In 2017, I decluttered my apartment, improved my language skills, wrote a quarter of my novel, and read 70 books. I did all these things with help from programs and services from my community’s best free resource – the library.
Obviously, you can also use the library to read more books. Many people don’t realize, however, that the library offers so many other resources for learning, entertainment, socialization or even getting involved in local politics. Libraries are an amazing resource – and it’s amazing that people don’t take full advantage of them because libraries are completely free! Use the following tricks to advance all your goals, including reading more books.
- Hack the hold system to save time.
First things first – use the library to learn about a wider variety of topics cheaply and efficiently. I used to determine what books I was going to read by browsing aimlessly in bookstores or the library. This took at least half an hour and I would go home with 7-8 books, read whatever was interesting and then repeat the process in a few weeks. It was a fine method but hopelessly inefficient. Also I would gravitate to the same sections over and over again. I found myself reading too many books about parties, personality tests and dating and not doing enough to repair my lack of knowledge in history, geography and biography .
Instead, I recommend starting with a list. Go to your favorite bloggers and websites or ask your friends to recommend books. Alternatively you could google a list of “best books to read” or “best books of 2017.” Your own library may have a list of favorite reader books or a list of new books that you can browse. Also, in an effort to diversify your reading list, think about what kinds of topics you want to learn more about and search for the best books in these categories.
Once you have this list of books, go online to your library catalog and put these books on hold. If you are looking for current popular books, there may be a long wait so it’s imperative that you also keep a long list of books on your hold list. At any given time I have about 20 books on hold and I’m on various places on the wait list for several others. This way I don’t get new books all at once but also don’t have to wait around for something to read.
Having books on hold means that you don’t waste time browsing through the library to figure out what book you want or reading the same kind of book over and over. Additionally, if your library is part of a network of libraries, you then have access to a greater number of books without having to travel to access them.
When you go to the library, you can just head over to the hold section and check out your books. By taking out multiple books at once, if you’re not in the mood for one book, then you can read another. Saving time in the library means you have more time for reading, which will lead to more books being read. You’ll be zooming through books in no time in 2018!
- Check out the digital resources.
Want to read the latest issues of Cosmo, The Economist or GQ? Want to download audio books from the comfort of your home? Want to have access to university-level courses? I can do all these things from the comfort of my apartment, with my library app. Check to see if your library participates in the RB digital app or a similar app. By downloading the app, you save even the time of going to the library in order to stock up on knowledge.
The app is just the start of the library’s potential resources, however. If you get familiar with your library’s website, you may also discover a number of free educational programs like Lynda or Mango Languages. I personally used Lynda to learn about SEO and marketing for my website. I used Mango to brush up on some languages before a big European trip. Both provided top notch and unique methods of instruction. Best of all, I could access both services from the comfort of my computer or phone and they were both totally free.
- Explore in-person programs.
My library has lots of programming to keep its clientele entertained and social. If you want to meet new people, you can discuss all the new books you’re reading through a variety of book clubs, learn to make gifts or food through craft nights or even chat people up during happy hours hosted by the library.
If you want to entertain your mind, you can attend one of the many talks a library may sponsor with famous authors or workshops geared to teach a variety of different interests. Upcoming events at my library include information about becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen and a workshop on personal finance. Many libraries also host language lessons and meet-ups for various special interests.
If you are interested in fitness, libraries often also have fitness classes. My library offers yoga and tai chi.
For other interests, libraries also host events where you can meet your local congressmen, obtain toys for kids or even get help with technology. Libraries are amazing incubators for meeting new people and learning new skills.
- Shop the book sale.
Many libraries have blowout book sales to get rid of old books and other donated materials. Personally, I find it useful to buy children’s books at these sales because kids’ books can be crazy expensive and you need a lot if you have a voracious reader.
Library books sales don’t just sell books though. I’ve gotten a pretty impressive and unique collection of sheet music and records from library sales at a small fraction of their original costs. Having a record collection that goes from Liszt to Springsteen to mariachi covers of the Beatles – it’s all thanks to the library.
- Donate your old magazines and books.
If your goal in 2018 is to declutter, then you may want to start by giving your bookshelves a break. Consider giving used books, magazines and DVDs to your local library, which they can incorporate into their circulation or into the aforementioned book sale. You get a tax deduction and are helping other people in your community while giving new life to your possessions and helping the environment. Plus, think about all the storage space you’ll save!
- Don’t be afraid of fines.
On the one hand, the due date and the warning of a fine (and the threat of disappointing another user) keeps you focused on finishing your books so that you can return them. On the other hand, people use fines to stay away from libraries and nothing worse could happen than using a piddling fine to deter your access to the library!
I think of fines as part of my charitable giving – because it’s going to a good cause. Of course you shouldn’t keep your books out longer than you have them reserved but things happen and you’ll inevitably accrue some fines if you’re taking out dozens of books at a time. I spend about $20/year on book fines but I get so much use out of my library, I’m happy to pay the fines. It doesn’t deter me – rather, it encourages me to give. This is why I’m a lifetime member of my library – and I encourage you to give to your library too. It’s only fair to give back some of the largesse you receive from being a frequent patron of your library and you’re helping the library get even better than it already is.
All in all, the library is an amazing resource. Even though some may think it odd to go to one’s local library, those who understand the amazing benefits offered by local libraries are really gaining incredible advantages – all for free.
What about you? Do you use all the resources provided by your local library?