12 Stimulating Things You Can Do at the Library
I became a librarian because of the people — the library staff who were kind to me as a child, the interesting patrons who I helped as a teen volunteer, and all of the colleagues and friends I’ve made through my library life as an adult. Truly, for me, libraries stand at the intersection of so much of society — those who want to learn, play, meet new friends, and more, go there to achieve these things. Most public libraries have set aside meeting space and time for the very purpose of allowing community members to interact. Library staff foster this by facilitating groups for all sorts of enlightening activities, for example:
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1. Chess, and other board games
Many libraries hold regular chess clubs and board game nights for patrons. During my first library assignment as an Adult Services Librarian in Lancaster (CA), I helped facilitate a weekly chess club that drew up to 50 participants of all ages and skill levels. Games have all sorts of benefits for people, not the least of which is that they’re loads of fun!
2. Engage with literature
Book clubs have met at libraries forever! Whether the club is themed to discuss only mysteries, LGBTQ titles, narrative nonfiction, or something else, talking about books brings people together to reflect on life, and learn about each other. There are book clubs in libraries that have lasted decades, with members growing old together. I think that’s beautiful.
3. Support each other
We all go through difficulties in our lives, and the library exists to help. Whether it’s an AA club or NAMI meeting, many libraries host addiction recovery and support groups so community members have somewhere to turn during times of need. Hosting regular support group meetings are one way libraries play a role in helping people towards better lives.
4. Build a robot, and other STEM-inspired activities
Not every student has the opportunity to be part of a robotics club, or interact with learning tools that develop useful science skills. That’s why libraries have stepped into the gap and created opportunities for informal science learning for people of all ages. Whether you want to see a 3D printer in action, learn about water refraction, or get hands-on experience with engineering basics, libraries are more equipped than ever to grant your wish.
5. Make sense of the news
Yes, fake news has been in the real news a lot over the last couple of years. As bastions of information literacy, many librarians have developed classes to educate people on topics such as finding sources, determining whether they’re credible, gaining context through deeper reading, understanding statistics, and generally making sense of online information. This is not only important for us as individual citizens, but also for the world as a whole.
6. Discuss current events
Making sense of the news is good, but being able to critically discuss current events with others is even better. Many libraries set aside time and space where patrons can grab a coffee and partake in spirited discussion about the day’s headlines. Often times, the librarian might even be there with a laptop acting as an on-the-spot fact checker!
7. Meet other entrepreneurs
Current and future small business owners are fundamental part of burgs large and small. That’s why many libraries hold events for this patron population — from basic networking meetups, to workshops on writing business plans, social media and blogging for business, to market research, libraries are dedicated to assisting small business owners. Some even have Business Librarians available to assist local merchants!
8. Craft delightful objects
Do you scrapbook, create origami, make art books, or otherwise make delightful objects? Then the library is the place for you. Craft clubs of all sorts (sewing, knitting, paper goods, origami, to name a few) are a staple of many public libraries. Like so many examples mentioned here, these clubs are as much for the solitary crafter, as one who is looking for a friendly crafting klatch. And let me tell you, I’ve never met a knitting group that didn’t chat up a storm!
9. Practice another language
Learning a new language is hard, that’s why libraries have free online classes to get you on your way. Language learning is tough, however, if you can’t practice. Sure, online apps exist to match you with other speakers, but nothing beats racking your brain for the right word with a group of like-minded learners. Most library groups are led by expert or native speakers who can advice on proper word usage and cultural etiquette.
10. Learn a thing or three
Say you’re going on a trip and want great photos to show your friends but you have neither a fancy camera nor knowledge of photography. Libraries have you covered! Many give you free access to the wonderful Lynda.com in addition to other online classes on a huge variety of topics including, you guessed it, cell phone photography! Libraries where I’ve worked have hosted classes on such things as Indian/Pakistani Cooking, playing the ukulele, building websites, Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), meditation, and more.
11. Watch a movie
Like book clubs, movie screenings followed by a lecture or discussion have long been standard fare for libraries. What most people aren’t aware of is that aside from having DVDs to borrow, many libraries now have movie streaming services as well. Check your library website. If you have access to Hoopla Digital or Kanopy, you are in for a treat!
12. Become a writer
Having led a weekly critique group, many open mics, panels, round-tables, and helped to organize several literary festivals, I can tell you that the library is a meeting place and inspiration for many of us who write. So many people have come to my writing group saying: “I’ve always wanted to write!” “Fine,” I would respond, “bring two pages next week!” Many a fine writer got started that way at the library.
These are twelve examples of outstanding activities available at local libraries across the country, but it’s hardly a comprehensive list. Do you have an exciting activity you do at your library? Tell the world!