Need a Clean, Well-Lighted Place with Free Wifi? Try the Library
If your idea of a public library includes dusty shelves and people getting shushed, you might be overdue for a visit to your local branch.
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Libraries are reinventing themselves as vibrant, active community hubs that offer arts and culture programming, workshops, gathering spaces, makerspaces and a variety of materials on loan, including art, outdoor goods and musical instruments.
Libraries also offer computer access, free wifi and a place to work. Far from being remnants of another era, libraries are essential resources and spaces in cities and towns of all size. There are lots of perks to spending time on your computer in the library — whether for work, play, or anything in-between. Here are 13 of our favorites.
1. Libraries are for Everyone
Libraries are open to everyone. In fact, the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights states that, among other things, library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves; libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues; and a person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
2. You Can Stay a While
Most libraries are open from morning to night and you’re welcome to stay as long as you’d like. In a coffee shop, you might get side-eyed for setting up your computer and working all day. In a library, however, you’re welcome to stay until they close for the day — and you won’t be alone. Professionals, entrepreneurs and business travelers of all variety utilize the workspace and resources libraries offer to further their businesses.
3. You Have Workspace Options
Most libraries have a variety of seating and workspace options. If you like hustle and bustle, you can work at a table near main areas or walkways. If you need a space to quietly focus, look for a one-person desk in a quiet corner. If you’d like to connect with others, find a community table to work.
4. Reference Librarians
One of the most under-appreciated resources in a library is the reference librarian. These folks are ready and eager to help you find the answers to any questions you have. Need to know the population of Puerto Rico in 1990? No problem. Looking for the requirements to start a business in your town? Your reference librarian has you covered. Wondering what the last Motown hit song was? Or Stephen King’s first short story? They can help with that too.
5. Business Resources
In addition to providing information on how to start a business in your town, the library may have the documents and forms you’ll need to get started.
6. Business Amenities
Libraries offer a variety of amenities you may need to run your business, including wifi, printers, scanners, projectors, meeting rooms, presentation areas and more.
Note: Many libraries offer public wifi, which means they don’t require a login to access the internet. As with public wifi in coffee shops and other public areas, take precautions when on public wifi and don’t share sensitive information.
Libraries are home to an endless array of events. Among the most common are: professional development events, social and community-building events, gatherings for creatives and crafters, local history events, political roundtables, cultural events showcasing artists, musicians and dancers, and business networking events. Check the schedule in your local library to find upcoming events that appeal to you.
8. Participate in Your Community
Libraries reflect their communities. Become part of the community at your local library. Share your thoughts and talents, contribute to conversations and gatherings, connect with your neighbors around local events and programming. Libraries offer a fantastic way to meet people you might not otherwise cross paths with.
9. Tech Hubs and Makerspaces
A growing number of libraries offer tech hubs and makerspaces. These spaces provide access to 3D printers, laser engravers, robotics and electronics projects, computer aided design (CAD) tools, and much more. They also tend to be hotbeds of collaboration and peer education. If you’re fortunate enough to have a makerspace in your local branch, be sure to check it out and see if there’s anything you’d like to learn more about.
Libraries already resemble coworking spaces in that they provide a shared space for people to work. But the best coworking spaces are far more than shared workspaces — they are communities of professionals who collaborate, connect, share tips and best practices, and support each other. A growing number of libraries are adopting coworking as a way to expand business support offerings, support entrepreneurs, and give freelancers and remote workers an engaging and social work environment.
11. Teen Centers
Library teen centers are oftentimes designed by teens themselves, so they reflect the preferences and style of local young people. Teen centers may include areas to connect and socialize, computers and mobile devices, study areas, videogames, event programming, art supplies, musical instruments, digital creative tools, and more.
12. Meeting Rooms
Whether you need to meet with a client, connect with colleagues, or host a small presentation or event, the library may be able to help. Many libraries have meeting rooms available to library patrons. These meeting rooms range from small rooms suitable for 3–4 people to large event spaces that can hold dozens. See what your local library offers and consider how you may use library space to further your business or project.
Last but not least, libraries have books on an endless variety of topics, including business and marketing, self-improvement, productivity, health and well-being, managing a team, organizing a space and much more. Check your local stacks for books that support your personal and business goals.