How to use a public library

If you have not been to the library in a few years, simply take a moment to walk around first so you can go to the section you need without wasting time.

Ideally, you will go to the computers or the card catalogs to search for the books you need, write down their numbers or authors, and then move into the sections to find the books on the shelves.

Different Types of Libraries to Use

Depending on the topic you need to research, you might find that different libraries might serve you better. Many people do not realize it, but there is more than one type of library in most cities.

Other libraries include:

  • Public: This library is the typical library, funded by tax dollars and working to make sure the local community has the books it needs without having to charge anyone to read them.
  • Academic: If you need to research something that is more complicated, heading to an academic library might be a wise choice. These libraries are often specifically tailored to one subject. For example, you might go to a medical school library when researching a health-related topic. Other possible academic libraries include engineering, nursing, law, etc.
  • School: While universities and colleges have their own libraries, many other schools and grade levels do, too. Depending on the research you need to do, you might not be able to use these libraries because they may not have the items you need in order to successfully research your topic. Think about your topic and what you need to find before you head to a library for younger students.
  • Miscellaneous libraries: There are other libraries that are also available in your local surroundings, though you might need to call to see if you can use them. For example, if you need to research a local company, you might be able to see their personal library for reports, statistics, financial records, etc.

Think about the topic you need to cover and what this might mean in terms of where you need to be for your research. In most cases, a public library will work well, but when you need to access cutting edge information, the universities offer a wider collection of resource materials.

The New Computer Systems

You may not have used the card catalog system before, so the computer systems are more familiar to use. Set up to be accessible for anyone, these computers offer a wealth of information.

To make sure you can find what you are looking for, here are some tips to make the computers help you more effectively:

  • Have titles in mind. If you are heading to the library, it never hurts to have the titles you want in your mind already. This will allow you to easily type in the title names and then begin to use the books for your personal research. Double-check the title names before you leave for the library.
  • Know author names. If you do not know the titles, perhaps you know the names of authors and experts in the field. These will be easy to input into the computer to see what you can find.
  • Pick out keywords. When you are researching a specific subject, try to choose one to five keywords that come up frequently in the literature. For example, if you research “weight loss,” you might also type in “diet.” Have this list of keywords available to find as many related books as possible.
  • Have a question. Before you walk into the library, have a question or two that you are trying to answer. This will focus your research and allow you to make the most of your time.
  • Bring related book titles. If you already have done some research elsewhere, bring those titles along with you. Even if you already have those books at home, look for them in the library and then look to the right and the left of the book on the shelf. More often than not, those adjacent books will offer you additional ideas and information about your topic.
  • Use a notepad. As you walk along, make sure to bring your notepad. This will keep track of the numbers and letters you need to find for each book or topic you research. The more numbers you have, the more you will head in the proper direction when you are in the library.

Using the library is easy and it only takes a little direction from you in order to fully realize how many books can help you with your topic of study.

Ask the Librarian

At times, you may not know where to begin with a research topic. Though you might have basic research skills, if you are not sure where to go or what questions to ask, it can help to bring in a third party who is not attached to your research: the librarian.

Librarians are trained to help people find the books they need or the topics they are interested in. By talking to librarians about what you want and what you need to cover in your research, they may be able to point out additional resources you had not yet considered.

When you talk with the librarian, it can help to:

  • have book titles that have been helpful to you. If you already have found helpful books, show the librarian so she or he can look for similar books in the stacks.
  • have a question you need to answer. Yes, it can help to have a question in mind when you talk to librarians. They will help you answer it.
  • introduce the problem you have. When you have a problem with your research, be clear about what you are being troubled by. Chances are good the librarian can point you in a better direction.

The librarians are there to help you with your research. They have gone to school and received a master’s degree in library sciences to learn how to use the reference materials and how to ensure that you find the answers you need.

Talking to Other Libraries

One of the best innovations of the library system is that you can now communicate with other libraries in the same way that librarians can. If you go to a computer terminal and you find a book you want, but it is not at that library, you can have the book sent to your home library.

Or you can have that book put on hold for you and then go to the other library to retrieve it. You are no longer limited to the shelves that you have in your community library.

