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Library Hacks: How to Get the Most Out of Your Public Library

Lanecia enjoys writing in an effort to inspire others. She has a master's degree in Library and Information Science from Kent State.


Today's library is the place to go check out tools, utilize information, and transform your physical document into a digital masterpiece.

Over recent years, there has been a major shift in the way libraries provide services, resources, and technology all over the world.

With the accelerating days of digital technology upon us, libraries find it important to engage with the needs of communities and provide an inviting experience for all.

Ever went to the library and wished you had a built-in GPS device to assist you? Well, you are not alone.

You may not know about the many services you have at your disposal when you get a library card from your local public library.

As a library employee myself, I too get lost sometimes in the vast collections and services of many libraries. But don't let the abundance of information deter you from engaging in all that libraries have to offer.

Here are some ways you can engage.


Borrow From Online Collections

You don't have to step out in the middle of December's icy blizzard or July's heat waves. With a registered library card at your local library, you have various online digital media services at your disposal.

Hoopla, a digital library service, provides you with a vast collection of library material. Also available in app form, you can access your material in your car, on a plane, or just about anywhere you find yourself wanting to read a mystery or listen to the latest album.

Overdrive is also available for library users on the go. Also in app form, Overdrive provides digital library material to checkout online. Here you can watch, listen, read, and much more.

Freegal is another useful way to listen to your favorite music artist virtually anywhere. You can also find out when the latest album is coming out or what is popular this season. With one click of the download button on your iPad, or smartphone, you can have instant music for free.

These are only a few of the many services available to assist you in your hunt for online material and entertainment.

This is not to say that you should skip your frequent visits to the library, trust me there is much more to be excited about at the physical location.

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These apps are just in case you find yourself in need of entertainment on the go.

Also, check with your local library to find out if they have any other digital library service apps you can utilize on the go.

Ask for New Material

If it's the latest album, DVD, or Blue-ray you are looking for and don't want to shell out extra money or make the permanent commitment? Check out your local library for all of the newest material.

Not available at your local library? No need to worry. Most of the time material not available at the current time may be ordered in advance for you.

Some public ibraries also offer book sales where you can find books of many genres, CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray, and more. Be sure to ask about upcoming book sales at your library. These sales benefit the community and provide an abundance of services and resources for all to utilize.


Continue Your Education

Most libraries offer classes and workshops where you can utilize information such as writing tips, resume help, and ways to own a home.

There are thousands of classes you can take, which could be in person or online if you have access to platforms such as:

  • Rosetta Stone is now available at some libraries for learning a new language. All you need is a library card to get started and you're ready to become a Spanish master!
  • Lynda is a library learning database, that provides free college-level courses for free, all online. You can master just about anything on your own schedule.
  • Gale is another way to learn online anytime and anyplace. In some subject areas, you can even become certified. With your library card and a few clicks, you can learn a new skill in no time.

Don't forget about the free tutoring, learning kits, and educational storytimes for children. Most public libraries provide after-school tutoring for your little one, and some sessions are available at your time convenience. Storytimes are often year-round for babies and toddlers which could foster an appreciation of literacy and social skills. Learning kits may be available for educators and parents who wish to teach children about certain topics using interactive activities.

Did you know you may also have access to hundreds of online databases? This is especially good news for those who have an interest in scholarly information.

Ask your librarian about ways to gain access to these resources and more!


Process and Collect Documents

There are public libraries where you can take a passport photo at a discounted rate. In addition to this, public libraries may also provide other passport services as well.

Be sure to ask about the copying, scanning, and fax services. Often services may be provided free of charge.

Many libraries also offer free tax information as well as ways to find housing or apply for jobs.

Contact your local library to find out if these services and resources are available.


Try Out Technology

Want to try out the latest iPad or tablet without the hefty cost? Sometimes, smart devices are available for checkout or for use while in the library.

Also, If you are looking to buy a computer, go to the library and ask about the technology they use.

Libraries must have their computers and other tech machines up to date for users on a daily basis, so quality is a must.

It will give you a good insight on what machines are best to buy for home or office use. Patron computers may also offer the latest software programs you can try out before buying as well.

While embarking on your tech hunt, don't forget to ask about the makerspaces, recording studio, portable Wi-fi devices, and other fascinating tech innovations at your library.

Some libraries even offer virtual reality and photo booths for an even more stimulating experience.

So, stop by get your library card, and embark on a new exciting tech adventure.


Play Games

Want to play the newest games but don't want to shell out the extra cash? Today most libraries provide games to check out free of charge with your library card.

The varieties are endless, so if you are looking for games for your gaming system, check with your local library to see what's offered.

Gaming turns virtual at some public libraries. Depending on the type of public library, there may also be spaces dedicated to the gaming experience.

Educational games for toddlers and children may also be available for checkout. Most come with complete sets so that you have all you need for an engaging experience.


Occupy Space

Want to hold a meeting or event but have nowhere to meet? Meeting rooms are sometimes available free of charge as well.

If you are trying to conduct a class or business meeting, check with your closest library to see if they can offer any empty space; you may reserve a room for free!


Be Entertained

If you are ever in need of a musical getaway, contact your local library to inquire about the types of entertainment they provide.

If you're a fan of exhibits and wish to see exceptional works of art or informational showcases, libraries create displays featuring wonderful statues and meaningful collections. Some are even interactive, so you can have a more engaging experience.

The library also offers many workshops that are tailored to meet the needs of children and adults of all ages.

Children can learn to make crafts and play with all types of STEM and Makerfaire technology to boost their learning potential.

Adults can learn new skills of all trades and play with super cool gadgets that can also enhance many aspects of life.

It gives everyone something fun to do and makes for a meaningful learning experience.

Become a Friend

Become a friend and support your local library to gain additional library opportunities. You'll be invited to many special events and programs where you can meet and interact with other supporters in the community.

You can also apply for a "friends of the library" membership such as this one. Keep in mind that there may be a small annual fee.

Your membership helps with new books, movies, programs and a wide range of useful resources for those of us who love to utilize the magical world of information.

You will also be helping many children have access to valuable material and services to brighten their future.

Also, look forward to discounts on merchandise and/or services from your library's gift shop and any affiliates.


Not only is the library a place for checking out books, it's the ultimate place to learn and grow!

It's also the place of endless possibilities for all.

So take the time out and engage in the services and materials that your library has to offer, or any library for that matter.

I hope these hacks will be helpful to you in your experience of the library.

"Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, great libraries build communities."

— R. David Lankes

© 2016 Lanecia Smith

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