Librarians are so much more than book people. While they do love to read (most of the time!), it’s far from the only thing they do. “My day-to-day involves ordering books for the collection, but it also involves planning programs and outreach events, maintaining the collections I’m in charge of, and working the desk as assigned,” says Stein. She also does tech help, home deliveries to those who can’t make it to the library and updates digital materials that patrons use regularly.

Stanely agrees and adds that school librarians are a valuable resource as well. “They can be curriculum resources for teachers, recommending books for class use, pointing teachers towards quality research resources and supporting classroom research projects.”

How to support your local library

Libraries are truly one of the most important places a town can have. Drabinski encourages people to “support their local public library by getting a library card, checking out books and materials as well as utilizing its resources.” Word of mouth is never bad either and talking about the library as a positive institution can help keep them standing for future generations.

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