Using the Library for More than Research Papers

Use the repository of resources that modern libraries hold to your advantage during National Library Week.

By Eliana Osborn


Public library sign

Even if you are too young to remember the days of card catalogs, you'll still be able to notice that today’s libraries are constantly changing and updating. If the teens you teach sigh and moan when you try to get them to visit the public library, chances are they have no idea of all the treasures just waiting to be discovered within those walls. In small towns and big cities, services are available alongside books. Consider extra credit for pupils taking the time to explore the library in some of the following ways.

Different Ways to Explore Your Local Library

  • Check out the graphic novel collection. Even struggling readers can find something at their level with the extensive array of what we used to call comic books. Manga, Japanese-style animation, retellings of classic super hero sagas like Batman and Superman, or illustrated adaptations of books like Great Expectations, are all available.
  • Maps and atlases can be a great supplement to traditional classroom work, especially for visual learners. Libraries have the most resources about the geography of your region, but they also have maps covering the whole planet. For teens ready to move out and start a new life, maps are an open doorway to possibility.
  • Because they provide free meeting spaces, libraries are a perfect place to find new friends. Are you interested in eating more healthily? Want to get to know other video game enthusiasts? What about learning key phrases in a foreign language? Chances are, you aren’t alone. My local library has recently had classes in all of these subjects, as well as many more. Some libraries publish a monthly calendar, others use a bulletin board where groups can post notices, and most keep their websites up to date with happenings.
  • Job services are available at most libraries. You can get help from a resume class, meet with potential employers, check newspaper listings, or even volunteer to get some experience. Librarians are trained to help you in these areas, and their assistance is free. If you aren’t sure where to look, don’t be afraid to ask. As long as you are polite and respect other patrons, library employees love to point you in the right direction.
  • Check out movies. Your local video store or kiosk is great for getting just-released titles, but the library offers a wider selection. Think full seasons of shows from network or cable television, all of Shakespeare’s plays performed on stage, Academy Award winners from the past, and more. You’ll be surprised at what you can find if you take some time to wander. Since there's no cost, take a chance and choose something outside of your comfort zone.
  • Speaking of screens, save yourself a ton of money by borrowing video games from the library. There’s high demand for titles that work with all different gaming systems, but if you time it right you can score a game for a week or more — absolutely free.  

Free public libraries are one of the hallmarks of a democratic society, enabling everyone to access information and services.  Celebrate National Library Week by sending your students out to explore some of the many amenities your local library has to offer. Be sure to share your own library success stories with them as well.