September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month. While it seems like a no-brainer that library students should get library cards and take advantage of public library resources, I thought I’d use my post this month to do some public library advocacy and extol the virtues of public libraries and some of the unique ways that they can serve library students. Depending on where you live, you might even be able to get more than one library card and increase the resources you have access to. I live in Boston, so I have a Boston Public Library card, but through my job I also have a Minuteman Library Network card which gives me access to the resources of 41 libraries in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts.
As students, we all have access to our university libraries. However, what this access actually looks like can vary. Students in online degree programs might have no access to their libraries physical collections. Other students (like myself) may have to deal with libraries that are temporarily closed due to construction with materials being held offsite.
Public libraries can help fill the gaps for students who can’t take full advantage of their school’s physical library collection. In addition to supplementing academic pursuits, there’s no better place than a public library when it comes to providing material for what little leisure reading you may have time for. While some university libraries may maintain small collections of popular fiction, it isn’t their main focus. Public libraries can supply you with biographies, thrillers, magazines and everything in between.
University libraries excel at providing online resources for their students including database and journal subscriptions that are great for research. During the pandemic, my university greatly increased their academic ebook offerings in order to better serve students.
However, public libraries may offer different online resources that can serve both personal and professional purposes. The Boston Public Library, which is one of the libraries I use provides free access to Linkedin Learning, licenses for the meditation app Headspace, and the arts and crafts tutorial website Creativebug. This is just a small handful of the resources offered by the Boston Public Library. While a large library system is able to offer more to their patrons, even small libraries are likely to offer a handful of digital resources best chosen to meet the needs of their communities.
I haven’t even touched ebooks, audiobooks, and streaming services. Many libraries offer Libby/Overdrive to their patrons for ebooks and audiobooks and Hoopla and Kanopy for video streaming options. Public Libraries can help meet entertainment needs for those of us on tight-budgets who can’t prioritize paying for streaming services (or who don’t have friends to borrow passwords from).
The Physical Space
While I’ve touched on collections, I haven’t even begun to mention libraries as physical space. While in person services look different for various libraries right now due to COVID-19, the physical space of libraries in invaluable. For example, I live about 45 minutes from my campus on public transportation, but I’m only about a 10-minute walk from a branch library. If I want a place to study, I’m much more likely to go to the library near me than I am to go into campus. Even if I am willing to go a little further to study, I’d still chose the public library as the central location of the Boston Public Library is insanely beautiful and I love to work on papers there.
The physical space of libraries also offers more to students than just a place to study or air conditioning on a hot day. A 2016 post about maximizing library visits as a grad student was reposted on HLS last week and it partially inspired me in writing this post. The great thing about Boston is that it has so many libraries both in the city and in the outlying suburban areas that there are endless libraries to visit, children’s rooms to examine the layout of, and librarians to meet.
Out of the Box Resources
Last month for HLS I wrote about board games in the library and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the unique collections that libraries may have to offer grad students. Board games, of course, are one of them. There are so many great board games out there, but they’re expensive to buy, especially if you aren’t sure you’ll like a game. See if you library offers a circulating game collection and you might be able to try one out before purchasing.
The library I work at offers cake pans, 3D printers, hiking packs, induction cooktops, and more all for circulation! These are things that can facilitate fun weekends, a birthday party, or creative endeavors. These resources are available for everyone, but I do think that things like this may hold a special appeal for cash-strapped future librarians who both want to have fun, want to do it on a budget, and who are always thinking of the possibilities of libraries in the backs of their minds.
Have I missed any of the ways library cards can benefit library students? Let me know in the comments!
Macy Davis is in her final semester at Simmons University in the MA in Children’s Literature/MS in Library and Information Sciences dual degree program. She’s enjoying the last days of summer weather and anticipating a beautiful New England fall. You can find her on twitter @bookishlybright or through her personal blog.