Part 1: 10 Ways to Pursue Self-Improvement at Your Library… Without Picking Up a Book

Why take advantage of the library for self- improvement?

Libraries are much more than just books. Few people know about the many fun and educational services offered by public libraries everywhere that don’t involve books or reading. Self-improvement doesn’t have to cost any money if you seek out solutions at your public library.  Immersing yourself in free learning opportunities only requires a library card and some curiosity.

Here are 5 of my top 10 ways to get smarter at your library without picking up a book. Read ways 6-10 here!


1. Free Professional Online Courses

Most public libraries offer access to online courses for professional or personal growth. Right now, I am taking a course on blogging and SEO through Lynda by LinkedIn for free with my library card number. Some other course databases that public libraries offer include Universal Class, Learning Express, and Gale courses. I’ve seen a large range of topics including entry-level statistics, how to choose the right dog for you, computer applications, legal terminology, marine biology, entrance exam preparation, and so much more. If there aren’t any offered through your local library, ask a librarian if there is a county library in your area or what services your state library offers.


2. Museum passes

Many folks don’t know that a lot of public libraries partner with local and regional organizations to provide free or discounted admission to patrons. This includes history and art museums, children’s museums, planetariums, zoos, music venues, state parks, botanical gardens, and even professional sporting events. Restrictions do apply, as there are often limits to how many times you can reserve or check out a pass within a certain amount of time. The passes can often apply for 2-6 people and in some cases even up to a full car-load of people for something like a state park. Hint: if you have kids or a significant other, you can get around the time restrictions by reserving the passes with different library cards.


3. Language courses + more

It has become popular for public libraries to offer free online language courses. Popular websites/apps these are offered through include Mango, Rosetta Stone, Pronunciator, Basic ESL, and Powerspeak Languages. You could learn English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Greek, and even Tagalog. If you don’t have constant access to the internet, there are usually many audiobooks available for checkout or to place on hold from another library. In addition, some libraries offer language groups. My local library has a French language group that meets 1-2 times per month to retain conversational skills… très bien!


4. Lectures and workshops

Public libraries host events and workshops all the time. I recently attended a lecture about US/China relations at my local library and learned all about an important area of our foreign affairs that I had never learned about before. In addition to hosting speakers and authors, libraries also provide helpful one-on-one or group workshops to help patrons improve certain skills. Some of these topics include writing, resume building, job searching, knitting, computer coding, sketching, gardening, cooking, technology help, genealogy, and even how to most effectively search library catalogs! Most workshops are free or only require a fee for cost of supplies if applicable. Every library has different offerings, so if you find out you don’t particularly take an interest in anything the library you belong to has, look at other nearby libraries…you don’t have to be a patron to get involved in library happenings.


5. DVD documentaries

Feeling less motivated than the effort required for the above suggestions? Try watching some documentaries or non-fiction DVDs where you can lay on you couch while still learning something new. All libraries have a non-fiction DVD section (if yours doesn’t, that’s pretty weird) usually arranged by subject using the Dewey Decimal System. Documentaries or mini-series are great ways to chill out and still keep your mind engaged. With some libraries, you don’t even have to leave the house to gain access to those materials. Several online services boast huge catalogs of documentaries that you can view with your library card (find out more about online documentary access in this article).

In October, I sent out a challenge to my readers to find ways to use the library for self-improvement. How did you do? Did you use any of these services listed? Comment and let me know how you did in your challenge!

Like what you’ve read? Find ways 6-10 of how to use your library for self-improvement without picking up a book right here!

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