One of the benefits of working at the Touro College Midwood Library is that if I walk out of the building and cross the street, I’m at the Brooklyn Public Library Midwood branch. Between the college library and the public library…I spend a LOT of my time in libraries. I have library cards for three different library systems (New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and my hometown library), and on a given day, I have five or six books out and a few more ordered from other locations. But if I already spend so much time in the Touro library, why do I need the public library?
First, every library has something different—even two public libraries will have different collections and events. This is why I have so many library cards. Once it took all three library cards for me to get ahold of all the books in a series I was reading. And because the series I was reading was commercial fiction that isn’t usually used in research or education, the Touro Libraries were not the place to look (now, if someone decided to teach a literature class on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, I would be ecstatic). On the other hand, public libraries won’t necessarily have the in-depth collections of scholarly materials that college libraries have—though I always encourage people to check the public library if we don’t have a copy of the book they need.
But it’s not just popular fiction at the public libraries. Public libraries also have:
Career, educational, and other life resources: This takes a lot of forms. Public libraries usually have study guides for tests—everything from the GRE to civil service exams. In addition, they often have resources (both print/online resources and knowledgeable staff or volunteers) who can help library patrons access all kinds of support—housing and financial help, disability services, citizenship classes, and many other services.
Extracurricular classes: Everything from knitting to language classes to writing workshops. Not to mention activities for kids and teens!
Space: A free place to read or study in almost every part of the United States.
Local history: See, for example, this earlier blog post about the New York Public Library’s collection of historical menus! The New York Public Library, in particular, has devoted a lot of resources to collecting an amazing selection of historical materials. Whether you’re doing dedicated research or are just curious about NYC history, you can visit the NYPL archives in person or online. Though not all libraries have as many historical records as the NYPL, most have some information on local history, and staff will be able to help you learn more.
Culture: NYC’s libraries have recently initiated the CulturePass program, which gives library card holders free access to many of NYC’s museums and cultural institutions!
Public Library Links: If you live, work, go to school or pay property taxes in New York State, you have a right to library cards for the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Library, and Queens Library systems.
And, if you’re not in NYC, find your local library and check out all the free resources they have to offer!
Contributed by Emily Rose Johnson, Midwood (Ave. J) Librarian.