5 Reasons (Besides Books) Your Public Library Just Might Be Your Home Away From Home

My family is filled with bookworms.

You know how when you walk into someone’s house and look around and ask yourself, “Where are all the books?”

No? Just me?

Our home is not like that. We have two floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves in our den and two in our living room. My oldest daughters have overflowing bookshelves that run the length of their bedrooms walls, and my youngest has baskets of books. Not to mention the ones flowing out of my nightstand, in my backpack, and haphazardly shoved into every corner (sometimes to the chagrin of my wife).

And none of this would be possible without our local library.

Let’s face it. Books are expensive. I’d love to spend all of my paychecks on any and every kind of book. Graphic novels, cookbooks, books on art and architecture, horror novels and memoirs. The problem with that is that I’ve got bills to pay, food to buy, and my kids’ college expenses to save for for.

So at least once a week, we take a family trip to our local library. We fill our cloth shopping bags with more books than we can possibly read in a three-week period. If there was a gold medal for checking out too many books, I’d win. Hands down.

Now, I know not everybody lives in a large town like I do. Our county library system has 18 branches. 18 libraries is a lot of libraries.

Or maybe you do, but your family isn’t as big on reading. That’s okay. I’m here to show you why, even without bookworms in your home, the library has something for you.

Movies

Our library collective has thousands, and I mean thousands, of movies. If a movie exists, odds are there’s a copy of it somewhere in the library system. More times than I can count, we’ve wanted to watch a movie and looked for it on Netflix or Amazon or Hulu only to come up empty–  until we went to the library to check it out.

And odds are that your library doesn’t just have physical movies. Ours has a service called Kanopy, which will allow you to sign in with your library card and stream a ton of movies from your couch. All while staying in your sweats. Win-win.

Library of Things

If you live in a larger city, your library may offer this service. The library of things is exactly what it sounds like.

You can check out a trumpet, a circular saw, a deep fryer or a fly fishing rod. It’s a fantastic way to try something out before you buy it.

Recently, our 9-year-old decided that she wanted a “movie theater” birthday party. So we set about turning our living room into a theater. We cleared out the furniture, hung a sheet from the wall, and headed to our library to borrow a digital projector and a commercial grade popcorn maker. Because what movie is complete without buttery, greasy popcorn?

If you need it, odds are it’s in the library of things.

Cultural Passes

Many libraries also have day passes to attractions around town. At my library, I can currently get passes to things like the Chinese Garden, the Oregon Historical Museum, the Aviation Museum, and a host of other attractions. These can save your family some serious money, as admission to those places can often be quite steep.

The only catch is, you’ve got to reserve them early. But if you do, you can treat your family to a day of fun without breaking the bank.

Expecting? Perfect!

Most libraries have some sort of infant or toddler storytime at least once a day. It’s a perfect place for you to bring the kids, get a second of rest and contact with other adults while your kids listen to a story. Many libraries also offer Lego playtimes for preschool-aged and older kids.

Our library system also has kits for expecting parents that you can simply ask for at the front desk. They offer parenting classes as well, which is fantastic because let’s face it, being a new parent is overwhelming. Our library even has a sign encouraging first-time parents to come to the front desk and get a free board book for their little ones.

And So Much More

If you haven’t found something that looks interesting yet, here is a list of things I spied on the bulletin board at my local library today:

  • Free vision screenings for kids
  • Nature mobile
  • Lego free play
  • Preschool playgroup
  • Pokemon party
  • Mini golf
  • Gaming club
  • Music classes

As you can see, the library is about so much more than books. It’s a place for everybody in the community to gather, regardless of how much money you make or don’t make, and take advantage of some of the free and outstanding things that are provided.

Your library workers are heroes. So the next time you head to your local library, take a minute and say thank you to them for everything they do.

I honestly don’t know where my family or community would be without our libraries.

So get your family out the door today, go get a library card, and try to contain your excitement when you go pick up that commercial grade popcorn maker.

Just be sure to clean it when you’re done.

 

Stephen Carter is a writer, husband, father, & friend. He lives in Portland with his wife Rachel, and 3 beautiful girls, Avery, Rylee, & Hattie. When he’s not reading or writing, he enjoys a local micro-brew, or a strong cup of coffee. He is passionate about literature, theology, justice, Daniel Day-Lewis movies, U2 records (but with strong reservations about No Line on the Horizon), and believes that the right words can change the world. He can be found on: Twitter: @stephenedwardc

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