A few months ago, we started working on an essay in history class, for which we had to have at least one actual book (something that wasn’t a Wikipedia page or New York Times article) in our sources. As people did their research, I noticed that pretty much everyone immediately took to Amazon.com to purchase a copy of their book once they found one. I wondered to myself, do these people not know that libraries exist? Through which they could read the book for free? I genuinely have no idea why people don’t utilize our public library system more. So I suppose this article is a sort of rant about that, while also (hopefully) convincing you, the reader, to check out your local branch of the Los Angeles Public Library System anytime you want not just to get your hands on a specific book, but also to do one of the many other things that public libraries make easier.
Everyone knows that you can get books from libraries. That’s kinda the whole point. However, there are a lot of other resources that they offer that people may not be as inclined to take advantage of. If there are any movies (or TV shows) you want to watch but you don’t want to have to sift through thirty different streaming services to find it, you can check out a DVD (granted, you need a DVD player, but they aren’t that expensive. Most cost little less than a few months of Netflix). You can also check out music CDs, love CDs, but I’m not going to pretend this is quite as practical or that everyone should be doing this. There are printers available at every location where you can print up to ten pages per day, in color, for free. They also have computers and phone chargers. Some branches even have recent issues of newspapers and magazines to read while you’re there.
The library's website also has plenty of resources available. You can access ebooks, as well as movies and TV to stream if you don’t want to get a DVD. They have reading lists on various topics (May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!), general lists of recent books that are librarian-recommended, and blog posts on several subjects.
I feel silly writing all this without mentioning librarians themselves, but to be honest, it’s because I’ve never really taken advantage of them at all (again, this makes me feel a bit silly, but if anything, it goes to show just how many other great things there are to get from our public libraries). If you need help finding specific books or don’t know where to start when researching a certain topic, and want to actually interact with someone instead of looking it up online, librarians are there to help you navigate the massive amount of information available.
Of course, the main thing you can use them for is to check out books! Getting a library card is completely free and insanely easy, you can get a form at any of the branches (or online). All they need is basic information, and, if you’re under seventeen, a parent or guardian’s signature. Once you have one you should be able to utilize all of the various services I’ve talked about so far. If you’re worried about losing the physical card or don’t want to take it with you everywhere, you can use the Lapl app, which will also help you keep track of what books you have checked out and when they’re due. You can also use it to place a hold on certain books in the system, so you can pick them up from the branch of your choice. If the only copies of a book you want are at a branch far away from you, doing this is much preferable to having to travel all the way to the other side of Los Angeles to get it.
Something I have yet to mention because I had yet to do myself until I wrote this article, is to use libraries for the space itself. Libraries provide a calm, quiet place to do your work if you can’t be productive or don’t have a good place to get work done at home. You’re also surrounded with resources with which to do more research or take a break to read something recreationally that catches your eye. I’ve only just started doing this, but I’ve found that I get way more work (for me right now, this is pretty much exclusively writing) done at the library than at my house, or even at school (I’m getting most of the meat of this article done at the library). I think having a designated space to do work that isn’t the same place I also spend my free time doing things that aren’t work helps a lot in keeping me focused. Especially as the end of the year rolls around (I’m looking at you, DP kids, with your EEs and IAs and whatnot), I strongly suggest taking a few hours on a Saturday or after school to go to a library and knock out some work that you need to get done. There are power outlets to plug in your laptop and designated places to charge your phone, so you really have no excuse.
The fact that any person, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status, can get free access to basically every book ever written, do online research on a computer, and have an inviting and relaxed space to do so is immensely powerful. In a country where so many things are privately owned and driven by profit, and the things that aren’t are inefficient or seeing reclining use, public libraries are a rare instance of something that actually achieves what it wants to without too much corporate or bureaucratic interference. Sometimes it’s hard to think of Los Angeles as the beautiful city of glitz and glamor that it's advertised as when so many of its citizens are unhoused or impoverished. And anyone who thinks that it (or California as a whole) doesn't have a history of systemic oppression and racism because it's slightly more left-leaning than the rest of the country is just blatantly incorrect. However, I can say that the Los Angeles Public Library System is one thing that makes me truly feel proud to be from the City of Angels.