Making Friends with Your Public Library

When I moved to Minnesota, I didn’t spend much time at my local public library. I would drop in now and then and check out children’s books for my young kids. Every once in a while, I’d browse through the adult section, but I was more likely to head to Barnes & Noble for reading material. Little did I know back then how important the public library would become to me—not so much as a reader but as a writer.

Today, the library is the first place I go for research, even if it’s just background reading on a subject. I take full advantage of all the books, periodicals, microfilm, databases, and more that my library has to offer. If I can’t find something I’m looking for, the reference librarians are usually able to find it at another library or direct me to where I might have better luck. But I don’t just go to the public library for research; I sometimes spend entire afternoons writing in a cubicle at the library. And why not? It’s close by, easy to navigate, welcoming, peaceful—and free!

Whether you’re new to writing or not, making friends with your public library is something you’ll definitely want to do. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your relationship:

  • If your public library has a website, visit it first. Sometimes, the information you need is available online, plus it’s a good idea to learn about the library, its branches, and its holdings before going there in person.
  • Get acquainted with the reference librarians at your library, and let them know you’re a writer. Not only are librarians extraordinarily helpful and knowledgeable, they make good contacts for writers.
  • Remember to take advantage of interlibrary loan possibilities. Public libraries may not carry the type of research you’re looking for, but they often have access to other libraries that do.
  • Interested in joining a critique group, taking a class, or attending an author visit? Check to see if your library hosts any writing-related events in their meeting rooms.
  • Give back to your library by donating any books or other materials that you no longer need, volunteering, or becoming a member of a Friends of the Library group, which is dedicated to supporting the public library.

If you haven’t already, get to know your public library, and enjoy the many benefits this indispensable “friend” has to offer.

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