Courtesy of St. Louis Public Library

The Real Smart Card in Your Wallet

When was the last time you visited your local public library?  Or checked out the bazillion digital resources that are available to you as a cardholder, 24/7, from anywhere in the world, simply by logging in from your personal computer?  If you believe that nothing exciting happens at your local public library, then get ready for a big surprise!  Today’s 21st century library is NOT your grandfather’s library.

With the rapid growth of technology and digital applications, there is a popular misconception that the libraries we knew and loved as children have become obsolete.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  U.S. public libraries are among the first organizations to adapt to changing technology to ensure that you, their patrons, have the necessary resources for any pursuit.

Courtesy of St. Louis Public Library

Courtesy of St. Louis Public Library

According to Jen Hatton, PR/Content Manager for the Saint Louis Public Library (SLPL), and Pepi Parshall, SLPL’s Historian, the U.S. public-library system “thrives on connecting communities with endless possibilities.”  Whether you are seeking inspiration, information, or entertainment, you will find there’s never a dull moment at your local library.  So dust off your library card!  It’s time to get reintroduced to all the greatness that’s available for people of every age, ability, and interest.  Here’s just a sampling of what the 21st century library has to offer.

Database Learning and Access

Gain free access to the most popular databases and online learning portals, any of which would cost you a lot of money to access as an individual subscriber.  For example, your library card may buy you access to:

  • Lynda.com:  The premier source of training and tutorials taught by industry experts in business, design, software development, IT, marketing, and web technologies.  Want to learn how to use Photoshop or Illustrator to make your photos and graphics look professional?  Lynda’s there for you.  Interested in taking your career to the next level by learning to program in Python or Javascript?  Lynda’s got you covered.  How about upping your game by learning how to blog, podcast, or use social media to build your brand?  Yep, Lynda’s got that, too.  In short, Lynda.com is a database you’ll definitely want to dig into for all of your learning needs.
  • Ancestry.com:  The world’s largest online history resource that provides extensive information about genealogy, historical records, and genetic genealogy.  If you want to trace your family’s history or build your family tree, then you’ll want to spend time on Ancestry.com.
  • EBSCOhost:  An online information service offering you an entré to numerous databases, including Consumer Health Complete, MEDLINE, ERIC, Academic Search Elite, Social Sciences Abstracts, Art Full Text, Plays Full Text, and many more.  Through EBSCO, you also can search and view the full text of an extensive magazine and eBook Collection.
  • Gale Business Builder:  An excellent resource offering business-building tools needed to become an entrepreneur.  If you want to start your own business, then take a short ride to your local library and ask about Gale Business Builder.  While you’re there, inquire about free workshops your library may offer in grant writing, business plan development, funding opportunities, and more. Budding entrepreneurs can save thousands of dollars in legal and consulting fees by using their library’s business resources.
  • ABC Mouse:  A fabulous database that helps new parents teach their children to read, or affords grandparents an opportunity to give a grandchild early childhood education.
  • Mango (Foreign Languages):  An online language learning resource with access to 70+ foreign-language courses, including French, German, Spanish, and Arabic as well as Hawaiian, Pirate, and Yiddish.  Whether you are traveling abroad, new to a country and need to learn the language, or are simply curious, check to see if Mango is available through your local library.

Books Galore & More

Let’s not forget BOOKS!  Lots and lots of printed books, e-books, audio-books, movies, television programs, video games, and music.  If there’s a book you want to read, but you’re unsure if you want to buy it, check with the library first.  You can always buy the book if you truly love it.

Courtesy of St. Louis Public Library

Courtesy of St. Louis Public Library

Community Engagement

Another little-known fact may be that your public library steps up to the needs of your community.  For example, as technology continues to grow exponentially, many communities still have patrons who lack basic access to the internet or computers.  For job-seekers, this is a huge problem since many employers only accept online applications.  Your public library addresses this problem by offering computer and internet access.

Have we left anything out?  Unquestioningly, yes!  We challenge you to discover for yourself why your library card may be the smartest card in your wallet.

Kristen Edens

About Kristen Edens

Kristen Edens is a content and brand development specialist for business from Arnold, MO. Her writing has been featured at Business.com, Booming Encore, Small Business Monthly, Better After 50, and Thrive Global. Her latest adventure is becoming associate editor and “oracle of inspiration” for Bzine.

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