Happy Martin Luther King Jr Day! You know what Dr. King liked? Social justice. Yep. You know hard that can be to find? Pretty real hard. The justice system is mega complicated, and legal advice is expensive. If you don’t have a lot of money to begin with, or maybe a lawyer-type friend you can ask personal favors of, you might be out of luck…
Unless you have a public library that hosts regular legal clinics to field questions and share free legal advice—and chances are you do! Many libraries (at least in the US) do this, and my local one always has one in honor of Dr. King himself, as well as others sprinkled throughout the year. How awesome is that?
Most of us don’t think of libraries as the place to go to for free legal advice. We all know that they are fantastic for checking out books and movies, browsing free internet, and maybe getting a little help with your homework, but there is so much more than that available! Not all libraries will have all these services, but many do. (And if you aren’t sure, call up your reference desk! Answering questions is what they do best!)
Here’s a quick look at some of the other services you might have overlooked!
Concerts In addition to lending albums both physical and streamed, many libraries host music recitals that are free to attend, so you can get live music there too! Yeah, these concerts are often little kids in uncomfortable clothes sweating profusely under the bright lights, but you know? It’s adorable and free and those kids are all way better trained than I am. But sometimes there are real-and-true professional musicians as well. Ask for a schedule to see what’s available.
Classes Books aren’t the only source of valuable knowledge at the library. Many libraries also offer courses, ranging from media literacy to foreign languages to IT to crafts to finance, and everything in between. And these classes are usually free!
Printing Psh, I hear you say. Everybody knows that libraries have printers. But did you know that my library has 3D printers, and printing instructions for a miniature Millennium Falcon? And yours might too!
Borrowing Stuff And not just books and CDs! (What? Nobody uses CDs anymore?) Larger libraries have just about everything under the sun available for either in-house use or check-out, but some of the more common items include laser vinyl cutters, laptops, wifi hotspots, and even sewing machines and musical instruments. Not sure? Just ask! (But seriously, the smaller your library is, the less likely they are to have room for all this less usual stuff, haha.)
Free Gathering Place If you live somewhere that isn’t buried in snow half the year, this might not seem important. But having a heated place where you can gather (you know, when there isn’t a pandemic going on) without the pressure of spending money you may or may not have is invaluable. I’ve been to everything from birthday parties to critique groups at the library, and they were all great.
Job Hunting Assistance Need to brush up on your resume? Working on your interview skills? Searching for open positions? The library can help with those things! Not only do they have internet and printers available, but they can help you from the ground up, guiding you through the process and helping you feel more confident going in.
Whatever the Heck You Need Librarians are research ninjas and they are happy to use their powers for whatever you need help with. (Except crime. Don’t ask.) Need help with your genealogy? They’ll help! Need help setting up your new phone or getting apps to work? Just ask! Need help applying for college admission? They’re in! Librarians are brilliant, flexible, and happy to help. If they can’t help you directly, they can help you get to someone who can. Just ask.
When we think about libraries, most of us think about books. And that’s great! Books and reading are still at the very heart of what libraries are about. Libraries are havens for culture and learning, but that doesn’t have to stay limited to just books. Libraries have been about the preservation and sharing of knowledge since the very beginning. And now with the modern public library, they can also generate community and support individuals as well as being repositories of knowledge, which is why they should always be well-used, well-funded, and well-loved.
How about you? What’s your favorite off-the-beaten-path library magic? Let me know! I’m always looking for more ways to put my library to good use!
And until next week, happy writing!