Most writers adore their local library, but many don’t know the full range of services it may offer.
Of course you can go and check out books and materials, use computers and just lounge around and daydream. But did you know libraries can offer a lot more than that? Below are 12 of our favorite services that libraries offer.
And be sure to see if your library has any events coming up for National Library Week scheduled this year April 9-15.
1. Connect with other writers
Every library is packed with people who love to read, and at least a few who love to write.
If you’re looking to meet fellow writers, the library is a great place to start.
Of course, you don’t want to interrupt people while they’re in library zen mode, but attending organized events, book clubs, writing circles, or even just chatting with librarians is a good place to start.
Networking with local literary types is also a great idea if you ever want to launch a book or host your own writing-related event.
2. Reserve a conference room for collaboration
Libraries typically have study spaces and conference rooms you can reserve for free.
Consider meeting up with other writers and having a brainstorming or commiseration session at the library. And before or after your session, you can pick up a few books, browse the periodicals section and enjoy the writerly ambiance.
3. Get to know your reference librarian
In the era of Google, people sometimes forget about the helpful humans called reference librarians.
Sure, you can type things into a search engine and sort your way through the questionable results that appear. But when you really want to dive in deep and explore a topic, why not consult a reference librarian?
They know where to look and can think of a wide variety of resources off the tops of their heads that most people have never even heard of.
4. Take advantage of interlibrary loans
Even if just you have a small local library nearby, it is almost certainly affiliated with a larger network of libraries.
And that means they can track down difficult-to-find materials for you.
Even if your local library doesn’t have the obscure literary journal or hot new book you’re seeking, they can almost certainly request it from a different library. Sometimes there is a small fee for this service, but it’s often worth it to get your hands on just what you’re looking for.
5. Think digitally
While libraries are packed with physical books, CDs and DVDs, they also have extensive resources available online.
You can typically download ebooks, digital magazines and other online options for free with a regular library card. Typically, these will have checkout periods similar to other library materials, but you’ll have to ask to be sure.
You’ll often need to download certain (typically free) apps to take advantage of these services.
6. Check out maps and guidebooks
Going on a research trip? Pick up a map to explore.
Libraries often have handy travel maps as well as hiking maps and topographic maps for backcountry travelers. And don’t forget to explore the guidebook section to prepare for your next out-of-town research excursion.
It’s also helpful to use these materials to explore a setting for a scene if you can’t make it there to do on-the-ground research.
7. Find reference materials
Whatever you’re writing about, there are sure to be valuable resources on the topic in the library.
Utilize your local reference librarian and scan the shelves yourself to fill your arms with resources to take home. Most libraries also have special collections of materials that may only be used within the library and aren’t available for check out.
See what is in these special collections and take full advantage of these resources.
8. Attend speakers and events
I’m very fortunate that my local library puts on a wonderful series of events each year including talks by a variety of writers and a week-long series of mountain-themed events, including speakers, writing workshops and films.
Chances are, your local library has at least a few interesting workshops, events and speakers coming up.
Check the library’s website, sign up for its e-newsletter, and like the library’s Facebook and other social media pages to stay on top of upcoming events.
9. Find new places to pitch
Spend a few hours falling down the rabbit hole of the periodicals section, and you’ll likely find a few new magazines and publications you’d like to pitch.
Take some time to study the publications and develop a pitching strategy.
Typically, you can check out back issues and bring them home with you to study them even more.
10. Copy clips for your portfolio
Sometimes publications send copies of its print version to contributors, but other times writers are on their own to find a clip.
While it’s great to support the magazines and publications you enjoy, purchasing magazines can get expensive. (However, they are often tax deductible but check with your tax preparer to be sure.)
If you don’t want to shell out cash to get copies of your clips, you can often find them right in the library (or request them via interlibrary loan). Many libraries have scanners you can use to make a copy of the clip or you can likely take a photo with your phone.
Photocopying could also work, but you’ll need to scan the photocopy later to upload it to your digital portfolio.
But be sure not to violate any copyright laws or regulations.
11. Find free museum admission
Many libraries offer museum passes you can check out. Simply borrow the passes to local museums for the free cost of a library card.
Many will even have family passes to local attractions that are also available for checkout.
12. Check out puzzles, sewing machines, and more
Sure, libraries have books, music and films to check out, but many have a far wider range of offerings.
Some libraries have creative spaces and tools available for borrowing, and some even have sewing machines and other artistic items available to borrow with a swipe of your library card. Many also offer children’s items, toys, puzzles, and more.
Ask your librarian to see just what they have–some of these items might not be out on display.
Libraries are a writer’s best friend. Enjoy all the services they offer and be sure to thank your librarian.
What do you love about your library? Tell us in the comments below!