Photo: Paul Lowry

Libraries benefit all members of a community, not just the bookish types. Below are seven free library services you might not know about.
1. Job hunting

When I was a student, there was a career center on campus where HR experts would format, edit, and face-lift your resume and cover letter…. for a hundred bucks. I wish I’d known about job workshops offered at public libraries. There are free resources for job searches, resumes, and interview tips.

Larger libraries often run career services programs, with seminars and consultations open to the public. In Chapel Hill, you can book a free one-on-one consultation to build and edit your resume. The New York Public Library runs frequent seminars for jobseekers, covering topics like interview skills and networking through social media.

In Ottawa, Canada, the main library puts on seminars on government-run employment programs and sessions on how to get a job in the civil service.

2. Finding a date

Singles who are tired of hearing “I read, like, magazines and stuff” on blind dates can now look for love in the public library. “Read-dating” events are being held regulary at libraries in Antwerp, New York City, San Francisco, and Vancouver, where GLBT nights are also on the schedule.

Participants bring a favorite book and use it as a conversation starter. Some events are run in the same manner as speed-dating, while others are more unstructured and mingly.

With read-dating cropping up in more libraries worldwide, it’s only a matter of time before Cosmo prints “What your read-dating volume says about you!”

3. Live music

Yeah, I know, I was skeptical too. When I think of performances at the library, I picture seniors’ improv, or a high school drama club’s hip-hop retelling of Paradise Lost. It turns out, I hang out at the wrong libraries.

The San Diego Public Library runs a very diverse weekly concert series. Boston Public Library presents operas like The Barber of Seville, performed by the local Boston Lyric Opera. Many libraries, such as the Chicago Public, run seasonally themed concerts, featuring jazz in honor of Black History Month, or traditional Celtic music around St. Patrick’s Day.

4. Storytelling

Chat with an immigrant, vegan, ex-con, psychic, communist, or other members of fringe groups. Human Library events bring together diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and life experiences. Many libraries also include local celebrities, medical experts, and survivors of cancer, war, and other ordeals.

The concept began in Copenhagen in 2000, when a youth organization created a “human library” to open dialogues about homophobia and youth violence. Now, human library events are held in over 30 countries worldwide.

5. Author feedback

In Canada, many public libraries run Writer in Residence programs, where local authors connect with aspiring writers through lectures, discussion groups, and consultations. They don’t actually live in the library, though as a child I assumed this to be correct, and often daydreamed of taking the job and building a queen-sized bed made of books.

Novice writers can submit manuscripts to the Writer in Residence at their local library and receive detailed (and free) feedback in a one-on-one consultation with the author. Most libraries feature one or two authors per year and host writers of different genres and styles.

6. Free legal advice

In Dublin’s Ballymun Library, patrons can access the Free Legal Advice Centre twice a week for no-cost, impartial advice. Toronto’s North York Central Library runs a weekly legal aid clinic, and the Troy Public Library in Albany, New York, offers free legal advice once a month.

Libraries often arrange special one-off partnerships with local law offices, so your branch may host a legal clinic once or twice a year.

Most libraries also offer resources on laws and legal rights as part of their collections. Many, especially law libraries, can direct people to free or low-cost legal counsel options in the community.

7. Home energy audits

The East Melbourne Library was built as a model of minimal environmental impact, and it offers resources to help Australians run more sustainable homes and offices. Members can borrow Power-Mate energy meters to assess their energy output.

The device connects to appliances to track how much energy they use, what cost is incurred, and how much greenhouse gas is produced. The loaning of Power-Mates is free of charge, and the library also provides information on clean energy alternatives.