I grew up in a library. Okay, I didn’t actually grow up in one, like some weird, Dickensian mongrel child raised by librarians and hiding in the dumpsters at night. I just went in them a lot.
Yeah, I was that geek. As a kid I spent most of my time outside of school riding my bike to the library (on my own, which in 2020 is apparently a capital offense in several states) and burying myself in the stacks. There were also Saturday movie matinees (on a 16mm projector back then) and records to listen to. You could even check out puppets. No kidding. Puppets.
As parents and homeschoolers (double geek), Jenni and I fostered a love for the library in our kids. Any time we’ve moved to a new city, the first thing we do is go get library cards. Often before getting our new driver’s licenses, because the DMV sucks and books are forever.
The past year, our youngest was involved in two local youth productions. My job was to take him to rehearsals and make myself scarce (mostly at his request). Since rehearsals lasted about two hours in the late afternoon, I would haul my laptop and work stuff to the local library so I could at least get some work done while I hid my shameful adultness from the youths. Our local Los Angeles County library has decent WiFi, big tables, and outlets. It’s basically a 100% free co-working space. Sound cool? It kind of is cool. However, there are some trade-offs you make when you work out of a library. Not deal breakers, more like little compromises.
First come, first served
You have to grab a table fast. Most libraries have ample table space, but sometimes you’re competing with someone who brought their entire law library and schematic diagrams with them. Real estate is precious here. Kind of like outlets. Similar to a coffee shop, you have to snag your power fast.
Speaking of coffee, they don’t serve it. You have to bring your own. No, you can’t check out a Chemex. I’m not sure you can even get puppets anymore.
It’s usually pretty decent if you’re not on BitTorrent or doing some crazy downloading. That’s sort of frowned upon anyway. You usually need a library card to log in, but that’s free. Sometimes it can take some fanoogling to get hooked in, and don’t count on the library staff to help you. They can give you the basic instructions, but they’re not your personal IT department.
Headphones. Headphones. Headphones.
I wrote that three times so neither of us will forget. The couple times I forgot, I seriously regretted it. Libraries have changed since the 1970s. No longer is there a sweet old librarian gently shooshing people when they get loud. They don’t do that anymore. So unless your ears are plugged and cranking The Sex Pistols, you’re going to hear every detail of how Clive’s Toastmasters meeting went.
The other thing that’s changed is that children are now encouraged to play freeze tag in the stacks. Somewhere, right now, thousands of sweet, dead librarians are spinning in their graves. I don’t blame the kids. They aren’t allowed to play outside their homes anymore without a government-approved guardian standing watch, so they have to get their yah-yahs out somewhere.
Headphones will save your life.
Oh yeah. Books
Did I mention that they have books? They do and they’re all free to borrow. You can’t do that at Starbucks or CoWorkNation. It’s pretty cool because sitting in the middle of a library with all those resources at your fingertips can inspire new ideas. It does for me. I can’t visit the library without browsing a few titles at random. You can borrow CDs and DVDs, too. Did I mention it’s free? It’s free.
Do yourself a favor and go get a library card. Take your laptop or Bullet Journal or giant schematic diagrams and give working at the library a try. They’re still an amazing resource and the more we use them the better chance they’ll stick around for a while.