Remember when you were a kid and every year you would make a dozen trips to the library? Maybe they were all for school. Or maybe it was because your parents made you go. Whatever the reason, we all seem to frequent the library less as we get older. Only 58% of adults in the USA have a library card, despite the fact that the average American’s contribution to supporting a library (through taxes) is about the cost of a new hardcover book. Libraries are one of the most valuable assets that everyone pays for and has access to, yet rarely uses. If you don’t believe us, listen to Matt Damon.
Of course, there is a lot more to learning than just picking up a book and paging through it. If you don’t believe me, just look at the demand for services like The Great Courses and Lynda.com, which cater to learners who want more academic-y resources than just Wikipedia and Cliff Notes. The added level of immersion that digital services offer are beat only by much more expensive college courses, and most users agree they are far superior to Matt Damon’s library books alone. Fine. At my local library, you can get access to both of those services for the tidy price of FREE. That’s a good deal compared to…well, paying the full price of $240/year for Lynda or over $200/course at the Great Courses.
Even if learning isn’t your thing, the library can help you out. As a writer, I hate telling you to pick something instead of books, but libraries often have impressive collections of music and movies for, once again, that beautiful sticker price of $0. Looking for a new release? Check the local library first. They don’t have it? Talk to a librarian, and see if someone in their network does, or even if they can add it to a wish list to purchase for the collection.
While there may be an impulse to think of libraries as being something for a bygone age, you need to stop into one to see what has changed. In addition to e-books that are often available for rental, there are a variety of resources that would make your 20th-century ancestors squeal with joy. Many have digital studios that include film and sound editing suites, recording booths, cameras available to borrow, computer training, and the holy grail of it all: Open Access resources. Hate to break it to you, but that old stodgy library is more adapted to the times than you can even dream of being.
And like a lot of public services, it’s easy to sing praise. But do the guys behind the Gentleman’s Guide to Everything actually put their money where their mouths are? You bet we do. We learned our podcasting chops in library recording and editing booths, producing professional quality recordings on equipment that would cost us easily $2000 or more if we had to buy it ourselves. I use the library for obtaining academic articles or researching my novels. I just grabbed Joe Hill’s new book, The Fireman, for free rather than dropping $30 on it. The service provided by your library is simply too valuable to ignore. Be smart, use your library! If you don’t know where your library is, start here.