The public library: a whole new world

Have you heard? Libraries are cool again!

When was the last time you set foot in your library?  Or checked out their website? Or their app? 

If you think the library is an out-of-date concept – think again! 

For starters: free Wi-Fi and gobs of downloadable digital content.

Yes, of course, libraries do still have all the old-school stuff like physical books (much to the book-lover’s delight) narrated books on CD, and films on DVD.  However, these days, their content has expanded and morphed to remain accessible, useful, and convenient to new generations of curious minds.  

Here are a few examples of what you can find at a public library:

Digital Content: With the help of apps like Hoopla, and OverDrive (among others) libraries now offer an ever-expanding selection of digital content, and you can borrow all of it for free! From movies and books to periodicals and music. You download the app, select the content you want, and get on with it!  This means you don’t even have to make it down to the library to check out a book – and you don’t have to worry about returning it on time because it simply disappears from your device on the date it is due back!

Tutoring: Need help with a certain subject?  Check out their tutoring schedule.  In some cases, you can even fill out a request form and they will contact you if a tutor is available.

Meeting spaces: Libraries have rooms available for you to use – for meetings, for study groups, for tutoring, etc.  Some rooms are even equipped with projectors, laptop connections, etc.  The smaller rooms are typically first-come, first-served, while the larger meetings rooms require reservations.

Free Courses: Check out their calendar of events.  Here in Jacksonville you can find everything from beginner guitar lessons to digital photography, ESL, Yoga, and basic coding!  (Each branch offers different things, so make sure you are looking at the right location!)

Copy/Print/Scan: Public computers are available to library card holders and guest passes (“guests” being those who do not have a library card) are available for a nominal fee.  Printers and copiers are accessible to library card-holders for a small fee to cover supplies (check pricing at your branch).  Some locations even offer mobile printing and 3D printing! Yes, that kind of 3-printing where you can actually create a three dimensional object!  

Fine Arts: Some locations occasionally offer free concerts, presentations, galleries, exhibitions, craft fairs, and debates.  The Jacksonville Main library features a Lunch @ the Lounge concert on a monthly basis, where you can bring your lunch, grab a table, and enjoy live guitar music.  They also feature a monthly Music @ Main Sunday Intermezzo.

Work space: Of course, libraries also have lots of space to sit and read or study. Coffee shops may be a popular place to go do some homework, but libraries are much more spacious and less chaotic. Plus, you don’t have to make a purchase in order to hang out at a table for three hours. So, if blowing your budget on coffee and pastries is an issue for you, the library is an ideal alternative!

Variety and personality: Some public library buildings are massive works of art with beautiful design and architecture; others are tiny and quaint.  The Jacksonville Main Library is a good example of a large and beautiful building.  It even has murals and a roof-top patio complete with potted trees and a fountain!  Others locations have cozy indoor spaces, craft rooms, and tiny theaters.  The branch closest to our TBC campus (West Branch) offers a quiet space with comfy seating, charging stations, and a fireplace!  The Willowbranch location is housed in a gorgeous building next to a public park and across the street from a community garden – a beautiful setting to sit and read!

When all is said and done, the public library is pretty much the perfect place to start if you are interested in what you can do, learn, enjoy, and use for FREE in your area!  Practically the only prerequisite for accessing it all is having a (free) library card.

Keep in mind that every library in every city will have different things available.  Much of it depends on the size of the city, but even small-town libraries can have some great perks!  Sign up for their newsletter – it will give you a run-down of community happenings and any new things coming to your library. Bottom line: it is ALWAYS a good idea to try the library first – you never know what you will find!

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