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Ten Things You Never Knew About Your Library

14 March, 2008

Thought you knew everything about using your local library? Or maybe you’ve never stepped into a library. Here’s some features you may have been missing.

You may have been to your local library, but do you think of it as a way to save money? Here are ten features that are free or low cost at most libraries that you may never have known about.

Number One: Books
OK, so we know a library has books. Many people, however, think of a library as being full of dusty, old books. The fact is, most libraries will carry the most recent best sellers, even if it takes a little while for them to get to the shelves. Some libraries make these books available for reading inside the library only for the first little while before they’re put on the shelves in regular circulation. If a book you would love to read isn’t there, you can suggest it to the librarian as an addition to their collection. Alternatively, you may be able to arrange an inter-library loan, and borrow the book from another library, via your local library.

Number Two: Magazines
Most modern libraries carry magazines on a wide variety of topics. Some carry a limited range of professional journals. There are sure to be magazines to suit every interest in any large library. You may have to wait a little while to read the latest issue, but if it saves you $7 (or more) a magazine, then it may well be worth the wait.

Number Three: DVDs
Modern libraries are building up collections of classic and new release DVDs. They are usually free to borrow, but sometimes attract a small surcharge. You can often borrow them for the normal borrowing period of your library (three or four weeks) although some have a restriction on how many you can borrow or for how long. With rental for a new release DVD often costing $6 or $7, you could save yourselves a fortune.

Number Four: CDs
An amazing variety of audio CDs can be found at your local library. From classical to country, pop or heavy metal, your library may just stock it. Sample a CD without having to pay for it, or increase your musical horizons without spending a cent. If your local library doesn’t stock music that suits your taste, make some suggestions or be brave and try something different to your normal choice. You may just discover you like it!

Libraries often have large collections of audio books. Some have limits on how many can be borrowed, to allow people who need the audio books more (such as people with visual disabilities) while others have no such restrictions. Instead of listening to the news in the car, you could put in a CD of a classic piece of literature being read aloud or have your child listen to a story CD on days where a bedtime story is not possible.

Number Five: Software
A small but growing number of libraries are offering computer software as part of their collection. One of my local libraries has a small but useful collection of children’s games to borrow for no charge. They provide hours of entertainment, and once the novelty has worn off, it’s back to the library, and it hasn’t cost us a thing.

Number Six: Toy Library
Toy libraries are becoming increasingly popular in libraries in large cities and their outer suburbs. While they often attract a small fee, they can be invaluable. Children often become bored with toys and a toy library is a way to be able to vary the toys without purchasing numerous toys and without the expense. Some toy libraries have a system whereby toys are selected and reserved, where others are on the basis of whatever is on the shelf is available. Our local toy library has an enormous range of toys, as well as puzzles and games.

Number Seven: No More Fines
Many people have been deterred from using the library due to the risk of getting fines for overdue books. These people simply need their own library elf! Library Elf is a website you can register at which will send you reminder notices when your books are due. It can also let you know if a requested book is available. Your library needs to have registered for this service. While Library Elf is based in the US, there are numerous Australian libraries who have registered for this service. It’s free!

Number Eight: Internet Access
One of the libraries I am a member of offers one hour per day of free internet access per library member. A university library I am a member of offers unlimited free internet access (however, there is a fee to be a member of this library). Another local library has some computers set up to view certain websites pertaining to research available for free, while other computers that have unlimited access to the internet are available for a small fee. Your library may offer similar services.

Number Nine: A Quiet Place To Sit
I love to go and sit at any one of my local libraries. There are comfy chairs, thousands of books to choose from, and plenty to keep my children occupied within my line of sight. There are desks and chairs set up for private study and some libraries have larger tables where groups can work together. The library can be a peaceful place to be, away from the stress and busyness of the world.

Number Ten: Other Facilities

While it varies wildly from library to library, there are many other facilities that local libraries may offer. Some that our local libraries offer are: free room hire for community groups, unbelievably cheap second hand books that are either donated or moved out of circulation, homework help services, toys and games in the library to occupy children (one even has a playstation!), regular story time for children, free classes or information sessions, microfiche use (browse the enormous collection of past newspapers on microfiche), online access (from home) to the catalogue, photo copying, a reading computer for the vision impaired or illiterate, school holiday activities, daily newspapers, justice of the peace services, fax machines, word processing computers, craft sessions, and a mobile library that visits people who are housebound. Discover today what your local library has to offer!

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