Full disclosure: I work a few days a week at the North Independence Branch of Mid-continent Public Library system. This doesn’t make me an expert, but I can claim that I’m a professional. I managed to infiltrate this wonderland at the end of 2019. Visit mymcpl.org.

Ah, 2020—by far the most exciting year many of us have ever experienced. Most of what we took as “the norm” is anything but. For many of us, money and opportunity is scarce, and misinformation is widely available. Who ya’ gonna call? Your local library.

I’ve always loved libraries, but I hadn’t explored one in depth since I was a kid. I’d go, check out books or movies and leave. They have grown up to be a lot more than a place for free reads in the last decade… in the last year especially they’ve become a one stop community resource.

I am pretty lucky to be a part of MCPL. They are one of the best and most progressive library systems in the US. Your library may not have all the same resources, but once you see something your community would benefit from, ask. There may be a way to implement it. If not, many libraries are becoming open to the community at large that resides beyond their physical service area.

A good example of this is MCPL’s YouTube offerings. Since the pandemic hit, they have pivoted their focus from content in buildings to building up content. Video offerings on MCPL’s channel alone offer early literacy programs for kids, physical fitness classes like yoga and chair yoga, tech classes like how to work with Excel… and all of these videos are free to anyone, not just those of us lucky enough to live here.

Check out Mid-Continent Public Library’s YouTube channel here. If your library doesn’t offer things like this, why not step in and help them?

I’ve attended more classes, seminars and events than ever in the past few months, both as student and presenter because everything is now online. No more choosing between dinner after work and a class, no cold, icy roads… and best of all no more travel time. A few weeks ago I ‘attended’ events on both sides of Kansas City back to back. When one ended, I logged onto the next. I wore my pajamas and ate dinner while I learned about marketing and then gardening in the Midwest. If you can change your perspective you’ll discover some wonderful opportunities.

Coffee for a cause? Yes!

A lot of people that visit us in the library lately are either trying to brush up their old skills or add new ones. For free, did you know many libraries offer instructor led classes that can provide certificates? Perfect for adding a bit of sparkle to your resume and boost your completive edge.

It’s worth checking to see if your library offers Universal Class or Gale Courses. Each provides a range of classes such as Office Skills, Parenting and Family, Personal Development, Pet and Animal Care, Real Estate, Science, Self-Help, Social Work, Special Education, Spiritual Studies, Teacher Resources, Test Preparation, Web Development, Writing Skills… instructor led and graded. At the end of the class you are certified in a new skill.

If you care more about the actual skill than the certification, check out Lynda.com. Video led classes to teach a variety of more tech oriented skills like 3D + Animation, Audio + Music, Business, CAD, Design, Developer, Education + elearning, IT, Marketing, Photography, Video, Web… no teachers but you can tailor your learning to what you need for free.

Besides these courses there are language learning programs like Muzzy or Mango. There are apps to check out ebooks and audio books like OverDrive and Libby. Libraries are offering subscriptions to newspapers, Consumer Reports, Chilton, genealogy, history, legal resources… for free.

Check out some of there offerings here and then see if your library doesn’t offer the same. You will probably be surprised by what your local library does offer. I often ask our own cardholders if they are aware of all the online resources we offer and they are usually shocked at how much power their library membership provides. Did I mention for free?

I just found out MCPL—
there’s an app for that!

Then there’s the usual… books and movies. Many libraries participate in Interlibrary Loan which means participating libraries borrow from other libraries. If your library doesn’t have what you need, chances are they can check it out from one that does. And, you can even check out games this way. Recently I borrowed games for PS4, XBox , Switch and Wii.

Oh… for free. Can you see a theme developing here?

During a pandemic, online is king. Look up your local library right now and see what kinds of services they offer besides books. Don’t know how to find them? Ask Google… one of my other for free resources. But that’s another post.

By Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is a third-generation Ryukyuan-American, award-winning poet, author, and publisher with 20+ years in newspapers. Publisher of Space & Time magazine (est. 1966), two-time Bram Stoker Awards® Winner, and HWA Mentor of the Year, she shares Authortunities, a free weekly calendar of author opportunities at authortunities.substack.com.

One thought on “Your Best Resource to Survive 2020: Local Libraries”
  1. This info is GREAT! Also free are virtual tours of our art museum, The Appleton — and free how-to videos of art projects for kids (and parents). So that’s another item if you have a museum. I’ll bet that it offers things like that as well.

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