1 DIG INTO GENEALOGY
You may associate ancestry.com with grandmas looking up their grandma's grandmas, and indeed, if you are a grandma, genealogy work makes for a great use of the library. But you don't just have to stick with looking up your family. Two years ago, I found a beautiful love poem handwritten inside an antique edition of Ralph Waldo Emerson's Essays and Representative Men.
It was from a man named "Elof Theodore Olson," dedicated to "My Pet — Dawn in the 'Blue,'" and dated March 18, 1939. And that's all I had to go on. But with a few hours with ancestry.com at the library, we discovered not only who Elof Theodore Olson likely was, but that he was a shipping company clerk, a bookkeeper at an auto-supply company. And, when he was 18, he had a job at a public library — a little like the one I was sitting in right there.
And then, with a little extra social-media magic, I found the granddaughter of his half-sister and called her up. She's doing well, thanks for asking.
That's the magic of the library.
2 WATCH WORKS OF CINEMATIC GENIUS
Yeah, yeah, everybody knows you can check out DVDs at the library. But who has a DVD player anymore? Better to get the true movie experience, and you can take your kids to the library itself, and watch a movie played on a projector. Previous movies have included Aquaman, Rocky III, and The Sandlot.
Better yet, stream movies, music and even check out e-books from the comfort of your own home by using your library account. Download Hoopla and start looking for them. Sometimes the best way to go to the library is to not go to the library.
3 CHECK OUT THINGS FROM THE "LIBRARY OF THINGS"
Say it's an emergency and you really, really, really, need a ukulele and fast. But you don't want to fork over a $500 for a brand new ukulele you're only going to use once. Check it out from the library. I'm serious. The library lets you check out a lot of weird stuff, beyond books, CDs and DVDs. A sewing machine. Snowshoes. A GPS. Toca Bongos. A laser tag set. A microscope.
4 BECOME A ROCKTAR
You ever want to learn how to play guitar, but lack the arm strength to tear off one of those little tabs from the telephone-pole fliers you see advertising private guitar lessons? Use the library. They offer free guitar, bass, and drum lessons, and even allow you to check out an instrument. Live your dream of being the dude who brings his guitar to the party!
5 Grow A GARDEN
As the old proverb says, a zucchini crop of a 100 tons begins with a single seed. The library turned its old card catalog into drawers for free seeds. Every library card gets you six free packets of edible seeds and six free packets of decorative seeds. (Though any plant is edible if you believe in yourself.) Technically, you're supposed to bring back seeds from plants marked "heirloom" at the end of the season, but the library is pretty chill about it if you don't. They're flowers, man. They're part of nature.