Hello to all, and Happy National Library Week!
Libraries are useful and not limited to their typical establishments; the collected, organized, accessible amount of printed material and physical media. In modern times, libraries are also important as central hubs for the online access to digital information and services, through computer/printing stations and personal WiFi accessible devices. There is so far more a good library can offer to ANYONE.
Love a good public library, especially when traveling.
Libraries are perfect for travelers. They can help, save, and probably enhance an adventure. By that, I mean a descent into unfamiliar territory. This could be the next neighborhood over, or a different country. There are useful, often amazing libraries through every developed setting your feet can take.
I have walked through many libraries, mostly through the Pacific U.S states. I’m always excited to see one for each first time. I admire and study interesting histories behind older libraries, and innovative architecture on newer postmodern structures. Some, I will highlight and detail some in future postings.
For their content and services, libraries have been vital in contacting friends and business online, find better places to stay, sort out car repairs, chill out from tough weather, find temp work. Also, various libraries helped me follow some local mysteries in my travels and journalistic work including the Pink Lady spirit of Yorba Linda, the S.S. Point Reyes shipwreck, drug culture origins in San Francisco, the real town affected by the murder of Laura Palmer.
That being said, here are the best ways and suggestions to keep in mind, on libraries can help you better enhance your next adventure:
Online access: Many will have FREE Wi-fi access and use of computer stations with online connectivity. Commonly, they do not charge by the minute, or interested in profits or ads like most office supply stores. Most also offer printing services. Most libraries welcome incoming visitors no matter the distance, so ask for a visitors or guest pass. My best advice is to understand the extent of station usage times, closing of the entire branch (try not to hold them over to the very last minute and beyond of closing, library workers often hate that), printing costs (have some spare change handy), and sit near the reference/information desks if you may need quick assistance.
Enhanced tourism: Many libraries have amazing architecture with some rich in history and visuals (see additional links at the end). You may also find some local guides, maps, brochures, and leads to current events and happenings. Many large libraries have local history rooms or sections, to better get to know your area better. Look around. If the information desk workers are not occupied, nudge them on interesting facts about the place or area. The answers may surprise you, perhaps lead into your next local adventure.
Personal directory: Sometimes unfortunate stuff happens, and help is lacking in a strange land. You may need a nearby clinic, police department, or other public service. You might need a phone-book or local directory to fix your car, or tech gadget. You may need this info fast, as patience wanes for the inclusive googling. A well-trained librarian or assistant can give you the proper answers or better point in the right direction. All this, often fast. Also consider, available local travel books and guides for places, ideas to shop, eat, live. Every good library should be ready to help you better understand and utilize your surroundings.
A peaceful place: Sometimes the rain, wind, snow, heat outside can be unbearable. Why go back to your hotel or temporary place of residence? You have all night for that! Or perhaps, there are many more miles in driving. An open library welcomes all inside, with no need to buy coffee or snacks. Relax and sit down, maybe recharge that cellphone. But, don’t sleep or snooze. Library workers often frown on this, and may poke with you a stick. My advice to check out any local newspapers present, where the near news really give you a feel of the surrounding lifestyle or give ideas on what to do next.
Used bookstores: Many libraries have used mini-bookstores within, usually consisting of donations and weeded out check out materials. In addition to books, bookstores usually include music CD’s. DVD’s, magazines; also helpful in passing time for that next long trip. All usually dirt cheap, as these places are often small and needing more room for continuous incomings. My best advice, to simply ask for books on your specific interests. Often, the used book stores are managed by volunteers and happy to help. Often, I had treasure placed in my hands from behind the displays. Also, be on the lookout for large upcoming book sales, hopefully matching your schedule. Overall, proceeds from these special shops go back to their libraries and your purchases helped out.
The important thing to know, libraries are awesome and helpful on many levels. You take part by benefiting from their services, and their importance is fortified. As long as you and others support libraries, than no one is truly lost as long as a library nearby is open.
Here are some fantastic libraries from around the world to note.
My picture from above is from my visit to the Multnomah Central County Library in downtown Portland, Oregon. This library is worth a visit for Portland trekkers with, many rooms and walkways to explore. Also here, a creepy relief of famous children’s author, Beverly Cleary: