We talk about books being passports to new worlds … but library cards are like intergalactic passports to the multiverse! All of my friends have heard me wax poetic about the magic of the inter-library loan and the super ID card that allows me to borrow books from the Brooklyn, Queen, and New York Public Library systems — and for good reason. A library card makes so much available, usually for free, to people of all ages.
Check out some of these little-known library card perks that go way beyond checking out books:
1. Learn a language. Studies have shown that language learning offers cognitive benefits and the potential for greater academic achievement. And isn’t it just fun to know how to greet people in three different ways? “Hello” in Spanish, Urdu, French, Pashto, and Arabic are just a few clicks away, as public libraries offer access to software like Living Language, Mango Languages, and Rosetta Stone. (Contact your local library for details.)
2. Find a job or start your business. Local libraries offer seminars, one-on-one career counseling, resume help, financial literacy workshops, use of laptops and other technology, and more. SCORE, which offers small business mentoring and coaching, offers in-library support to budding entrepreneurs from professional executives across multiple industries.
3. Dance it out! If you’re not into the gym scene, your local library might be just the place to get your workout on and grab a great read to enjoy after you collapse at home, post-Zumba. Many branches offer exercise, dance, and movement classes for all ages.
4. Make a mess. Create and innovate! Knitters, paper artists, and makers of all ages can join crafty clubs or think of their local libraries as high-tech makerspaces (many libraries have 3D printers, the latest software, and more). Young children can have fun with glue sticks, pom poms, and glitter not at home, and everyone can let their imaginations run free.
5. Make a friend. Sign up to tutor, be a reading buddy, or volunteer! Friends are to be had everywhere at the library. And you’ll know you have at least one thing in common — an interest in learning!
6. Get the scoop. Catch up on current events from everywhere and every time period. You can peruse newspapers and magazines from all over, including through digital archives that offer material that comes from all over the world and is hundreds of years old.
7. Get your game on. Usually, we’re trying to get everyone outside and away from the video games. But the library is a budget-friendly way to provide access to games and like-minded people for social and safe gaming experiences.
8. Test some tech. Thinking about an e-Reader but not sure which one will work for you? Know you’re a big vacation reader but don’t have room in your bags for those thick paperbacks? Lucky for you, your library card gives you access to e-Books and might even offer e-Reader “rentals” that come pre-loaded with software, databases, and more. Many libraries also offer kids access to online resources like the educational site BrainPop and Tumblebooks, a database of animated, audio-enhanced picture books.
9. Get cultured. Sip some lemonade while you listen to a string quartet. Rock out with a kid-friendly band. Learn about an author’s life and inspirations during a guest lecture or event. Many libraries host speakers, orchestras, theatre troupes, puppet shows, and more.
10. Do your paperwork. Okay, paperwork is not actually fun for most people … but it’s necessary. IRS forms are available at local libraries. At some larger libraries, like the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, you can also apply for a passport (and take the photo), or use Notary Public Services. Who knew?
And of course, the library is always a wonderful place to enjoy the quiet camaraderie of other patrons browsing, reading, and reveling. There’s all kinds of fun available to you at your local library all year long — including lots and lots of great books, and expert librarians to curate them and to show you all the magic your card can bring.