Your Public Library Is A Gold Mine

SFLib02When I was a child, I used public libraries to borrow books on a fairly regular basis. During high school, I relied on the high school library, and occasionally went to the university library nearby. In college, I used the several university libraries available. In my first job, the firm I worked for had a larger architectural library than the local university, and had hired their senior librarian. Alas, later in life, I rarely visited libraries, preferring to visit bookstores like Borders, instead. I purchased books I wanted to read, and over the years, I developed a fairly respectable personal library of over 2,000 books and 150 audiobooks. That's a lot to move around and keep track of.

In my effort to own less stuff, I donated my personal library to several public libraries. This was made possible by the Amazon Kindle, and cloud storage. The Kindle is a nice reading device and the ability to have my entire library available on the device was a big plus. And it was consistent with my efforts to go "paperless".

Are public libraries still relevant in 2016 and beyond? Yes!

In my visit to one of the local libraries, to donate a collection of books, I got a library card and logged into the library's website. Back then (2012), it was fairly crude, but it did have links to eBook and audiobook services. That meant that I could check out items from these services and have them delivered to my Kindle, IOS or Android device. Awesome!

Since that time, I have joined additional local libraries as I have moved around and taken advantage of their collections. In addition to traditional collections that libraries offer, here are a few of the offerings that many public and university libraries include:

1 Audio Books

I love audio books and have started several "audio book clubs" at various places I have worked. I am delighted to see audio book apps and collections. They are easy to use and have pretty good coverage. Here are some audio book services I have used:


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I think this is the best service because the IOS, Android and Windows apps are well done, they have a great website, and deep content.

  •  eBooks
  • Audiobooks


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Come here for more content. The IOS app isn't very good, but it is usable. They lack quite a few features that Overdrive has. It has movies, TV shows and music that Overdrive does not include.

  • eBooks
  • Audiobooks
  • Movies
  • TV
  • Music

One Click Digital

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This service seems to be on its way out. I have noticed that libraries are cancelling the service. It was not bad while I used it. 

  • eBooks
  • Audiobooks

2 Audio Services

Enjoy music? Chances are your library has a vast collection of CD onsite, and an even larger collection offered as a service online.

SFLib013 Video Services

The last Blockbuster may be gone, but your library probably still has a large collection of DVDs on hand. And just like music and audio books, there is probably a nice collection online too.

4 Free WiFi and Study Areas

Need a remote office or alternative to Starbucks. Check out a public library. They usually have free WiFi and comfortable seating. Some even have private offices you can check out. I have found that large urban public libraries can have a variety of homeless people using the cubicles and study areas. At first, this bothered me. But as time when on, my thinking about this has changed. I would much rather have people in the library reading, than out on the streets panhandling. I imagine many lives have been transformed over the years in public libraries. They are one of the last free public places that a person without means can go and find safety, protection from the weather and resources to improve their life. 

5 Specialty Collections

  • Legal forms
  • Business forms
  • Parcel maps
  • Historic documents

Many of which are available online.

6 Language Learning Software

Language learning software can be effective, but is also expensive. But it"s probably free at your public library. 

7 Free 3D Printing

Some public libraries now have 3D printers. Awesome!