Remember, you can:

  • request to put an item on hold;
  • request that a book be transferred to your library;
  • renew a book you already have out;
  • find out how long it might be until a book comes back into circulation.

The library system is designed to help you get the book you want as quickly as possible. You can take control of the process by telling the computer what you want it to do with the books you need.

How to use a public library

Let’s start with the basics: A public library is publicly-funded institution that provides access to information through materials-lending, research services, events like classes and workshops, and sometimes preservation of heritage through special collections.

Public libraries do a great many other things, but those are a good start because you can find the first three at every public library in the United States.

Public libraries aren’t a new idea. They’ve offered similar services for nearly 200 years; the Scoville Library in Salisbury, Connecticut first received $100 from the town coffers on April 9, 1810, making it arguably the first public library in the world.

Public Libraries aren’t rare, either. It’s common knowledge that there are more public libraries in the United States than there are Starbucks.

And they’ve been continuously popular! Between 1990 and 2014, visits to public libraries grew by a whopping 181%. For context, the population of the United States increased by 28% during that period. Fact: In the U.S., public libraries get over a billion visits every year.

Here’s how they work…

While you can use the library without a card, in order to truly partake in library offerings, you should get one.

Rules regarding cards vary, but most libraries require you to fill out a short application and provide a picture ID and/or proof of address. Sometimes libraries have residence requirements, but not always.

Once you have a card, you can borrow library materials like books, movies, music, and more, for a set time period. The average check-out period for books is around three weeks. If you’re not done by then and no one has requested the item, you can extend your loan period by renewing it in person, over the phone, or online.

If you would like an item that isn’t available within your library system, they can often request it from libraries all over the country through a service called inter-library loan (ILL). While this is free at some libraries, most charge a fee of between $2–5 for it.

Should you damage, lose, or return an item late, you’ll likely have to pay a fee. It should be noted that many public libraries are rethinking these policies, and some have already abolished overdue fines altogether.

Public libraries have offered ebooks and audiobooks for over around 20 years. Borrowing rules are the same for these materials except you neither have to pay fines for them nor bring them back. Digital materials disappear from your device on their own at the end of the loan period. These days, most public libraries also lend streaming and downloadable movies and music in addition to reading material.

How to use a public library

Internet access and online resources

All public libraries in the United states offer free internet access to card holders through public computers and/or wifi. Nearly all have classes to teach computer basics like surfing the web and using email.

Additionally, public libraries subscribe to online resources that give card-holders access to specialized classes and tutorials, market research, language-learning apps, and other resources not available on the open web.

Relative quiet, study rooms and cubicles, outlets, business resources, and internet access make public libraries an ideal co-working space for entrepreneurs, freelancers, professionals who telework, as well as students of all ages.

How to use a public library

Research/reference services

Whatever your research question, librarians are there to help. Moreover, part of a librarian’s training involves the skills to assist patrons in better understanding and contextualizing their information needs. Many people don’t know this, but you can ask a librarian questions that have nothing to do with finding library materials.

That said, readers advisory, or helping patrons find the right book/movie/music, is also a standard library service. If you’re not sure what to read/watch/listen to next, just ask!

How to use a public library

Programs and events

One of the fastest growing areas in public libraries are programs and events for all ages. Library programs are usually free and open to the public and take place all over the schedule (even after-hours). Here are some library program examples for different age groups you might find at your library:

Kids: Storytime, arts & crafts, STEAM learning labs, performers like magicians, animal handlers, and musicians and dancers.

Teens: Karaoke, robotics/computer programming classes, teen advisory boards, life skills classes, book clubs, community service, SAT prep.

Adults: Classes/lectures on a variety of topics, meditation, business incubators, concerts, job-search help, computer classes, author talks.

If you look at your library’s event schedule and don’t see something you’re interested in. Do let your library manager know.

Libraries do a lot!

Libraries provide a huge variety of other services too, depending on community needs. And it’s all available to community members for free, right? The truth is, part of what makes public libraries “public” is that they’re supported by public funds. In fact, the average household in the United States pays approximately $7.50 per month for their library. That may sound like a pretty penny, but when you break it down, the value of public libraries is incredible!

