13 Secrets Librarians Want You to Know

Are you making the most of your local library? We asked librarians from across Canada to share the inside scoop on everything from book recommendations to getting out of fines.

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Librarians Haven’t Read Every Book They Recommend
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1. Librarians Haven’t Read Every Book They Recommend

Most librarians don’t have as much time to read as you might think, and inevitably, there are some genres staffers won’t be interested in. Book suggestions may be based on reviews or other readers’ comments.

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Woman looking through books at public library
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2. What’s Popular May Surprise You

Which books are most in demand? “The Harry Potter series,” says Bill V., a librarian with the Toronto Public Library. Current feature films, he says, are also popular. “We’re stiff competition for Netflix.”

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Female librarian at public library
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3. Librarians Can Help With More Than You Think

Have a question about something other than a book? Bring it. Librarians can assist with background checks, genealogy research and formatting resumés.

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Male librarian at public library
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4. Librarians Won’t Mind If You Make a Little Noise

“We’re a community hub,” says Michael Eaton, a community librarian with the Edmonton Public Library. “A little bit of bustle is fine.” Certain spaces are reserved for quiet study, but others are meant for playing video games, chatting and even eating your lunch.

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Two students at public library
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5. Libraries Can Help You Save Big

Public libraries average just over two holdings per capita—that’s a lot of books, DVDs, CDs, magazines and video games. “Think about the money you spend on movies, video games and music in a month,” says Eaton. “You can get that stuff for free!”

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Woman returning a book at the library
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6. Mind The Book Drop

Librarians are often shocked by what they find in the book drop. Ben Rawluk, a former circulation assistant at the Victoria Public Library, in B.C., recalls pulling out poop, toys, clothing and empty beer bottles. Once, he even found fireworks.

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Pile of old books
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7. Know Where to Donate

You can, however, donate through the book drop, Rawluk says. Librarians are always looking for more materials, although some may prefer if you bring them in to the counter.

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3D printer
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8. Libraries Are Going High-Tech

A growing number of libraries are installing “makerspaces.” These labs provide materials, technologies and tools for do-it-yourself projects. Come in and use a 3-D printer, a video-editing station, and a sewing machine or craft supplies.

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Man reading book
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9. Not All Library Book Fines Are Final

When it comes to waiving fines, most librarians have formid­able power. If there’s a good reason you’re late (say, you had a family member in the hospital) or if you’re especially apologetic, they can make them go away with the click of a button.

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Woman helping man at the library
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10. You Can Help Newcomers Adjust

Many libraries offer services for new Canadians, like English-language learning programs. Help out—and meet a new friend—by becoming a volunteer participant in a conversation circle.

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Woman looking for book at the library
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11. It’s Important to Be Kind to the Books

“The more abuse a book sees,” Rawluk says, “the shorter its lifespan.” Use sticky notes and bookmarks instead of dog-earing pages and writing in the margins. And don’t tear pages out of the magazines!

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Open book
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12. People Often Forget to Check Their Books Before Returning Them

You’d be surprised at how many people use their credit cards as bookmarks. Other unexpected choices: unfilled prescriptions, adhesive bandages, hockey or concert tickets, photographs, notes and cash.

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Two older men using computer at public library
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13. Remember: Your Library Has An Extensive Digital Collection

You can stream music, download MP3s and read news­papers from all over the world, Eaton says.

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Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada

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