Want to check out a guitar? 7 library services you may not know about

Janet Nguyen Apr 28, 2023
The next time you visit your public library, find out if your branch offers musical instruments. dvulikaia/Getty Images

Want to check out a guitar? 7 library services you may not know about

Janet Nguyen Apr 28, 2023
The next time you visit your public library, find out if your branch offers musical instruments. dvulikaia/Getty Images

If you need help finding a job, a musical instrument or a private space for a telehealth appointment, the public library has you covered.  

Libraries, beyond lending books, offer a variety of social, health care and economic services that you may not be aware of. 

With National Library Week underway, here’s a sampling of what libraries across the country offer. Check your local branch to see the variety of resources it provides.

1. Check out a musical instrument, a camera, a sewing machine or plant seeds

Many branches in the U.S. have a “Library of Things” where you can check out musical instruments such as guitars and xylophones, gardening equipment, sewing machines, robotics kits, telescopes and dozens of other helpful gadgets and equipment. 

Some locations even provide seeds for fruits, vegetables and flowers. The Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library in California says there are more than 800 seed libraries across 48 states.  

2. Get resume advice 

Pay a visit to the library the next time you need help sprucing up your resume or just need guidance on how to search for jobs. 

Libraries often offer some form of job assistance or workforce development services, which can include help with your job application, access to live online career coaches, free online educational courses and workshops on starting a small business

3. Renew your driver’s license or car registration 

There’s a way to skip the wait at the DMV.

Some public libraries, like ones in South Dakota and Virginia, allow you to renew your driver’s license or your state ID.

The DMV comes to Central Rappahannock Regional Library branches in Virginia about twice a month, CRRL Director Martha Hutzel told Marketplace. Public libraries in Illinois also give you the option to renew your car registration. 

4. Learn how to manage your personal finances

Public libraries throughout the country, from California to Ohio to New York, offer free tax preparation and assistance if your income is below a certain threshold. 

Many also offer financial literacy workshops and programs that can help you learn skills and develop habits like setting financial goals, learning how to invest and managing your debt.

And at a time when identity theft and fraud are on the rise, some are offering workshops that will teach you how to protect yourself from scams. 

5. Log on to doctor’s appointments and get health screenings and free COVID-19 tests

If you need a private spot for a telehealth visit with your doctor, you might find what you need at your local branch. Some public libraries are providing rooms with resources like computers, webcams and other technology necessary for a virtual visit. Libraries in Texas, Maine, Delaware and Virginia have set up such hubs.

These services are especially important in rural areas, where residents may have to travel long distances to see their doctors. A 2022 report from the American Hospital Association found that there were 136 rural hospital closures between 2010 and 2021.

Some library branches in cities such as Toledo, Ohio, host free breast and cervical cancer screenings from local health agencies.

And for those who need COVID-19 testing, there are still some public libraries that are providing free at-home tests (while supplies last). 

6. Buy cheap tickets to the museum or zoo 

Many libraries offer free or discounted tickets for cultural events or exhibits. The Los Angeles and Boston public libraries, for example, let you reserve passes for museums in their respective areas. 

7. Free online subscriptions and streaming services 

They wouldn’t be libraries without access to reading materials. Don’t forget that there are digital databases with magazines and e-books that you can access with a library card. 

With a card at participating libraries, you can also stream thousands of movies and documentaries through the online service Kanopy.

Hoopla, another online service, also provides participating library members access to movies, along with music, audiobooks and e-books.

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