by Noor Hindi

If you know me, you know I’m loud about my love of books. As a kid, I often visited the Barberton Public Library with my parents and spent hours with my best friend, Junie B. Jones, and her misadventures. Together, Junie B. Jones and I would fight monsters and play instruments and make it through our first day of school.

The library continues to be a magical place for me. As an adult, I worked at the Akron-Summit County Public Library for over three years. For someone who loves books and writing, this was the perfect job. During my time at the library, I was constantly discovering new services our library system offers to the public.

And as much as I love books, libraries have (thankfully) become more than just places for books. They’re places where people can access computers and where parents can spend time with their kids at family programs. They’re places where you can start a business, get your passport, or rent kitchen supplies.

The Akron-Summit County Public Library offers hundreds of resources to the public. Last year, alone library staff says their programs brought in more than 300,000 people. More than two million people visited the library.

Aside from reading, here are six things you can do at Akron libraries.

1. Attend a program.

The 18 branches of the Akron-Summit County Public Library offer hundreds of programs every year. When I worked at Kenmore Branch Library during college, my favorite was Paws for Reading, which encourages literacy and reading aloud by having children read to dogs. Deputy director Barb White says this program also helps kids get more comfortable with dogs.

Popular programs also include Girls Who Code, which teaches young women how to write code, and genealogy classes that help adults reconnect with family history.

A full list of programs is available at services.akronlibrary.org/events. You can also pick up ShelfLife, the library’s quarterly newsletter, at your local branch.

2. Rent a piece of art or kitchen supplies.

The Akron Art Library lets patrons borrow artwork from local, national and international artists. Art work is available to rent for up to four-weeks at a time. Previous collections have featured works by Max Markwald, Shane Wynn, Micah Kraus and Natalie Lanese.

The Library also has a kitchen tools collection. If you need a special tool to make something, or if you’re thinking about buying something and want to try it out first, borrow it from the library.

3. Start a business using the library’s Makerspace and Microbusiness Center.

From coworking spaces to business training sessions, the ASCPL microbusiness center helps entrepreneurs take the very first steps toward owning their own businesses.

“Let’s say I’m not quite ready for a resource like Bounce [Innovation Hub], which is further down in my development. I can come here and have these resources free of charge or at a very low cost,” says White.

The Makerspace offers has green screen video recordings, button/magnet makers, sewing and embroidery machines, a T-shirt press and a vinyl printer, and more equipment that entrepreneurs can use to start their businesses.

4. Listen or watch your favorite books, magazines and movies.

ASCPL’s newest addition to its suite of streaming services is Kanopy, which allows library card holders to stream television shows, and films and documentaries for free. The service also has shows for kids. Hoopla, another streaming service accessed via library card, offers movies and TV shows along with ebooks, audiobooks and music.  OverDrive and Libby both have huge collections of ebooks and audiobooks. And if magazines are your thing, RB Digital has access to hundreds of them.

5. Get or renew your passport.

Typically, getting a passport is a lengthy process which involves lots of driving and unexpected expenses. But at the library, applying for your passport is easy. They have copies of the application on hand. They’ll take your passport photo. They’ll even ship your application for you. I’ve completed this process twice now with family members, and it’s taken less than an hour each time.

6. Search a database.

If you need help finding a job or making a resume, the library databases have career opportunities available through Tutor.com and Cypress Resume. The library also has genealogy and local history databases and foreign language resources to help you learn a new language.

For more information, go to AkronLibrary.org and download the Library app.

Noor Hindi is The Devil Strip’s Senior Reporter. Email her at noor@thedevilstrip.com.

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