In this day of electronics and technology, it’s easy to forget that the public library exists. You can order books off Amazon in a few clicks and stream movies and shows directly to your TV. No need to step foot into a library branch anymore, right? But did you know that the library system is trying to adapt to this changing world too? In fact, the library offers many modern services and activities for the general public. It’s not a place to only borrow books anymore. Today I want to take a look at 10 things you probably didn’t know that the public library offers.
Before I dive in, I want to say hats off to the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL). I’ve loved the library ever since I was a child, when my mother would take me every weekend. I remember being excited on those days when my favorite books were on the shelf. That hasn’t changed much as an adult either. The library has given me countless books enjoy and offered me a quiet place to study. It’s safe to say that I’m a huge supporter of the public library and want to see it keep going strong.
I should also mention that every library system is different in its offerings. These are what I’ve found available here in San Francisco and other places I visited or researched.
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1) Services for the disabled
The SFPL provides services and support for the disabled. Among many services, you can borrow rolling walkers while in the library, have someone retrieve items for you in the library, and even have books mailed to you if you have a permanent or long-term disability. There are also service centers for the deaf and blind or print disabled.
2) Borrow a laptop
I’ll be honest, I don’t like carrying around my laptop. Even the lightest gadget is another thing I have to carry. And I always worry I will drop or lose it or it will get stolen. That’s why it’s great that the library allows you to borrow a laptop. The laptops are probably not going to be the latest, fastest Apple product, but it can be useful for doing some writing or research on the library system.
3) Free admission to local museums and attractions
Discover & Go is one of my favorite offerings from the library. Did you know that you can get tickets to over 50 museums and attractions at a discount or for free? A one-day admission to the California Academy of Sciences here in San Francisco would cost $119.80 at full price for a family of two adults and two young children.
I believe in supporting local museums and attractions (someone has to pay for fish to feed the penguins!), but it can be costly to take advantage of all the learning opportunities this city has to offer. Discover & Go lets families do more for less. The most popular attractions are limited to one checkout per year to make sure everyone gets a chance to use the passes.
4) Free exhibitions & programs
The library has lots of exhibitions and programs for both adults and children. I’ve seen photography exhibits at the Main Library and read about book clubs and knitting groups. This past March, the library hosted an instrument petting zoo and a dance workshop for children in collaboration with the San Francisco Ballet.
In April, the library hosted the Big Play Date of activities and play stations for children and their families at 20 locations. What a great way to keep the kids busy, especially on those rainy days when you have to stay inside.
5) Free summer lunch
For many children, access to breakfast and lunch on a regular basis is only through the school system. Being out of school for the summer can mean not having enough to eat. So the SFPL Lunch is on Us! program provides a free lunch to children at several branches throughout the summer.
6) Summer Reading Program
The Summer Reading Program is another one of my favorite library offerings. I look forward to it every year and I have to say that the reading goals are very reasonable. Once you meet the goal, you win a prize. I’ve received a few cute tote bags over the years. There’s also a weekly raffle for great prizes like tickets to the California Academy of Sciences, Giants tickets, and gift cards. One year I won tickets to a concert at the SF JAZZ Center.
7) Video games and board games
The Mix at SFPL is a workspace with programing for teenagers. The Mix hosts lots of teen-focused events, some serious such as science and chess classes. Others such as Teen Gaming offer more fun playing video games and board games with other teens.
8) Request purchases of books and other items
Libraries regularly purchase new items like the latest best-selling books if it’s within their budget. Although you might have to wait your turn for a popular book, you can eventually access it without having to buy it yourself. If you find that the library doesn’t have a book you want, try to request for it to be purchased. I once asked for the library to purchase book three of a three-part series and it was available to borrow within a few weeks.
9) Online access to books and more
You actually don’t have to go to the library to make use online books anymore. The library offers ebooks and access to movies and music online without ever having to leave the couch.
10) Tool lending
The Oakland Public Library is home to the Tool Lending Library, complete with over 5,000 tools and how-to books and videos. How practical is that! The library even hosts associated events. As I’m writing this post, the next event is a basic woodworking workshop on how to build a toolbox.
Many libraries actually have other offerings than the ten I’ve listed here. Did you know that SFPL has an online high school diploma and career certification program, citizenship resources, and job and career resources? I didn’t before I did research for this post. The library seems like a never-ending fountain of good things to do and see, and all for free!
If you ever find yourself wanting a book to read or wondering how to entertain the children for an afternoon, try visiting your local library and see what yours has to offer. It may surprise you!