When you make the transition to university, one of the best resources that becomes available to you is the campus library system. Most universities have multiple libraries with extensive collections and generous hours of operation; the libraries at my school, the University of Waterloo, routinely stay open until midnight. Because campus libraries offer such a wealth of resources, many students aren’t motivated to explore the public libraries in their areas and may earn their entire degrees without ever setting foot in a community library. However, by not bothering to apply for a public library card, students are missing out on more than they realize. Here are just some of the reasons why you should make your local library a part of your university experience:

  1. Public libraries have extensive resources for recreational reading.

Since their focus is on academic resources, many university libraries have relatively small collections of popular fiction and other recreational reading material. However, the vast majority of public libraries have enormous collections of fiction and employ dedicated ‘book buyers’ who determine what new titles to purchase based on factors like popularity, local input, and reviews. As a result, if an upcoming book release has generated a fair amount of buzz, odds are good that your local library will have it available the day it’s released. Conversely, if you stumble on an intriguing title that came out a few years ago, a search through your local library’s catalogue will rarely leave you disappointed. If you’re hoping to cultivate a recreational reading habit or just fuel an existing one, public libraries are the perfect resource to use.

  1. An off-campus study space can provide a refreshing change of pace.

A significant proportion of students report that they regularly study at campus libraries. Many express that working in a quiet space outside of their home allows them to be more focused and productive. I also find campus libraries a great study environment, particularly when I need to refer to academic resources as I work. However, sometimes the campus library doesn’t perfectly fit my needs, such as when I have an urge to get off campus entirely or when exam period makes it seemingly impossible to find an open study space. In these cases, a public library provides a great alternative. All the libraries I’ve visited have plenty of quiet spaces tailored towards the needs of students, and they tend to be much less crowded than those available on campus. Additionally, many public libraries are located in community spaces surrounded by businesses like shops, restaurants, and theatres, so study breaks can involve fun recreational activities.

  1. Public libraries have so much more than just books to offer.

Most public libraries offer a range of recreational programs which are available to any member of the community. For example, a quick glance at the August schedule of the Kitchener Public Library shows book discussions, adult-oriented crafting sessions, knitting lessons, board game nights, live music performances, and much more. These kinds of activities are a great way to unwind from academic stress, become involved in your community, and make social connections with people from outside your school. Additionally, since library programs are usually free for patrons, they’re definitely compatible with a student budget.

If you’re starting university in a new city this September, take some time during Orientation Week to find your local library and apply for membership. You may find that your library card becomes one of your most valuable possessions over the years of education to come.

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