Five benefits to discover at your friendly neighborhood library

Remember Cheers, the show about a bar and its patrons that ran through the eighties and early nineties? Okay, maybe you don’t remember it; but you’ve probably heard of it. The theme song had a catchy refrain: “Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name.”

That’s how I feel waltzing into our local library. I’m usually dragging along a tote bag full of books, often carrying at least one child on my hip, and, on good days, holding a thermos of hot coffee. I go to the library at a minimum once a week, but typically more often. It’s a familiar place dedicated to sharing one of my favorite things in the world: books! And at times, it feels like a secret treasure.

When people hear about all of the things we do at the library, it’s often followed up with an incredulous, “For free?!” When my friends hear about how many books I’ve plowed through in the past month, they quickly ask how I can afford that many, and when I respond that I get them from the library, I’ve more-than-once had someone respond that they didn’t know people used libraries anymore.

Libraries aren’t just buildings full of stories. They’re important cornerstones of communities. Yours probably has one: after all, there are more libraries in the United States than there are McDonald's. As much as I love checking out a great novel, there are tons of other reasons to hit up your library. Here are five hidden perks you may not have been aware of!

01. Ongoing education

Libraries frequently offer classes on everything from computer literacy to financial planning. They also sometimes bring in official government assistance on things like taxes so that you can make sure you’re getting all of your forms filled out correctly. Check out the main bulletin board or online calendar for upcoming events. If there’s a particular topic you’re interested in learning more about, bring it up with your librarian—there’s typically a set budget for events each year and librarians are usually more than willing to get patron input.

02. Meeting authors of your dreams

Lots of libraries bring in authors for book clubs or lectures. If there’s an author who really rocked your world lately, ask your librarians if they would consider bringing them to the library to speak.

03. Securing a quiet work or study space

It’s obvious that college libraries make for a great place to study, but your local library may have spaces available for quiet work as well. If you need to finish up a big project or are working on some creative writing, see about securing a study room at your local library. Getting out of your living space can be helpful, but the clang and clatter of coffee shops are too much for some people to stay focused. Libraries can provide quiet spaces to get things done.

04. Entertainment for kiddos

Whether you’re a mom, aunt, or babysitter, you probably know how great it is to get out of the house, especially as the weather starts to turn colder. My two toddlers love playing in our library’s children’s section, and more importantly, they’ve learned the importance of reading as an activity. They’ve even learned social skills, like sharing and communicating with adults, and have had to ask the librarian to help them find certain books. That’s not even including organized events like story times and playgroups, where I’ve met two of my best friends.

05. A safe refuge for the marginalized in your community

Even if the library hasn’t personally benefited you, local libraries are often a refuge for the people in your community experiencing homelessness. The free Internet access allows them to hunt for housing and jobs, and the warmth of a safe building can make a world of difference when you’re facing extreme hardships.

So the next time someone offhandedly wonders if libraries are “still a thing,” make sure to respond with an emphatic YES—and check out your own.