Indeed, countless studies have shown that every dollar spent on public libraries returns an average of five dollars in value. Pay 1, get 5 back — It’s that simple! And that’s not considering the long-term economic and social value that libraries bring to communities. No matter how one looks at it, libraries are a smart investment for the entire community!

Public libraries can be differentiated from academic, school, and special libraries because they function to serve the needs of a diverse service population including small children, students, professionals, and the elderly. In contrast, academic libraries serve college and university faculty and students; school libraries serve elementary, middle, and high school students and faculty; and special libraries (such as Presidential Libraries) serve scholars and experts within narrowly defined fields.

Although public libraries serve the public at large, including those who are also served by other types of libraries, they are used primarily by members of the local community in which they are constructed and secondarily by members in communities in immediately outlying areas. The members of those communities are the service population of public libraries and their needs affect the design and planning of public library spaces. For example, if a community has a large population of young children, which can result from a community with a high-quality elementary school system, the public library design must address the needs of children and how they use libraries, i.e., story-telling spaces, books within easy reach for children, nap areas, etc. Whereas, a public library that serves the needs of a community with a large population of elderly people will included design criteria to meet their needs, i.e., easy access into the building, adequate lighting, large-print media, etc.

Building Attributes

A. Types of Spaces

How to use a public library

Reference desk at Issaquah Public Library, Issaquah, WA by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
Photo Credit: James Frederick House

There are seven broad types of public library space:

    (including public electronic workstation space)
  • User seating space
  • Special use space
  • Non-assignable space (including mechanical space)

Careful analysis of the following will allow designers to determine the space needs for the seven general spaces listed above, which are common to public libraries:

  • Identification of the library’s population of users
  • Estimation of the collections provided by the library and the space needed to accommodate those provisions to meet the future needs of its users
  • Estimation of floor space needed to accommodate seating areas
  • Estimation of floor space needed by staff
  • Estimation of floor space needed for meeting rooms
  • Estimation of miscellaneous public- and staff-use space (special use space)
  • Estimation of space needed for entry halls, mechanical rooms, bathrooms, etc. (non-assignable space).

B. Determining the Building’s Attributes

The following steps can be used to determine the library’s general building attributes. The steps below do not assess exterior space needs such as parking and site amenities, which vary widely depending on site selection as determined in the library program.

Step 1: Determine the Service Population

A projection of the needs of the design (service) population for 20 years is the start of the library design process. This design projection will allow the library to serve the future needs of its population of users and allows the designer to determine the space needed for the preceding categories of library spaces.

Population estimates can be gathered from local municipalities, county, or regional planning commissions, or from a state’s Office of Policy and Management. Since most public libraries serve residents of outlying communities, it is important to include the effect that non-resident use will have on library space allotments.

Step 2: Determine Needs for Collection Space

Since the needs of the design population are projected over 20 years, the collection size must also respond to the 20-year projection, i.e., collection space must be projected over a 20-year period. In addition, public libraries should have a “weeding policy” whereby outdated material is omitted from collections. This will allow additional space for future expansion.

The number of volumes of books, non-print materials (music CDs, audio books, etc.), and periodicals that are maintained by the library can change from 5 to 25 volumes per square foot depending on shelf height, aisle width, and the kind of material, whether it’s magazines or encyclopedias.

Calculate Space Needs for Books—As a general rule of thumb, to estimate the square footage of book storage space (with aisles at least 36 inches wide) divide the total projected number of volumes by 10. The square footage needed for compact book storage is equal to the total projected collection divided by 25. For example, if the total projected collection over 20 years is 50,000 volumes, 50,000 divided by 10 equals 5,000 square feet needed to house the projected collection.

Calculate Space Needs for Non-print Items—To determine the square footage necessary to store non-print material, divide the total number of non-print items projected over 20 years by 10. For example, if the projected non-print items over 20 years equals 20,000, then 20,000 divided by 10 equals 2,000 square feet of space needed for non-print items over a 20–year period.

