Most parents have taken advantage of baby time, story time, and the physical collection available in their public library. But libraries have much more to offer! I often think of them as a community’s best kept secret. I went to library school and have worked in public and school libraries. I could write many paragraphs about this topic but I’ll save you the librarian nerd propaganda and make a nice tidy list. I’ll add a disclaimer as well: not every library offers every program, but it’s worth it to check your library’s website.
Help for Momma
*3-D printers. These are so amazingly cool. I hope that the parents of the next generation will all have access to such a device. Wouldn’t it be great to melt down the baby toys and use that plastic to print action figures? When that phase has passed, melt them down and print out some Lego bricks. Ad infinitum. You can watch one in action here.
*Adult coloring clubs, knitting clubs, crocheting clubs, gardening classes, ESL help
*Toys, puzzles, audiobooks+matching stuffed animals–all available for checkout.
*Puppet shows, magic shows, science exploration mini-labs
*Homework help for all ages (online)
*Free movies for kids, usually in the afternoon
*”Bedtime stories” held in the evening (great for working parents)
Help for Kiddo
* Research. Paper. Help. Your child has a project and has been given some time to research it at school, but doesn’t have enough credible sources and the deadline is in, oh, 36 hours. Take that child to the library and ask specifically for help using the electronic databases, which are full of credible resources. You can search by reading level! There is often a ready-made citation with the article! What’s not to love? Those librarians took many boring/thrillingly geeky research methodology classes specifically for the purpose of helping your procrastinating child. Of course, these resources are available from home as well but are easier to navigate after a quick lesson in person.
*Quiet study rooms (often available by reservation)
*Chess club, Lego club, anime club, book club. Ask a librarian if you can start your own club.
Help for All
*Access to Consumer Reports through the above-mentioned databases. You can view the actual magazine with detailed information about all kinds of products, in pdf form (not the watered-down “how to shop for” articles available online for free). Please note that there may be an embargo on the very latest issues (but the library will probably have current paper copies).
*Credible resources for medical questions, also via the online databases. Some publications are indecipherable to a person without a medical education, but many are very accessible. This is such a valuable resource in these days of click-bait and “fake news” and weirdly drawn banner ads about avoiding “just this one food” for optimal health.
*Millions of e-books and audiobooks. Most people know that libraries offer these resources but may not have tried to use them. The checkout and download process has been greatly simplified in the past few years, as has the interface. Many books sync with Kindle or run on their own user-friendly software. It’s a wonderful way to prepare for a road trip.
*Tax help (usually has some limitations associated with it; no one’s going to fill out that Schedule C for you, sorry)
*Software classes, such as Microsoft Word and Excel; basic Internet skills.
I am professionally obligated to end this blurb with a pun: Your local library…check it out!