If you’re like me, the birth, baby and parenting courses you took as a new mom prepared you for about 10% of what you need to know. We’re not just responsible for the care and feeding of a body, we’re trying to grow tiny humans into kind, independent adults and that—protecting tender hearts, encouraging creative minds, teaching awareness of self and others—is hard. It’s also all-encompassing, leaving little time to nurture your relationship or yourself.
Luckily, there’s a place that can help: your library. Your library offers so much more than toddler storytime and the latest bestsellers. Your library can be your superpower, life coach, cheerleader, business partner and pretty much anything else you need it to be.
Here are 10 lesser known ways your library supports you and your family.
- Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? I’m not ashamed to admit that my five-year old has been asking stumpers for essentially as long as he could talk. At some point, if the old quiz show is any indication, I’ll need a serious assist. Your public library and the Michigan eLibrary (MeL) provide access to homework help resources across all subjects and for all ages, from Pre-K through AP test prep and college planning.
- Start or Grow a Business. If you juggle having a family and owning a business, you’re already a total Rockstar. Partnering with your Business Librarian can make you even more amazing. Most libraries provide free access to powerful business databases that big corporations pay mega-money to use. Whether you’re exploring a new concept or taking a current venture next-level, your librarian can point you in the right direction to conduct demographic research, analyze industry trends, understand legal and financial processes, optimize your marketing and more.
- Avoid Internet-Induced Hypochondria. The only thing scarier than you or your child having a mysterious ailment or new diagnosis, are the Google results you’d get when searching said ailment. Dealing with health concerns is stressful enough without worrying about the scientific validity of your research. Rely on the information professionals at your library to guide you to resources you can trust. When it comes to your physical or mental health, managing elder care or supporting your child, libraries are an excellent and totally non-judgmental resource.
- Find a New Job. Job searching is daunting. If you are unemployed, underemployed or unhappily employed, let your library help. In addition to offering a range of tools to help you navigate the process, most libraries also have resources to help with resume review and interview prep.
- Get Better at the Job You Have. Libraries offer lifelong learning options in person and online. Online…as in classes you can take at your own pace, from your couch, while wearing pajamas. In addition to 1:1 training and workshops, many offer hundreds of online college-level courses covering topics like Accounting and Finance, Business, Technology, Healthcare, Law, Communications and more. If you don’t need credits toward a degree but want to build your skills and your resume (and maybe get a certification), library courses are perfect. P.S. MeL also offers professional development for teachers.
- Treat. Yo. Self. So your library can’t offer a Parks and Rec style day of extravagance, but they can help you invest in yourself in other meaningful ways. Finding me-time is hard when you’re a mom, wife, daughter, sister, boss, employee and friend—you’re often the last person on your list of people to care for. Libraries have programs on arts and hobbies, cooking, fitness and much more. Once you start looking, you’ll be amazed at the variety of options for developing personal interests.
- Stop the Real or Fake Headache. Librarians have been in the business of teaching information literacy—how to find, analyze and apply information—for-literally-ever. They were made for this fake news moment. It’s more difficult than ever to tell if content is legit, and it’s an especially important skill for older and younger people who may be new to getting their news through social media. Teach your child what it means to be a good digital citizen and use library periodical databases to get your news from vetted sources (or at least to validate that Facebook post before you share it).
- Support Your Child’s Special Needs. Raising an atypical child can be lonely for both of you. Ask your library about a Sensory Friendly Hour—many offer resources catering to individuals who have difficulty in large groups, are on the autism spectrum, have sensory processing challenges or other special needs. If they don’t have a program already, they’ll appreciate your suggestion to add one.
- Budget-friendly Fun. Family Night. Date Night. GNO. If you’re on a budget (and who isn’t?), go to the library. Attend events, see movies, go to game night, play a bit of #bookface, do a craft, enjoy a wine tasting or learn how to make craft beer. Whatever floats your boat. This is another area where you’ll find endlessly creative and FREE options.
- Binge Watch Your Favorite Shows. Your library can save you mad cash. Most anything you pay a monthly subscription fee for—cable TV, streaming movies, music, eBooks—your library can give you for free. I’m not brave enough to cut the cord yet myself, but the library even offers classes on that to help you get the confidence you need to take the leap.
But here’s the thing, state and local libraries can only be this awesome if we fund them. The White House budget currently proposes to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and all federal funding for libraries. Using the resources they offer is great way to show libraries some much-deserved love. Another way to show your love is to tell Congress to fund libraries and save the IMLS.
You’ve now got 10 more reasons to keep your library thriving.
Harmony Faust lives in Plymouth, Michigan, with her husband, dog and two children, ages 5 and 2. Harmony is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Gale, a Cengage company. She channels her passion for libraries into her volunteer work, serving as a member of the steering committee for the Corporate Committee for Library Investment and on the Board of Directors for EveryLibrary, the only national organization dedicated to building voter support for libraries. Her opinions are her own.