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How To Make the Most of Your Library Card (From a Former Library Employee)

Libraries aren't just for books anymore.

Photo by Sebas Ribas on Unsplash

Take it from someone who used to work in a library: people underestimate them. Sure, we all know they're brimming with hardcovers and paperbacks, but I bet you there's an amazing feature at your library that you're missing out on. I don't even need to go to your library to tell you there's something your library offers that you're not utilizing.

Digital Loans

Next time you're out and about, take the ten minutes to go into your local library to see if they offer any digital loaning programs.

Flipster: If you're lucky, your library might use Flipster or something similar. Apps like Flipster allow you to read magazines on your phone or tablet using your library card, provided your library subscribes to whatever magazine you want to read.

Overdrive: This an audiobook and ebook loaning application and website that your library might use. If you're a fan of reading on a tablet or listening to audiobooks, you might be missing out on an easy way to do so for free!

Hoopla: Apps like Hoopla allow you to check out ebooks and audiobooks as well as movies, TV shows, and music! If you have a family member who doesn't utilize their account, you can double your allotted number of check outs for the month as well.

Again, I'd recommend either perusing your library's website or taking a quick trip inside to learn about any apps or sites they use.

In-Library Resources

Not everyone goes to the library as often as I do (especially when I used to work there five days a week), but it's always good to know what resources are available for you if you were to go in.

Computers: Most libraries now have computers available for use with a library card or temporary pass. While most have a computer at home, remember these computers may have programs you don't on them like Photoshop.

Printers, Copiers, and Scanners: Again, you probably have a printer/copier at home, but do you have a copier than can copy both pages of a cookbook onto one piece of legal paper? Plus, if you have to print a lot of ink-heavy pages, it might be a better idea to pay the 10 cents or so a page to print them at your library.

Media Centers: The library I used to work at had a media center complete with a huge monitor, all the applications I could ever want to play with, a nice microphone, a camera, and some really cool drawing devices. Again, you can check on your library's website or with a quick call in to see if your library has any similar offerings.

Other Things Your Library Can Do For You

It's always worth it to explore all your options. These are some examples of things I didn't know my library card could do for me before I started working at the library.

Museum Passes: My library is close to a major city and it turns out I can check out passes to museums and the local zoo. Of course, as a 20-year-old, I don't utilize all of the available passes, but I know people who use them to take their kids on trips.

Borrow From Other Libraries: OK, this one I did know, but not everyone does. My library is part of an inter-library-loan system, meaning I can check out books from any library in my system, and I can return them at any library. Why does this come in handy? If you're a student and you need a book ASAP, you can see what other libraries have the book on the shelf and go pick it up right then and there.

Recommend Books: As someone who worked as a librarian, you'd be surprised how many people are hesitant to ask for a book recommendation. Don't be afraid to ask for a recommendation—it's our favorite part of our job. Also don't be afraid to say you don't like the sound of a book we recommend; we will not take it personally.

Classes/Events: Particularly if you have kids in elementary/middle school, you should check out your local library's schedule of events. Lots of libraries will have book clubs for all ages and regularly have entertainment. Libraries in larger cities will have classes for adults as well to help them learn new skills on the computer, or even English classes for new Americans. If you're a teen, don't write off your library so soon! Check out the schedule to see if there are any events that interest you!

And don't forget the books!

Of course, the books are the best part of the library, but they aren't the only thing you can use that library card for!

Oh, and don't forget to check the desks for free bookmarks so you can throw out that Target receipt from last month ;)

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