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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Public libraries are home to more than just books

With a new Davis library on the horizon, the Editorial Board urges you to take advantage of the variety of resources your local library has available




The year is 2008, and the bell rings, signaling the end of the school day. You catch the bus home, microwave some Bagel Bites for a snack and then bike over to the library to meet up with your friends. When you arrive, you walk to the middle-grade book section and eagerly scan the shelves for the 643rd book in the Warrior Cats series. Of course, it’s checked out. The concept of putting books on hold is still foreign to you.

Public libraries were a staple of many of our childhoods, back when reading meant escaping into another world, rather than a stressful assignment that we try to avoid when at all possible, unless you’re an English major. Maybe even then. 

But the Editorial Board is here today to say that taking advantage of library resources isn’t something that should stay in the 2000s, like denim vests and nonexistent eyebrows — public libraries have more to offer than you probably realized as a kid, and this is only becoming more true as they work to adapt to the modern age and cater to underserved communities. 

Of course, the primary function of public libraries remains: they are a great way to read books without having to commit to the cost and storage issue of purchasing them directly. They also have rotating displays, which can help you to find books you might not have otherwise picked up. Their collection includes fiction, but also other genres like history, memoir and political and religious commentary to name a few.

Mental stimulation like reading can help prevent or slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia and improve your writing skills and vocabulary. In addition, reading reduces stress, helps you sleep better, improves communication skills and may even make you a more empathetic person due to the forced practice of seeing life from other perspectives. 

If reading a physical book just isn’t for you, there are still plenty of other options available at the library. Audiobooks are available for check out and are becoming increasingly popular, with some read by the author or featuring different readers for each main character. Even for those who love to read physical books, audiobooks are a great way to fit reading into your schedule when you’re busy, because they’re made for multitasking: Biking to class? Audiobook. Cooking dinner? Audiobook. Laundry? Audiobook. Cleaning your room? You guessed it — audiobook.

Basically, forcing yourself to do domestic adult tasks is made infinitely easier when you can pair them with diving into a story. Plus, audiobooks are great for people who are vision-impaired or have learning disabilities like dyslexia. Audiobooks are even easier to access if you use Libby, an app that allows you to input the number from your library card and gain virtual access to e-books and audiobooks from your local public library, including the Yolo County Library in Davis.

Now that we’ve convinced you to pick up a book again, we’d be remiss to not also note the wide variety of other resources available at the libraries in the Davis area, and at many public libraries throughout the state. 

In California, library patrons can check out free vehicle day-use passes for many state parks. At the North Davis library, patrons can take advantage of Yolo Reads, a free tutoring service for adults who want to improve their writing skills, Books by Mail, a free service that mails library materials to you if you have difficulty visiting the library, Discover and Go, which offers free or discounted passes to local museums, meeting rooms that are available for public use by non-profit groups. They also provide access to public computers, WiFi and printing, “storytimes” for kids in a variety of languages, community-wide events like Board Game Night, coming up on Feb. 22 and even, although the service is currently paused due to COVID-19, instruction in building small objects with a 3D printer

Public libraries are meant to be more than just a place to check out books; as they adapt to remain relevant in the age of e-books and Amazon, they have become community-gathering places. Locally, plans for opening a new public library in South Davis are moving ahead after the city received a state grant.

This new location is meant to serve the community in many ways, including as a climate resilience hub which will provide resources and shelter to community members before, during and after extreme weather events, according to an article by the Davis Enterprise. The article further states that 40% of residents in South Davis are considered low-income, and these areas that display income inequality could benefit from ready access to computers, WiFi and other library services.

We sometimes think of public libraries as a thing of the past, but they have a lot to offer us as individuals and as a community. The Editorial Board encourages you to take advantage of the resources they provide: pick up a book, download the Libby app, borrow a state park pass and go on an adventure with friends and generally check out all that the library has to offer. (Yes, we’re giving you permission to reread Warrior Cats again. This time, you’ll even know how to place a hold on that one book in the series you could never find! Ah, the joys of adulthood).


Written by: The Editorial Board