Ten Steps to Get the Most Out of Your Local Library

Are you a library user? It’s time to take advantage of all modern libraries have to offer!

I first fell in love with libraries as a college student, which is probably a bit late for a librarian.

It wasn’t the camaraderie of late-night study sessions or the peace and quiet that could be found in my college’s libraries, though that was nice too.

What actually began my devotion to libraries was a lesson in frugality from an unlikely source–the University of Oxford in England. I was lucky enough to be spending a year studying abroad there and instead of spending hundreds of dollars buying books for my courses (as I was used to stateside), I was provided with a list of books each week and told to request them through Oxford’s library system.

Photo Credit: Tejvan Pettinger

Wait, I can get all the books I need and want for free? I was hooked.

In the decade or so since, I’ve sought out my local library in all the cities and towns I’ve lived in (right now I’m an avid user of The Chelmsford Public Library) and in my job as an elementary school librarian I’m able to share this library joy with kids every day. (You get a book, you get a book…everybody gets a book!)

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Listening to “The Good House” by Ann Leary from the library

I still think it’s incredible that a library card can get you any book you want, no matter the state of your bank account.

What libraries can offer also seems to get better and better all the time (let’s hear it for free ebooks and audiobooks on your devices!).

However, I’ve found that people don’t always know how much their library can do for them. Do you?

How to Become a Savvy Library Patron:

Step 1: Find your local library and sign up for a library card.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to pay your library a visit and get your library card. Make sure to bring proof of your address–your license or a utility bill will work. Don’t forget a tote bag (or two!) to fill up with your first check-outs!

 

Step 2: While you’re there, browse the new releases.

Library card in hand, it’s time to look around for some great reads to bring home. I like to start in the “New Books” section at my library. It’s a smaller sampling of what the library offers, which makes it a good place to browse. If you’re having trouble spotting a good pick, the Indie Bestsellers list would be a good place to peruse new titles.

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Don’t forget to look at the array of new nonfiction titles your library offers, from cookbooks and gardening, to business and biography–give one a try, they’re free!

 

Step 3: Choose a magazine or dvd.

Is your tote bag getting full? Time for some lighter entertainment. Most libraries have a wide range of magazines you can choose from. I like to stock up on Boston MagazineCooking Light, “O”, Real Simple, and more.

 

 

Looking for a free movie night? You can also borrow one of the library’s DVDs. Some libraries charge to borrow one (maybe $1), but happily mine does not.

 

Step 4: Bring your little ones into the children’s room.

The children’s room is a great place to play, explore, and of course choose books. We’ll meet friends for a playdate in the children’s room or bring our daughter there for a change of scenery and some new toys to play with.

We also love choosing new children’s books to bring home and read together. Give your child their own tote bag and invite them to go “book shopping” and fill it up with any books they want to borrow.

If you’re having trouble choosing, you could check out my previous posts about recent award winners, diverse children’s books, or titles with a bookish theme–perfect for a library trip!

 

 

For more ideas, you could also visit Sarah Mackenzie’s “Read Aloud Revival” site where she posts about books to read aloud with your children and see her favorite books from 2017.

Depending on when you’ve stopped by, there might even be a storytime or craft you can take part in. More on that next.

 

Step 5: Grab a copy of you’re library’s events calendar or check it out online.

The library is a fantastic source of free activities for you and your family. Take a look at your library’s events calendar, usually available at the front desk or online. This week alone my library’s event calendar has story times, yoga for babies or preschoolers, a YA author event, stuffed animal sleepover, writers group and multiple book clubs.

As a working mom, my one wish is that more of these kinds of events would be offered on the weekend or after school, but we try to mark our calendars for activities that fit our schedule, especially on school vacations.

 

Step 6: Login to your online library account and place your first book requests.

Login to your library account online. Usually you’ll just need your library card number and a pin they’ll assign you. You can do this when you get home, or if you think you might want some assistance, ask one of the librarians to help show you on your phone or other device. Worried about bothering them? Don’t be. They’ll be happy to help!

Being able to request books through my online library account has made a big difference in my reading life. As soon as I hear about a book I think I might want to read, I search for it in my library’s online catalog and request a copy. If my library doesn’t have it, they’ll have it sent from another library within the network. When the book is ready, I get an email alerting me to pick it up at my library’s circulation desk. Magic!

When people say they don’t want to use the library because they’re too impatient to wait for books, my response is to start placing book requests. My “To Be Read” pile (which is pretty much stacks of books all over the house) never runs out because book requests I’ve placed at various times are always becoming available. I can’t wait to pick up my next two!

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If you haven’t subscribed to the blog yet, you can sign up to get an email when there is a new post. This is a great way to start adding to your “to be read” list and library holds.

 

Step 7: Reserve a Museum pass.

You can get free or discounted museum passes through your library. Ask for a brochure at the circulation desk or check out the list online. It’s a good idea to book the pass at least a few weeks in advance, especially if you’re trying to go to a popular museum or zoo. It takes a little planning ahead but this is a big cost saver.

 

Step 8: Download an ebook or audiobook.

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 9.34.01 AM.pngI’ve been using the Overdrive app on my phone to listen to audiobooks and also to send ebooks to my Kindle. I was excited to see they have a new app called Libby, which I found very user friendly in terms of setting up your account and linking your library card.

You can download Libby in the App store or you can use the app your library recommends. Then search for ebooks/audiobooks in the app and download them. Again, you can have your librarians walk you through this on your device if you have trouble with this step.

I mostly download Kindle books to read on trips. In my everyday life, audiobooks have been a game changer for getting reading in while I commute, clean up the house, or go on a walk.

You can check out these audiobook recommendations by the amazing Anne Bogel from the What Should I Read Next podcast and Modern Mrs. Darcy blogwhich are two of my favorite reading resources.

 

Step 9: Continue to build your library “To Be Read” list.

Whenever you hear about a new book you want to read, request it from the library. Think about the format you prefer when you place the hold. Do you want a hardcover to read before bed? Is this a book you’d like to listen to in the car? Or is this the beach read you’ll want as an ebook for an upcoming trip? It can take some experimenting to figure out what kinds of books you like to read at different times.

 

Step 10: Wait for the delightful emails that your books are now available.

Pick up your print books at the library or download your ebooks/audiobooks. Read and repeat!

What do you like best about your local library? Leave your comments below!

5 thoughts on “Ten Steps to Get the Most Out of Your Local Library

  1. So well written and informative… haven’t been to my local library in a couple months, now I must put it on my list of things to do.

  2. Bumped send by accident… One tip I would add is if you have kids, visit a number of local libraries and scope out the kids sections at each. In our immediate 20 minute drive range, there are some that are great and some that are the pits. Staff is a huge influence too. Depending on the day, and what else is going on, we don’t mind driving a bit to check out a different library or for a particular event.

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