Every so often I find myself shaking my head at the amazing resources I can access via the library.  

As a librarian, you’d think I’d cease to be impressed – or even surprised – by library services. Yet even as a heavy user of library resources, I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of the things I can learn and do.  

Besides books and eBooks I’m always checking out or the audiobooks in my earbuds, these ten resources are the services I wish everyone knew they could take advantage of via their local library. All of these resources are available at Oakland Public Library (OPL) and many other libraries around the Bay Area.

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Kanopy. Not to be confused with an actual canopy (though a canopy would be a great place from which to watch many of the streamable movies and programs available via the Kanopy service). Kanopy particularly shines when it comes to independent films and documentaries, but you can also find classic movies like “Charade” and “Chinatown”; Oscar winners like “Parasite,” and “Moonlight,” as well as a big selection of kids’ programming. 

Analog. Yes, forget paying $10 or more to stream a movie. You can often find backlist titles and new-ish titles still available on DVD at the library. Though DVDs are definitely a dwindling portion of most library collections, you can still find a lot of gems if you’re willing to forego digital. I’ve been on an ‘80s movie kick recently and just saved some money by checking out this one on DVD. Ah, the hair! 

Rosemary Medina, a library aide at Berkeley Public Library’s Central Library, shelves nonfiction books. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News)

Tools. Nothing makes a gardening or carpentry project more daunting than finding out you need to buy a specific, often expensive, tool, especially if it’s one you’re not likely to use again or you are short on storage space. Enter tool lending libraries! Both Berkeley and Oakland public libraries have dedicated tool lending library locations where local patrons can borrow a variety of tools from power saws to weed whackers to extension cords. Plus – bike tools! 

Bikes. Bike parking is a feature of most Bay Area libraries. Berkeley Public Library’s south branch has a dedicated Dero Fix-It Station. OPL has bike locks and pumps at most locations and offers several bike tools for lending. You frequently can find bike-related events with the library partnering with a local bike organization. In conjunction with Bike East Bay, there’s a monthly We Bike Book Club with bike-related reading selections every month. I get particularly excited about bike events that get you out of the library such as the upcoming Haunted History Bike Ride. And while you’re outside, why not check out a… 

National Park Pass. The California State Library set up a cool partnership that allows any Californian to check out a FREE vehicle day-use pass to use at a state park. Hit your local library before you hit the trails. 

Point Reyes and Drakes Bay from Sky Campground with forested ridges in the foreground and the Pacific Ocean in the distance on January 3, 2012 in Marin County, Calif. (National Park Service (NPS) via Bay City News)

Seeds. Seed lending libraries serve as a community seed exchange where community members can “check out” different types of seeds and then “return” some of these next generation seeds to the seed lending library for others to use. San Francisco, Hayward, Richmond, and Oakland are just a few of the many local libraries with seed lending programs. 

Toys. Little kids change rapidly and so do their toys of choice! OPL’s toy lending library gives parents a chance to borrow toys from blocks to dinosaurs to dolls without the cost or hassle of replacing outgrown toys. 

Siblings Ivy and Rowan Donovan of Pleasant Hill, control a robot in the Maker Space Room during the grand opening of the Pleasant Hill Library. (Photo by Ray Saint Germain/Bay City News)

Video games. This is the perfect opportunity to check out that new Nintendo Switch game or test-drive that PlayStation game you have your eye on. Many libraries also offer regular group gaming sessions or tournaments for teens to game together. 

Crafts. Options abound for the crafty and craft curious. Whether it’s an in-person knitting group or a how-to crafting class, the library is a great place to try your hand at a handicraft, usually with all the materials you need provided for you. Some libraries offer easy projects such as “grab and go” craft kits for kids or teens. If you want to go more in-depth with your learning, see if your library has an eLearning resource like Creativebug. 

Jennifer Boyle threads a bobbin at the Pleasant Hill Library during its grand opening in Pleasant Hill, Calif., on July 30, 2022. Boyle, of Pleasant Hill, volunteers as a sewing instructor. (Ray Saint Germain/Bay City News)

Language learning. Besides extensive language collections, you can find English language classes, ESL conversation clubs, bilingual story times, and other events to help you with learning English or other languages. Be sure to check your library’s online resources and look for paid language learning applications like Mango or Pronunciator that you can access free with your library card. 

Happy discovery! 

Megan Keane, Community Relations Librarian at Oakland Public Library (Photo courtesy Oakland Public Library)

Megan Keane is a longtime nonprofit techie and community builder turned librarian. She works as the Community Relations Librarian at Oakland Public Library. Connect with her at mkeane@oaklandlibrary.org or on Twitter at @oaklibrary.