Calculate Space Needs for Periodicals—Use the following formula to determine space needs for periodicals. Divide the number of current periodicals that will be maintained by the library by 1.5. That number equals the space in square feet needed to house the current periodicals. Multiply the number of back issues of periodicals that will be kept in the library by 0.5. Multiply that number by the average number of years the periodical will be maintained in the library. That result is the space needed to house back issues. For example, if there are 100 current periodicals, then 100 divided by 1.5 is 67 square feet of space needed for current periodicals. If the library will house 40 back issues of each title for 5 years, then 40 divided by 0.5 multiplied by 5 years equals 100 square feet of space need for back issues of periodicals. The square footage needed for current periodicals (67) plus the square footage needed for back issues (100) equals the total square footage needed for periodicals over a 20–year period.

If I’m using a library that is licensed under GPL v3 in my project, can I license my project under the MIT license? I tried to read the GPL v3 text but I cannot understand it without your assistance.

How to use a public library

3 Answers 3

No; incorporating or linking against GPL requires that your project-as-a-whole be distributed under GPL. But you can include MIT licensed parts (or another GPL-compatible license) in the project. Also, it depends.

The pertinent clause is 5 (c):

c) You must license the entire work, as a whole, under this License to anyone who comes into possession of a copy. This License will therefore apply, along with any applicable section 7 additional terms, to the whole of the work, and all its parts, regardless of how they are packaged. This License gives no permission to license the work in any other way, but it does not invalidate such permission if you have separately received it.

So if GPL-licensed code ever gets included in your project, for example via linking against a GPL’d library, you must also provide your whole project under the GPL.

There’s some disagreement on whether GPL comes into play when a library is dynamically linked; GNU are of the opinion that it does, and provides the alternative license LGPL, or recommends adding exceptions to GPL.

However, you can still license parts of your project under MIT, you just need to make sure the MIT and GPL sections are clearly separated. SFLC have published this document on how permissive and GPL code can be mixed in a project. This means that the MIT portions can be shared under that license, but if the whole project is distributed, it must be under GPL.

How to use a public library

GPL is copyleft, meaning you have to distrubute any derivative works of the original also under the GPL. If you use a GPL library in your project, that creates a derivative work of the library, and your entire project has to be licensed under the GPL.

One exception: if it’s the LGPL (Lesser/Linking GPL) then dynamically linking the library does not create a derivative and you’re free to license how you want.

One caveat: you can also license your work under annother license. As long as people can get it under GPL, that satisfies the GPL requirements, and you can dual-license with MIT, for example. People can choose which license to follow.

If I’m using a library that is licensed under GPL v3 in my project, can I license my project under the MIT license? I tried to read the GPL v3 text but I cannot understand it without your assistance.

Yes, I can use the MIT license. This is my own code and I can use any license I please. (I assume I am not copying any GPL-licensed code in my MIT-licensed library). Furthermore, the MIT license is considered by the Free Software Foundation as compatible with the GPL and LGPL licenses (all versions). There are plenty of examples of MIT-licensed code used in combination of GPL-licensed code, for instance in the Linux Kernel.

But I would need to consider what happens in these two cases:

at rest, my source code is MIT-licensed (assuming there is no GPL-licensed code copied in it). As long as I do not run nor build the code there is no GPL in play.

when built or at runtime my code eventually interacts with the GPL library I depend on. What happens is technology specific here: it may be C code that is statically or dynamically linked with the GPL-licensed library. Or is could be Java, Ruby or Python code that imports or requires the GPL-licensed package.

What matters is how my code does interacts and depends on the GPL-licensed library at build and/or runtime. I can check this answer (disclosure: I wrote it) for some background on interactions and dependencies. If I redistribute binaries and my code is combined with the GPL-libraries in a certain way, my code may be subject to the GPL source code redistribution requirements. The same would apply to user of my source code: when they build it, the combined binary may be come subject to the GPL terms for instance if my code is itself a library, the GPL may extend at runtime through my library to my users’ code.

Since in the end what matters is eventually running code (vs. source code at rest) even though my code may be MIT-licensed, I would clearly state to my users that when built the code is combined by default with GPL-licensed code and that the GPL terms may apply.

