MICHIGAN—Everyone knows that you can find a book at your public library. But far fewer Michiganders seem to know about the other library resources that are available to them—often at no cost.
Your tax dollars are already supporting your local public library. You might as well take advantage of the opportunities they provide. Here are six little-known services that may be offered at a library near you:
Research databases and scientific journals aren’t just for college students and scholars. Public libraries often have access to a host of online databases and publications. Whatever you need to research, your local library will likely have something to help besides a book—and it probably won’t cost you a dime.
For example, the Detroit Public Library provides free access to:
- Ancestry Library Edition
- Academic Search Complete
- Detroit Free Press
- Various Britannica databases
- Consumer Health
- Consumer Reports
- Federal Digital System
- Michigan Authors & Illustrators
- Michigan Chronicle
- World Book Kids
Are you planning a trip abroad and first want to learn the language of the land? Or maybe you just want to learn a few greetings, or brush up on some of the things you forgot from your high school Spanish class.
It’s likely your local library can help with access to a language program. Melvindale Public Library, for example, offers access to learn more than 110 languages for free through Transparent Languages Online. Similarly, Warren Public Library provides free access to about 80 languages through Mango Languages.
Libraries are also a great place for immigrants and refugees to learn English and practice their skills at an English Language Conversation Group, like those held weekly at Bloomfield Township Public Library.
Libraries are all about access—for everyone. And most of them in Michigan have multiple types of accessibility software and services in order to help people with physical or cognitive disabilities.
Northville District Library, for example, is home to a special collection of printed material for dyslexic readers—including picture books and chapter books that use larger and clearer fonts than standard books. In addition to a large-print collection, Redford Township District Library also offers braille books, screen magnifiers, special glasses, and an extensive audiobook collection for people with vision loss.
Events and programs
Libraries always offer a quiet place to read a book, but many of them also take an occasional break from the silence to host special events and programs that promote learning, socialization, and a sense of community. Your local library is likely to have something for everyone—including just for adults.
Chelsea District Library, for example, has hosted comedy shows, and even once offered a stand-up comedy camp for local residents to learn how to write and edit their own stand-up routine. Arts and crafts are also popular, like the adults-only “crafternoons” at several public libraries across Manistee County.
Got an old box of photographs or VHS tapes collecting dust at home? The library can help with spring cleaning too. Many public libraries can digitize just about everything nowadays—allowing you to scan your personal collections of all your favorite memories for future generations.
Peter White Public Library’s Memory Lab provides all the equipment. Patrons just need to bring in their own USB drive, or they can save the files online. Troy Public Library has a similar operation for its guests, and each piece of equipment comes with step-by-step instructions. If your local library has archival services, they may also have classes to guide you as you preserve your personal collections.
Reading can spark ideas—and that can make libraries the perfect place for business incubation spaces. Kalamazoo Public Library’s Idea Lab serves as one of the best examples. It includes a 3D printer, a Cricut, CNC mill, and a laser engraver to assist with your entrepreneurial pursuits. The lab also loans out access to Adobe software, tablets, various audio recording equipment and several musical instruments.
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