Thursday, February 24, 2011

Make the Most of Your Public Libraries -- They're Not Just For Books!!

If you're like me, in this digital age of internet, smartphones and e-readers, you may have forgotten all about your friendly, neighborhood public library. Remember that place where you spent hours in grade school researching Abraham Lincoln or borrowing a copy of Brave New World? Well, keep reading and you'll learn that libraries aren't just about books and book reports.

At your local public library you can find, not only the expected books, newpapers and magazines, but also CDs, DVDs, graphic novels, comics, free internet access, and more. Don't have time to rummage through the Dewey Decimal System at the New York Public Library (NYPL), which has branches in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) or the Queens Library? Visit the libraries' websites to learn how to reserve books and other materials online, place holds on material you want to read, schedule interlibrary loans, and renew material, all with just a few clicks! Did you know that you can also "borrow" material on your e-reader?

Another great feature is that while some branches may most be useful due to convenience (BPL boasts that "[e]very resident of Brooklyn lives within a half-mile of a Brooklyn Public Library...location"), there are also a number of speciality libraries, like NYPL's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture,  Performing Arts Library, and Science, Industry and Business Library, or BPL's Business Library. Find your preferred branch and hours here: NYPLBPL, Queens.

Looking for a unique first date idea? Check out library event calendars. Last year, I went a date to BPL's Central Library, to visit an art exhibit centered around everyone's favorite street, Sesame Street! If you're ready to delve into some heavy philosophical discussions, check out NYPL's Three Faiths exhibit before it ends this Sunday, February 27. Perhaps you'll even catch a glimpse of some Ghostbusters hot on the trail of paranormal activity. Libraries not only often play host to cultural activities, but also offer career-oriented and other classes and programs, from art and concerts to computer/word processing/and internet classes, resume assistance, tax advice, foreign language (and ESL) classes, a bridge club, children's events (arts & crafts, storytelling, etc.), and more, you'll never be bored at the library. Many library branches also often exhibit local artists and photographers, so don't be shy, send in your work! See events calendars here: BPL, NYPL, Queens.

The value of all of this immeasurable. However, if you want to attempt to measure it, try this nifty Library Use Value Calculator provided by the New York Library Association (NYLA). My own estimated use comes out to well over $1000 a year! When you see how valuable the library can be, consider donating to the NYPL, BPL or Queens Library, making a donation to or even joining NYLA, and/or attending New York Library Advocacy Day on Tuesday, March 1, 2011.

Get a Library Card:
New York Public Library (good at any NYPL branch, including Staten Island and the Bronx)
Brooklyn Public Library (good at any BPL branch)
Queens Library (good at any Queens branch)

Tip: If your personal and/or business address allow you to do so, make sure to get a library card for multiple library systems, as on some rare occassions you may find that NYPL has access to material that BPL does not have, or vice versa. A prime example - you won't find beloved graphic novel/comic series Y, The Last Man at BPL, but you will find the entire series at NYPL.

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