Alternatively a user could replace or remove the GPL-licensed library dependency from my code and it would not be combined with the GPL-licensed any more and only the MIT would apply.

As a practical example of a project with such a policy consider FFmpeg. It’s overall license is the LGPL (and not the MIT, but from the point of view of the GPL the results are the same). Depending on how FFmpeg is built and which parts are used when effectively building and running FFmpeg binaries (as opposed to just considering the source) the resulting licensing may be GPL.

FFmpeg is licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) version 2.1 or later. However, FFmpeg incorporates several optional parts and optimizations that are covered by the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2 or later. If those parts get used the GPL applies to all of FFmpeg.

I’m trying to use an open source java library to visualize nodes and edges in a graph, but I’m completely lost.

I have a bunch of jar files in a folder. Clicking on some of the jar files makes java swing windows pop open with graphs displayed. Clicking other jar files does nothing.

If I figured that out, would I just stick the jar files in there with the other ones, or would that still not work?

And if I ever figure out how to use these files, does that mean that I have to include them if I transfer my java project to another computer? How would I go about doing that?

How to use a public library

5 Answers 5

I believe if you put the jars in your classpath, you can import and use classes just like you would a standard library. Figuring out the classpath can be confusing, but you can just set it when you start your jvm. Your IDE may have options for it, too.

Most java problems are classpath problems.

Have you included those libraries in your classpath?

If you are using eclipse, you could

Project – > properties -> Java build path ->addJar.

And the Jar file should be placed in a directory inside your workspace (lib/ for example)

If you have to take your project to another computer, you could take these steps

  1. Before doing anything, export your project (as a Jar file, for example).
  2. Save it into your favorite drive (cd / usb drive/ diskette/ tape).
  3. On “the other” computer, you can import this project into your workspace

In Eclipse, you need to add libraries to the project build path.

In general, you need to provide dependencies via the classpath mechanisms at compile time and runtime. The precise mechanisms vary, but, for example, if you used the javac compiler, you would provide your libraries on the command line:

These dependencies would also be required to invoke the app:

This page gives some good info, though googling for the term “classpath” should provide alternative sources.

You use it by including it in the classpath of your java application, that way you can reference it from your code. Here is a starter document. The JDK 1.6 has some easier options (such as specifying multiple jar files as *.jar). It is definitely a little complicated, but it is very worth knowing.

You should have documentation for these Jars. Some sounds like examples, but one must be the core graph modelling and rendering Jar. Hopefully the examples have source included.

Just add that Jar to your project in Eclipse (e.g., in a /lib folder in your project, then add it to the build path) and use the documentation to use the code. You can also use Eclipse to look inside the Jar file.

Unless there is no alternative, it probably isn’t worth using a load of third party code that isn’t documented at least on the API level, and without any source examples definitely not.

The primary function of the Library of Congress is to serve the Congress. In addition, the Library provides service to government agencies, other libraries, scholars, and the general public. The Library welcomes public use of its general reference facilities and endeavors to offer the widest possible use of its collections consistent with their preservation and with its obligation to serve the Congress and other government agencies.

All researchers preparing to come to the Library are strongly encouraged to pursue preliminary exploration in appropriate public, academic, or special libraries, so that they can make efficient use of the Library of Congress. Readers should be prepared to present photo-identification showing a current address (e.g., a currently valid driver’s license or passport) in order to obtain a Library-issued Reader Identification card, needed for admission to Library reading rooms and when requesting materials from the collections stored in closed stacks (LCR 1810-2). Anyone over high school age with appropriate photo-identification may apply for a Reader Identification card; a written introduction is not required.

A high school student will be allowed to use the Library if he or she meets all three of the following conditions:

The Library provides much material of potential use to high school students through its website, and an examination of this material may prove sufficient for a student’s needs.

Most public Libraries in USA, Canada, UK and other countries allow its members to borrow books on Kindle. You will find below the steps to borrow books from public library on Kindle.

How to use a public library

Borrow Books From Public Library On Kindle

While reading real or printed books has its own appeal, some people are allergic to old or used books and prefer reading books on eReaders like Kindle, Kobo and others.

