Plan Your Post-Quarantine Travels Now Through Your Library
Have you been stuck at home, flattening the curve as cabin fever rises? The time for travel may not be now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t at least plan your first trip once you’re free from travel restrictions! And hey, it might help to take a bit of a mental road trip as well as you explore all the different places to visit during the planning process.
Whether you are looking to make a day trip or plan to tour your state — or even the country — once the state of emergency is lifted, there are few stops full of more value than those of America’s public libraries. Many libraries to host special, rare, unique, or locally and historically relevant materials in their collections, making up what is known as a “special collection”.
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It is common for public libraries, state libraries, and university libraries to contain digital and online collections devoted to the history of its hometown, containing historical documents, charters, birth records, family trees, as well as other items such as local newspaper collections or pieces of art or biographical information related to local celebrities or figures of interest!
Other types of special collections may focus on specific topics such as rare comics, religious texts, first editions, or more. The items held in such collections are often unique and tell an important story about their subject — not to mention such collections are overseen by a knowledgeable staff devoted to the study and preservation of the topic and hand, and they will be more than welcome to answer your questions and further your journey of learning even as you continue your journey through America’s libraries.
By exploring the unique digital and online special collections at a library, you gain access to a wealth of history and experience surrounding a location or a particular subject of interest that goes beyond what you might find in a guidebook, search engine, or online encyclopedia. You’ll have access to primary documents and the expert opinions of trained reference staff to draw upon on your visit which will allow you a perspective on the history, culture, and impact of a region or creator that cannot be found anywhere else. Just as seeing a sight such as the Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore in person beats a photograph any time, walking among a collection of books, articles, and artifacts and learning directly from the experts far outweighs any web page's cursory overview.
So you’ve looked online, visited a local, state, or university library’s website, how else can a library help you plan a post-quarantine vacation? It’s simple: you can learn more about a locale and its culture from the digital collections available on their website than any guidebook blurb might tell you! If you’re deciding which town to pass through on your itinerary, take a look at that public library’s web page and explore their digital collections to get a crash course in the history and culture of that town, city, or state. These overviews can help you plan exactly where and when to stop on your journey, and are just another example of how the public library system can aid you in unexpected ways.
Want to dig deeper into a town’s history or character before visiting but don’t have time for a lengthy research session? Jot down some questions and get in touch with one of the town’s reference librarians in order to pick their brain — who knows, there may be more to that place you were planning to stop for lunch than a highly-rated burger!
We know times are tough right now, travel is uncertain, businesses are shuttered, and many people are still figuring out how to manage this whole “physical distancing” thing. We’re not saying you should hop out the door and hit the road right away! But planning a trip can be almost as fun as going on one, as you explore possible options, plot courses, dream about meals and attractions to see… and the fantasy of escaping somewhere new after so long cooped inside can provide a nice distraction from the current course of things. As free repositories of local knowledge and unique or rare collections of history, public libraries are an oft-overlooked but invaluable resource to any traveling looking for that extra quick stop or a deep dive into the local color.