You Should Use Your Library

July 13, 2015

It’s pretty easy to forget about the lowly public library these days. You’re not gonna use it to research information. That’s what Bing is for.* Sure, you can get free DVDs from 2006, but is it worth the hassle when Netflix is right here, right now?

And checking out free books is nice, but who wants to carry those around anymore? Amazon has made ebooks both cheap and insanely convenient. Plus the library doesn’t pay authors for every time you check out a book, and I know making sure writers get paid well is critically important to you.


*stares hard at blog readers with one evil eye*

*evil eye begins to twitch*

*blog writer goes back to bloggering*

Ahem. Yes, changes in technology can make the public library seem less important these days, but I am here to tell you that it is not so! Draw closer, friend, and let me regale you with the great strides libraries are making in remaining relevant in this digital age where #Millennial snake people value nothing but smartphones. Here are the reasons you should use your public library.

Engage Overdrive

Your library probably has a huge collection of stuff available in e-book and/or audiobook form using Overdrive. When I first tried using Overdrive a few years ago, it was clunky and buggy and looked exactly like the kind of app a public library would be affiliated with. I hope it’s clear that’s not a compliment. Since then it’s made huge strides. The checkout process is pretty simple. Books download in a snap. It can sync across devices. Yeah yeah, I know I said you should buy books to support authors (you really, totally should) but sometimes you’re not going to want to do that. You should still read stuff. Or listen to it. This works well for either use case.

Free Stuff > Not Free Stuff

Beyond the content available through Overdrive, most libraries have tons of additional stuff available online through sources like EBSCOhost. This is a service that provides things like PDF versions of articles that were only available in a journal or magazine. By way of example, I was recently able to find old Consumer Reports reviews through the EBSCO search engine. This saved me from needing to spend like $8 for a one month digital subscription I didn’t really want just to access a single set of reviews. Which brings me to my final point…

You Might Learn Something

Eyes forward, students.

Pupils forward, pupils.

Many libraries have partnerships with other services that grant you subscriptions without having to pay separately. Consumer Reports is one such service that many libraries make available, and that’s what I was originally looking for the other day. Turns out Hennepin County Library does not have that available, but they had another one that could be more valuable to me in the long run. My membership with Hennepin County Library gets me complimentary access to, a site that provides a gazillion trainings and tutorials for tons of different pieces of software and other computer tools. It can be a pretty great resource. It’s not uncommon for employers to provide access to it as well, but my boss is a cheapskate.

Beyond these good and important reasons libraries are surprisingly acceptable to someone who, like me, lives a highly digital life, it turns out they’re still doing a pretty good job at the old stuff, too.** And I’m not even really talking about the simple service of checking out books and so forth. I’m talking about the important community role your library probably fills. The promise of libraries is access to the world’s information. For lower income folks libraries may be their only access point to the internet, which provides opportunities for career advancement, education, and social connection. Libraries are polling places and event centers, classrooms and museums. They are a valuable civic institution and a hallmark of public life in the United States.

You should use your library.

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Photo “Minneapolis Central Library” courtesy of Shannon Cotterell under Creative Commons 2.0

*Doesn’t it sorta seem like Microsoft should pay me for saying that? They totally should.

**My life is so digital at this point it’s possible I exist as nothing more than a manifestation of some cloud based software. I may be a projection of Skynet. Who can tell?


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