Borrowing books from public Library on Kindle allows you to take advantage of Dictionary, Search, Font Size Control, Social Media integration and other features available on your Kindle device.

Just because the books are available in digital format, it does not mean that Libraries can provide its members with an unlimited supply of eBooks.

Pretty much like regular books, Libraries have limited copies of eBooks and each digital copy of the book is treated like one title and it can only be borrowed by one person at a time.

Lending of eBooks on Kindle devices is managed by a service known as OverDrive and you will see “Checkout with OverDrive” option, whenever a particular book is available with the library in digital format.

Steps to Borrow Books From Public Library on Kindle

All that is required to borrow books from Public Library on Kindle is to login to your Library account and see if the book that you are interested in has “Check Out With Over Drive” option.

1. Using Kindle eReader or Kindle Fire tablet, visit the website of your Local Public Library and Sign-in to your Library Account.

How to use a public library

2. Search for the book that you want to borrow and you will see “Check Out With OverDrive” or “Place on Hold With OverDrive” option, if this particular book is available in electronic format.

How to use a public library

3. If the book is available, tap on Check Out with OverDrive option. If the book is not currently available, you may want to tap on Place on Hold with OverDrive and wait for the book to become available.

How to use a public library

Once you tap on “Check Out with OverDrive”, the book should automatically become available on your Kindle device.

If you do not receive the book, you will have to manually sync your Kindle device by tapping on Settings > Sync Device option located under “System” section.

How to use a public library

Return Books to Public Library On Kindle

Returning Books to Public Library on Kindle is just as easy as borrowing public library books on Kindle.

1. Visit the website of your Local Library on Kindle eReader or Kindle Fire Tablet and Login to your Library account.

2. Tap on My Account > Holdings and you will see the books that you have borrowed

3. Tap on the book that you want to return and tap on the Return option. On the pop-up that appears, tap on Return Title to confirm.

How to use a public library

Hope this helps you understand the fairly easy process of borrowing and returning books to Public Library using Kindle.

I’m trying to use an open source java library to visualize nodes and edges in a graph, but I’m completely lost.

I have a bunch of jar files in a folder. Clicking on some of the jar files makes java swing windows pop open with graphs displayed. Clicking other jar files does nothing.

If I figured that out, would I just stick the jar files in there with the other ones, or would that still not work?

And if I ever figure out how to use these files, does that mean that I have to include them if I transfer my java project to another computer? How would I go about doing that?

How to use a public library

5 Answers 5

I believe if you put the jars in your classpath, you can import and use classes just like you would a standard library. Figuring out the classpath can be confusing, but you can just set it when you start your jvm. Your IDE may have options for it, too.

Most java problems are classpath problems.

Have you included those libraries in your classpath?

If you are using eclipse, you could

Project – > properties -> Java build path ->addJar.

And the Jar file should be placed in a directory inside your workspace (lib/ for example)

If you have to take your project to another computer, you could take these steps

  1. Before doing anything, export your project (as a Jar file, for example).
  2. Save it into your favorite drive (cd / usb drive/ diskette/ tape).
  3. On “the other” computer, you can import this project into your workspace

In Eclipse, you need to add libraries to the project build path.

In general, you need to provide dependencies via the classpath mechanisms at compile time and runtime. The precise mechanisms vary, but, for example, if you used the javac compiler, you would provide your libraries on the command line:

These dependencies would also be required to invoke the app:

This page gives some good info, though googling for the term “classpath” should provide alternative sources.

You use it by including it in the classpath of your java application, that way you can reference it from your code. Here is a starter document. The JDK 1.6 has some easier options (such as specifying multiple jar files as *.jar). It is definitely a little complicated, but it is very worth knowing.

You should have documentation for these Jars. Some sounds like examples, but one must be the core graph modelling and rendering Jar. Hopefully the examples have source included.

Just add that Jar to your project in Eclipse (e.g., in a /lib folder in your project, then add it to the build path) and use the documentation to use the code. You can also use Eclipse to look inside the Jar file.

Unless there is no alternative, it probably isn’t worth using a load of third party code that isn’t documented at least on the API level, and without any source examples definitely not.