Public Libraries: More Than Just a Book Lending Service

Do you know that there are around 17,000 public libraries in the US? In fact, there are more public libraries than McDonald’s restaurants here in North America. I have long heard how Americans adore their public libraries. After I migrated to the Bay Area, I knew I had to pay a visit to the local library. As it turned out, making a library card is not complicated at all. The application requires an ID which normally is in the form of driving license. But if you are new to the area, a passport and a proof of address (such as mail addressed to you) will do.

Unlimited resources can be found in public libraries


If you prefer reading a paper book to an online version, you would love your library card. Do you know that you can borrow 100 books with one library card? I thought I would never hit the limit until my two-year-old went on a reading spree for bedtime stories. There’s just not enough board books when it comes to cars, trucks, dinosaurs, or combinations of the three. These resources could be essential if you homeschool your children.

Borrowing books from the library has many benefits. It saves you hundreds of dollars in book costs. Sharing communal resources also maximizes distribution of use by the public in a greener way. Besides, I like the idea that reading a book doesn’t mean we have to own it. Borrowing books from the library means less clutter in your house, which leads to more happiness. And lastly, don’t you think you would feel more motivated to read when you have a deadline to return? At least in my experience, I tend to read those first rather than books that I have purchased.

Another great service that the library offers is LINK+. Not all books that you are looking for will be available at your nearest library. With LINK+, you can borrow a book from other public libraries through the network and have it delivered to your local library. And, if it’s still not available, you can make a suggestion to your local library that they purchase it. It will be subject to approval but we have tried a few times and have had some titles granted.

CDs and DVDs

There are movie streaming services that are more popular these days. But the library offers a wide collection of instrumental music, children songs, and audiobooks that otherwise are harder to find. These are great for long road trips or as age-appropriate entertainment for children in the car.

Online resources

Your library account will have access to online databases such as EBSCOHost. It also offers eBook downloads and other great resources for those doing research.

Rent a room

The library offers meeting rooms and conference rooms for rental at a bargain price. Renting a conference room for 4 hours or more only costs around $30!

Free museum passes

The Bay Area has a number of interesting museums to go to. If you have a library account, you can check out discount admissions or even free passes to some of these places.  

Public libraries: A Melting Pot

If you’re new to an area and want to mingle with the local community, there are two places you need to visit: farmer’s markets and public libraries. Libraries offer activities and classes for the young and old, and these are mostly free. They offer ESL conversation club activities, language swaps, parenting classes, and some hands-on technology classes such as Google G Suite. They also offer classes for hobbies such as knitting, sewing, crocheting, or playing guitar and ukulele. Libraries also offer great activities for toddlers and kids, ranging from story time, arts & crafts classes, to reading and homework assistance. Some classes need advance registration and some are walk-ins. But the best part is you don’t even need a library account for any of these!


Public Libraries Hold Many Events

Star Wars event in front of Mountain View Public Library


Once in awhile the library holds large-scale events with festivals and attractive booths that you can visit. So don’t miss out! Be sure to follow your local library calendar as a guide. You can import their events into your personal calendar, especially if it is in an ics or csv format. Some libraries have notification settings that will notify you if there is any upcoming event that fits your interests. Get to know your local library and visit their website for more information.


You know what’s even more fun? Library hopping! When you are on a road trip or when you explore a new city, make sure to check out their local library. Some libraries also house museums that have great displays of the town history.

Public Libraries - San Luis Obispo Library

Carnegie Library in San Luis Obispo, which was first built in 1905


About Gita A

I have spent one third of my life away from home. I was born and grew up in Solo, Indonesia. After high school, I took my business degree in Nanyang Technological University in Singapore where I met my husband. Eight years later, we moved to the Bay Area when my husband was offered a position at Google. Moving to the other side of the world was not an easy task. Struggle was of course a part of it, and I have my ups and downs. Slowly but sure I find new friends along the way and life is getting more colourful each day. I know that my story is not unique. I’m glad to join the LITB team and I hope that our stories can help those who find themselves a thousand miles away from home feel not alone. We are in this together; and we, as a community, can grow stronger. Welcome to the Bay Area!

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