The Library is a Superpower
January 12, 2024
I volunteer with a great local program. Through it, I help connect newcomers to the local tech scene. One of the standard pieces of advice I give is: get a library card.
Sometimes there’s a puzzled look. Who cares about libraries these days? At least for me, libraries have only got more interesting in the past decade. My plan is to try and get you to look into your library’s services by bragging a bit about what my library offers.
This is usually the reason I bring up getting a library card. I often get asked if I know of good places to start learning some technology. Our library system has partnered with LinkedIn Learning (formerly Linda.com). Not everyone learns best from reading books or documentation, and YouTube can be hit or miss. It’s news to just about everyone I speak with that our library offers this content for free.
When I started freelancing, I got a cheap multi-function inkjet printer. I still use it for scanning, but it turns out that I print things too infrequently. Ink is expensive, and I found it was often dried out when I wanted to use it. These days I print everything at the library. Everyone with a card gets 50 pages a month for free, and it’s $0.10 a page after that.
I’ve only used this service twice, but it’s been extremely helpful for prototyping. With my library card, I have access to 3D printing services at the main branch, a engineering campus at a local university, and also a few others. The cost is based on time, weight, or the amount of filament used. If you’re looking to give 3D printing a shot, this might be a better way to go than an expensive device you’ll use a handful of times.
This kind of falls in the category of “normal library stuff”, but Libby is an astonishingly well designed app. Just enter your library card details and start reading books, listening to audiobooks, browsing magazines, or checking out manga/graphic novels. You may need to be added to a waitlist, but you can sign up for notifications when things are available. Libby works with just about all libraries in North America. If I wasn’t already paying stupid money for Apple One, this is how I’d read Edge and Retro Gamer.
This might not matter to some, but I still like having access to traditional news media. Our library offers Pressreader, giving card holders the ability to read digital hard-copies of hundreds of papers from around the world.
Libraries offer a lot of services to the community, but the space itself can be useful. Obviously they can be places to work and research, but they also often hold events. My library holds regular small business sessions and helps with startup financing. Heck, a nearby library also offers a D&D drop-in that I just learned about while writing this. Also, if you’re researching something, librarians kinda do this for a living. There’s a good chance they know about other resources you might not. At least at my library, they’re great folks!
Hopefully it’s not just me
I want to say that I feel privileged to live just a few blocks from an award winning library. That said, I grew up in a small town with a library that also offers most of these services. Also, you may have access to more than just one library. In Halifax, my library card gives me access to many services from the three university libraries in walking distance.
I personally think Halifax is special, but it’s a pretty small city. Check out what your local library has to offer. You might be surprised!