The best kept secret that everybody knows about is the library. What do I mean by that? Ask anybody to think about their library and most will immediately think about books. They may also think about the DVDs, the magazines and newspapers, the printer and copier, the programming or maybe even the 3D printer. Already a pretty rich list, but many libraries offer even more hidden gems you might not know about.
The library is an absolute gold mine of resources. Living in northeast Ohio, I am lucky enough to be surrounded by a treasure trove of library systems. With 4 library cards in my wallet, I’ve utilized all of the freebies mentioned below, and will gladly tell anyone who will listen about them, too.
At the Avon Lake Public Library, you can borrow a bike for an entire day with your library card. Situated right along Lake Erie, riders can hit the beach or wherever their heart desires with their new wheels. You can even get a Trail-A-Bike to hook on to yours for kids who may tire easily or haven’t quite gotten the hang of balancing. Bikes even come with safety features like bells (ding ding!), reflectors, helmets and locks.
A Wi-Fi hotspot lending program through the Cuyahoga County Public Library offers free, unlimited high-speed internet access for those who don’t have access at home. Traveling to a remote destination? Take along the internet to ensure you stay connected.
You know how kids BEG and BEG for a toy, tear it open in a magical fury, play with it for 5 minutes and then literally never touch it again? Yeah. That happens from time to time in our house. Cuyahoga County Public Library to the rescue! Their toy collection is packed full of dollhouses, dinosaurs, pretend food, puzzles, train sets, blocks, scooters, adapted toys and so much more. Santa has some competition in our house when those big white boxes come home from the library, revealing a fun new toy inside. After 3 weeks when the fun is done, the toy can go back to the library (or be renewed!).
Living in the big city of Chicago after graduating college was a dream come true. But, as a girl just starting out, I had a ‘just starting out’ salary to match, and couldn’t always afford everything the city had to offer, like The Art Institute, The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium or the Chicago Botanical Garden. Now, the Chicago Public Library offers Kids Museum Passports, where you can visit all of these destinations and more for free and soak up the city on the cheap.
This list just keeps growing! You can actually check out seeds from the Cleveland Public Library. In an effort to preserve biodiversity and promote local, heirloom varieties of plants, the Seed Library allows you to check out a packet of seeds to grow in your own garden. Of course, you don’t need to return them (can you imagine that mess?), but you can then lend them to a friend or continue to use seeds from your plants the following year.
It can be challenge at times to get some work done or have a quiet meeting at home. When I’m in my home office, there’s almost always a firetruck driving by, a cat yowling for food or the sound of my daughter jumping off the couch into her carefully constructed pillow fort. The more important the meeting, the more likely there is to be pillow fort jumping. The library has always been a peaceful haven, but with so many virtual meetings these days, a resource like Zoom rooms can be vital for preserving that concentration and minimizing disruption.
Everybody knows the library offers story times for kids, but once they age out, what’s next? The Lakewood Public Library offers after-school homework help for kids in kindergarten through 8th grade. They can even check out a Chromebook to use at the library, access a variety of school supplies and ask questions to a staff member ready and willing to assist with everything from spelling to math.
If a bike wasn’t cool enough, the Avon Lake Public Library does it again with instruments available for check out. You can rock out with electric guitars, banjos, ukuleles and even a practice snare drum pad. This is a great way to test out an instrument to see if you’re ready to take the plunge and buy one for real, or just to strum around and have some fun. Many libraries also offer digital sheet music through the Libby app so you can search for a tune from any genre or era.
Securing a job isn’t always easy, and the first step to improving your chances is with your resume. The Rocky River Public Library offers career services including resume help and interview prep that can increase your confidence and your chances of getting a job.
If you’re looking to improve your skills without breaking the bank on expensive courses, many libraries like the Cleveland Public Library offer Linkedin Learning courses on topics including business, web development and even software programs like Adobe Creative Suite.
The pandemic brought a halt to many library programs, but it revealed many creative and innovative librarians who found new ways to keep the fun going. “Grab-and-go” or “Take-and-make” kits became a universal hit, including at the Grand Rapids Public Library, with all the ingredients needed to make a fun craft wrapped up in a perfect to-go package. Our local library offers a weekly kit and all the supplies necessary to make a craft with kids. As an admittedly non-crafty parent, this is a lifesaver.
Your library offers tons of ebooks and audiobooks through the Libby app. You can search for the exact book you want to read, or shop around (the best kind of shopping because it’s free!) and browse through catalog guides, subjects, featured titles and curated lists. There’s a lot to discover, and Libby’s ebook reader makes it easy to customize your reading experience.
Many libraries offer digital magazines, too! Browse through some of the most popular including US Weekly, The New Yorker, Good Housekeeping (and more). You can even use a smart tag in Libby to get notifications when the magazines you love come out with a new issue.
To find out if your library offers digital books through Libby, you can search here, or check out your library’s website for more information.
Many libraries offer extra learning and entertainment resources through Libby Extras. Some of those resources may include SAT or ACT help with Method Learning, simplified legal forms with LawDepot, full-length concerts through Qello or streaming movies through services like iNDIEFLIX or Kanopy. If your library offers any of these resources, you'll find them in the Libby app in Library under "Extras."
Each library’s offerings are unique and focus on what provides the most value for their community. To find the exact resources available at your library, your best bet is to check the library's website, or stop in and ask your friendly librarian.
What’s the coolest thing your library offers? Tell us on social!