Do you need to learn a new skill? A new language? Do you want to read industry research—books read by your future boss—so you can discuss trends in your field? Do you maybe want to read comics, but you don't know where to start? Or you have a passing interest in birding, or rock collecting, or horticulture, and you've already exhausted some Google searches?
Your answer is probably yes—who wouldn’t want resources to learn, and who doesn't have things they're interested in? But the way you would probably get the information wouldn’t be from a library. You’d get it online, probably on your phone. I get it. The Internet is by far the easiest place to research. Information is up-to-date, widely accessible, and (barring exception) free.
Let’s be real for a second here. Are millennials even reading books anymore? Recent research says yes, millennials are reading—a full 83% of Americans under the age of thirty read a book last year, but only 60% used the library. Of the 60% of people using the library, only 38% borrowed books. And get this: according to TIME, the average American only reads 19 minutes a day—and my age group (20-24) typically only get 10 minutes in a day.
These numbers are not okay. I’m obsessed with the library, and even made it a goal to visit my public library once a week. Ready for an intervention? Here’s five huge reasons why you should be a card-carrying Hermione, too:
1. It’s free—books, e-books, music, films! Free.
Yeah, you could download any amount of information via the web, but is it reliable? Not always. And as good as the web is, you still have to pay to get a physical book (plus shipping). And we’re too broke for that, right? Just me? Oh, okay.
2. There are physical, real-life books there.
You may be saying, “Uh, no duh,” but hear me out: millennials still prefer physical books. And your local library is full of them, just waiting for you to take them home. You might be pleasantly surprised by the gems you find, too. Austin’s public library network has historical materials that you’d typically expect only at universities!
3. You can learn just about anything.
After graduation, I felt like I had been dumped by my perfect boyfriend, Secondary Education. But who says you can’t learn on your own time (see: edupunk)? You can brush up on a foreign language by checking out language textbooks, a French newspaper, reading an anthology of contemporary Parisian poetry and then topping it off with an Edith Piaf record and a handful of French movies on DVD. The library is a one-stop shop.
4. You can try before you buy.
I’ve been reading countless “career” books recently, and if I’d gone strictly by word of mouth for the best ones, I’d be reading material from the mid-nineties. I’m glad I checked those books out from the library to test their salt before I committed to buying.
5. It forces you to read (well, sort of).
Most libraries have a two-week lending period. If you’re the kind of person who can just look at a stack of unread books on their nightstand and bypass any feelings of guilt, then lucky you. For the rest of us, a deadline works wonders.
And, you millennial you, if you need one more reason: you can use the Internet (for free!) at the library. So! If you’re based in Austin, you can get a library card for free at any of several locations. Look for me at the Faulk Central branch on Guadalupe! I pretty much live there.