10 Surprising Things To Do At Your Local Library
Libraries are defining themselves in the current climate of library closures. The New Statesman reported on the declining number of libraries in the UK and quoted Ian Anstice, editor of Public Libraries News, on their benefits. “Libraries level the playing field between those who can afford all the books they want, and the rest, who can’t. That has a demonstrable impact on literacy, and that builds directly into skills.”
Libraries serve communities in ways you may not know. If you don’t use libraries you won’t see the lifeline they are too many people. I visit my local library several days a week and I see the same people time and again making use of its facilities. It may surprise you to know how many people do not have access to an electronic device and need public computers for everyday tasks. You can read about the library as a refuge in The Guardian.
I love libraries and not just because I am a librarian. Volunteering at two libraries every week I witness first hand their importance. Libraries are not just about books, they are so much more. I see a wealth of activities and initiatives happening, some of which I mention below. Libraries offer free resources, a sense of community and support for many people.
Below are events or resources you may find at your local library. Of course, each library is different. I would love to know what your local library offers. Let me know in the comments!
Free Wifi & Computer Classes
Local libraries have free wifi, so you can bring your own device or access one of the public computers. In my local area, libraries offer free IT classes where you can learn how to set up an email account, use a spreadsheet or learn the basics of navigating the Internet. You will find most libraries have space for you to take your own device and work. Or they may have rooms you can hire for group meetings, a conference call or workshops.
Free Family Activities
Participating in children’s activities at your local library is a great opportunity for you and your child to socialise with new people. You will probably find some or all of the following activities, rhyme and storytime, reading challenges, craft activities, board games, coding and building with lego. Some might even offer time to play video games like at Manchester Central Library.
Learn a New Language
Check out your local library to see what they offer in additional languages. Many will provide world language collections of books, newspapers and magazines. This will depend on the area you live in and the communities who live nearby. You may also find weekly classes offered by libraries to help you learn a new language with people from your own community. If you live in Edmonton, Canada you will find their libraries offer a wealth of resources in different languages.
Learn a New Skill
Libraries often host events to bring the local community together. Some offer classes for learning a new skill, though the variety usually depends on volunteers to run these classes. You may find weekly crochet, knitting, craft, card and board games, cooking, networking, gardening and charity events. All with members of your local community. You will also find access to online courses depending on what your local authority subscribes too.
Learn to Drive
In the UK you have to take a theory test before your practical driving test. There are many apps you can pay for, but did you know you can find Theory Test Pro on your local library website? Here is a list of UK libraries where you can access the test practice free, so long as you have a library card. I recently made use of this service myself and it helped me pass the theory test the first time!! Do libraries in other countries offer such a service? Let me know down below!
- Many libraries provide information for local history or genealogy research. Once at the library, you can access Ancestry and Find My Past free so you can research your family tree without having to pay out for expensive subscriptions. You can also find historic maps, census, newspapers and photos of your local area.
- Accessing academic journals and databases is expensive if you are not a student at a university or college. Browse your local library website to see what they have on offer. It may save you a lot of money! Remember you can also talk to your local librarian to help you find the right database or publications for you.
Free eBooks, Audio Books and Digital Magazines
If you don’t want to visit your library to read free books you can access them online. Many use services, such as Pressreader, Zinio, BorrowBox and OverDrive for you to download reading resources directly to your device. Perfect for travelling and for keeping the kids occupied. You can also borrow physical audiobooks or download them so you can listen to them on your commute, during a workout or while waiting for an appointment.
Most libraries run reading groups. If they don’t why not offer to run one at your local library. It is again a great way to meet new people as well as broaden your reading horizons. Check your library website for dates. You may find some libraries invite local authors to talk about their work.
As well as accessing online job websites from library public network computers, some libraries have job clubs. Here you can get knowledgeable advice and work on your CV and covering letter alongside others who are also job hunting.
DVDs and Music
Head to your local library to borrow DVDs, Blu-rays and CDs to use at home. You will find movies, tv shows, documentaries, educational and even exercise videos. Depending on the service offered by your library you can borrow CDs or stream music online. Other libraries, like Manchester Central Library, provide access to a large music collection, such as sheet music, periodicals, manuscripts and books. Here, you can also create your own music on the keyboards, drums and mixing desk in the library… with headphones!
Find a Library
Find information about libraries in your country with these links. If you have similar links to libraries in other countries leave me a comment and I will add it here.
National Library of Australia: Find a Library
Canada: Public libraries, national libraries, academic libraries & school libraries
Indonesia: National Library Of Indonesia Services
Ireland: Libraries Ireland
New Zealand: Find a Public Library Near You
Singapore: National Library Board Singapore
UK: Local Library Services
US: Libraries and Archives
Events on offer will differ library to library, country to country, but it is always worth checking out what your local library. This post is biased towards UK libraries but I would love to know what your library offers to your community, wherever you are in the world! Remember your library plays an important role in every community. I am sure you have heard of library closures. To make sure it doesn’t happen in your local area why not visit and make use of its free resources!
Is there anything else you would add to this list. What does your local library offer? Let me know in the comments!