Monday, April 18, 2016

Thirteen Treasures to Find at the Public Library

My current collection of library books

When I was a kid, I heard many references in books and on Sesame Street about “the Public Library,” which after a while I assumed was a specific building, probably in Washington D.C., that was the central hub of culture and learning for the entire United States. (Every country must have one, I decided— after all, Egypt had just that one library in Alexandria that got burned down a long time ago.) It still makes some sort of sense: in books and on TV, the Public Library was two stories tall and had columns, while the gray-stoned building Mom took us to every week, which I often heard called “the local library,” looked nothing like it. 

Although it wasn’t the Public Library, I knew that even a Local Library was a magical place. As a homeschooled kid, a significant chunk of my childhood education came straight from the books in this building. Mom had only one rule: you may not check out more books than you can carry. All of us kids, but especially me and my oldest brother, got our weekly exercise by hauling (and sometimes pushing across the floor) multiple baskets stacked to overflowing with books about nature crafts, military science, Renaissance art, ancient Egypt, technology during Bible times, ecosystems, homemade musical instruments, and everything in between, not to mention all the chapter and picture books in tow. As a fast reader, I devoured books, absorbing huge amounts of information into my young brain.

Reading selfie attempt #1
Somewhere along the way, between being a teenager and being an adult, I stopped using the library as much. It just kind of slipped through the cracks, and I only used the library to check out the occasional novel. Two summers ago, though, when I was hiking for five months straight, deprived of intellectual stimulation, I thought, “You know, I should really start using the library again.” When we got home, I did, and the books I read steadily began to change my life.

This is all to say, your library is an incredible resource, and if you haven’t been there in a while, you should check it out. Here are 13 incredible resources the library offers. First, the ones I use on a regular basis: 

Reading selfie attempt #2
1. Nonfiction. This has multiple sub-categories, with books on any topic you can imagine (lately I’ve been reading about plastic reduction, local food, gardening, urban homesteading, canning, building greenhouses, and many more), philosophy/theology books, cookbooks, how-to books, memoirs, travel guidebooks, local history, etc. etc...

2. Fiction. They have every classic, novel, or book of poetry you could ever want to read. My library also has a separate section for young adult fiction and graphic novels.

3. Magazines. My library carries a fairly large array of magazines, from The New York Times to Birds and Blooms. I recently discovered Mother Earth Living and love it! I’ll also check out home design magazines, the occasional Good Housekeeping, and my big guilty pleasure, Real Simple

Okay, this "reading selfie" stuff isn't working.
4. DVDs. Since Zach and I have limited data with our Internet, we had to give up Netflix. We’ve replaced it by watching DVDs from the library— yay free stuff! For the past couple years we watched through eight seasons of Stargate: SG-1, and lately we’ve just been checking out movies. 

5. Cake pans. Okay, I know not every library has a cake pan loan program like ours does, but it might lend out other non-book things! For instance, I know that St. Louis’s library system will lend telescopes, which is pretty cool. It’s worth checking out.

Just do a goofy face! Everyone loves
a goofy face! ...Actually, never mind, you
just look creepy.
The ones I’m just starting to explore: 

6. CDs. New music is fun, and I want to make better use of our library’s huge CD collection.

7. Children’s books. First of all, children’s books are awesome. Second of all, I have several friends who have small children, so keeping a stock of library picture books would be helpful.

8. Sheet music. In the past I’ve learned fiddle tunes from sheet music borrowed from the library, and I’m inspired to try that out again now that I’m practicing piano more often. 

Other cool stuff:

9. Audiobooks. I don’t like audiobooks (I process much better by visual reading), but I know our library has a good selection of these, too.

10. E-books. Again, I’d rather have a physical book in my hand, but the library is amassing a pretty impressive array of online material. 

11. Foreign language courses. My library has multiple courses for all the major languages.

12. Books in Spanish. If you’re trying to learn Spanish (or Spanish is your native tongue), see if your library has a Spanish book section. 

13. Programs and events. I can almost never make it to library events (I missed Jan Brett’s book signing a couple years ago, which still makes me sad), but there are a lot of cool things going on! My library has author appearances, lecture series, teaching events, help with taxes, board game nights, and even an adult coloring club (meanwhile, the local community college is offering a “coloring class” for $75). 

Despite my confusion about the Public Library as a kid, I got one thing right— the library is magical, and I’ve come to appreciate it even more as an adult. Like the advertisements say... if you haven’t been to the library in a while, you’re overdue! 



  1. I work for our public library, and I love it! Ours isn't as well endowed as St. Charles' or St. Louis', but we have lots of books, computers, free Internet, and comfortable places to read in the quiet. We also loan out yoga equipment (to take home) and laptops (for use inside the library), and we have lots of programs like cooking classes, GED classes, story hour, and more! Woooo, public libraries!

    1. That's awesome! I especially love the idea of loaning out yoga equipment. Go libraries!