There's much more to public libraries than book stacks; they're a treasure trove of resources.
Libraries don't get as much love as they deserve these days. Part of the reason, I suspect, is because people have computers, phones, e-readers, and Internet connections at home, so there is a sense of self-sufficiency, of not needing an institution's help to access the broader world.
But this is a shortsighted view. Libraries are an astounding wealth of information and resources. Most have done an excellent job of evolving with the times and are modern, progressive places. In fact, your library probably offers more services than you realize. I did some digging to see what my small-town library offers and was amazed. If mine does all this, I bet many others across Canada and the United States do too, if not more.1. Museum passes: You can check out free passes to local museums for your family. Sometime there's a limit to the number of times you can use it in a year, but still, those are some great savings and a wonderful family activity.
2. Printing and scanning services: Save yourself the enormous cost and hassle of owning a printer, scanner, photocopier, or fax machine by using your library's. You pay per page, but it's a fraction of what you'd pay to own – and you don't have to store it.
3. Streaming services: This was something I didn't even know existed, but apparently library members can access all kinds of free streaming services. Freegal has more than 13 million songs in its database. Sites like Kanopy and Hoopla give access to movies, TV shows, and documentaries. Say goodbye to subscription fees!
4. Language study: A program called Mango Languages will tutor you online in the language of your choice. "From Spanish and French to Azerbaijani, English, and even Pirate, we’ve got you covered." It's free for library members to access. My library even has 3x/week ESL instruction for newly-arrived immigrants, taught by volunteers.
5. Computer skills & tech classes: For older people who might not be as tech-savvy, it's possible to get free instruction in how to use the Internet, email, and more.
6. Homework club: The library is a home away from home for kids who need help with homework or reading. Some libraries have specific clubs or partners that meet regularly; others offer online supports in the form of the World Book (encyclopedia) site, read-along chapter books or easier books with audio prompts, and lists of recommended age-appropriate titles for research into specific topics.
7. Social groups: Libraries provide space to many social groups. Whether it's a knitting club, crafting or art club, baby meet-up, quilting group, writing support group, or LEGO-building club, you might be able to find friends with whom you share interests.
8. Book club kits: I am part of a book club that receives monthly kits from the library, with 10+ copies of whatever book we've chosen. (We choose from a pre-set list of options, based on what's available.) It solves the problem of sourcing copies for all and often the titles are brand new.
9. Magazines, newspapers & consumer reports: These subscriptions can be expensive and wasteful at times if they're not getting read regularly. I often check out new magazines that have caught my eye at the store. Apps like Flipster and PressReader allow you to read these online.
10. Talks & presentations: See if your library has any guest speakers or visiting authors lined up. These can be wonderful thought-provoking presentations, a good way to stretch your mind.
11. Unusual items to borrow: My library offers fishing rods and tackle boxes for children to check out for use at a local pond. Ask at the front desk to see what your library has to offer.
12. Movie screenings: Libraries occasionally host movie screenings, whether it's for kids with a day off school or an alternative film geared toward adults.
13. Professional development: You can take online courses through a program called Lynda that will develop creative, business, and software skills. Available on most libraries' websites.
14. Legal counselling: Your library can guide you to clear answers about all manner of legal questions, from divorce and abuse to employment, housing, and immigration.
15. More books! Does this even need to be said? Yes! Your library can help you to read more books by making them available in paper or digital form, by enabling you to reserve them online, by giving suggestions based on your interests, by offering fun reading challenges, by hosting annual book sales at greatly reduced prices.