5 Library Resources and Services You Probably Didn’t Know About
I’ve been both a public librarian and a school librarian, and I’m currently employed as a digital university librarian. Before my beginning my own library career, I watched as one of my parents worked as a librarian for over 30 years. You can imagine that over that amount of time, and with my varied background, I’ve seen a lot of changes in libraries, which are absolutely here to stay.
The most notable trend has remained constant; libraries, like other organizations, increasingly use and rely upon technology. Because libraries stay abreast of how people interact with each other and information, I’m confident that they aren’t going anywhere.
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People will always need access to information and support. As a librarian, I am an advocate for your right to receive quality information and enjoy resources.
Ongoing changes in our world should never affect your right to be educated, informed, socially aware, and to have access to resources — regardless of your race, gender, or any other aspect of your identity. You can help libraries stand up for you by adding your voice to our cause.
In the meantime, I’d like to share some resources that you may not realize are available from your public library — even if the building is physically closed. Please keep in mind that public libraries can differ in terms of resources offered, so check with your library for similar resources if your library does not offer one which I have listed.
1. One-on-One Online Research Help
When many people think of research, they think of school projects, or collecting data for work. Yes, a local librarian can help you with these needs, but librarians also provide help with all types of research. Call your local library with questions that you need answers to or use your library’s chat feature to be quickly connected to a librarian.
We’re here to serve you by answering your questions and providing solutions.
A librarian can help you understand the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), learn where to apply for jobs, find the grave of your great-great-grandfather, or send a letter to a local political official. Whether you want to know where the property lines in your neighborhood are, or you want to make a telehealth appointment for your pet, we can help! No, librarians are not experts at everything. Librarians are experts at connecting you to experts and information. It’s our passion!
Why this service is awesome:
This service is, in my experience, always free to community members. It’s terrific to find what you need quickly with the help of a professional who can give your information need undivided attention, and you can use this service as much as you would like. Please take advantage of “Ask-a-Librarian” features from your library — I do this myself! Of course, librarians even ask each other for help and work together for — and as — communities and support systems.
2. Online Events for Adults
Connecting with others is a basic human need. It’s also a need that is more difficult to fulfill right now, when gatherings are prohibited in certain areas, and when meeting in person creates health concerns.
Fortunately, your library still provides ways for you to learn and grow alongside other people in your area, as well as to hear from other individuals.
Why this service is awesome:
Whether you’d like to explore your current hobbies with like-minded individuals, learn new skills for work, or simply grow as an individual, there is room for you at your local library! Furthermore, online events and classes are a great way to build connections with others in your community, to be more socially aware, and to boost your mood.
3. Reading and Viewing Recommendations
Are you tired of scrolling through the same Netflix options, or do you wish your viewing recommendations on Amazon Prime were more accurate? What if you could find a new novel that “hits the spot” exactly?
Libraries provide lots of opportunities to entertain and educate yourself with streaming movies, ebooks, and audiobooks.
Find out if your library provides access to a service such as OverDrive, Hoopla, or Kanopy. Each of these digital resources can be used to check out and stream videos. Most of these services allow library users to search by specific criteria (i.e. find a movie which includes your favorite actor), or to browse categories (i.e. choose from a selection of available science fiction films). You can also use library resources like Acorn TV to find and watch your new favorite series online!
Of course, libraries offer a wide range of reading and listening options for book lovers as well. One of my favorite ways to discover a new book is by using NoveList, a service available from most public libraries. When deciding what to read next, NoveList can give you very targeted results.
NoveList allows for specific searches, and it also includes a wide array of categories, including “LGBTQIA Diverse and Engaging,” “Paranormal Romance,” “Mid-Twentieth Century” historical fiction, and “African American Autobiographies.” Users can also choose in terms of the pacing, writing style, tone, as well as other aspects of books listed on NoveList.
If you need help learning how to use NoveList, contact your library. (Note that NoveList offers videos and books for young people as well as adult books.)
4. Online Gaming and Game Design
Teen, young, and adult gamers can enjoy a variety of games from their public libraries. While “at-will gaming” refers to games which may be enjoyed at any time, libraries also offer online “game-based events.” Game-based events are opportunities for fellow gamers to compete and engage with each other.
What’s even more awesome, in my opinion, is that libraries provide access to resources, such as GameMaker, Greenfoot, and Scratch, which allow users to learn game design. Resources like these allow individuals to learn new tech skills, experiment, and exercise creativity.
If you have a young gamer at home who is complaining about playing the same games, allow her to create her own, using library resources!
Projects like these allow users to build confidence and work collaboratively with others, all while having fun. Libraries also offer online events, ebooks, guides, and tutorials for users who would like to get started in gaming and game design.
5. Off-site Internet Access
So, why should these services and resources matter for individuals without internet access? Libraries are very aware that there are many homes across the United States without internet access (due to financial, geographical, or other reasons). Because of this, libraries have offered free wi-fi within their buildings, as well as mobile hotspots for check-out.
Currently, many library buildings remain closed due to concern for the health of their visitors, but still offer outdoor wireless hotspots.
Libraries are also working to creatively combat access issues and to provide internet services for everyone in their communities, including internet services in homes.
Several libraries are accepting equipment, such as wifi hotspots, that have been loaned to visitors. The equipment is then quarantined so that it can be reused. In the meantime, public libraries (as well as schools) are pushing for the FCC (Federal Communications Commision) to provide additional funding for more wireless hotspots.
Some public libraries have already been supported by their local or state governments with additional funding, allowing them to continue to provide information and services to all, and at a crucial time.
Once again, you can support your local library and your community. Voice your opinion on social media, contact your state and national government officials, and donate to your library — or nonprofit organizations that advocate for libraries — if you are able to do so. By speaking out for others, you can help libraries increase equality and access to information.
Explore your library online and find even more excellent services and resources that promote the freedom of information, education, and connectivity. It’s also a great way to keep yourself and your family members entertained!