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5 Ways to Take Advantage of Libraries During the Holidays

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, the holiday season is in full swing.  The weeks between Thanksgiving and the winter holidays can be full of good people, good food, and goodwill.  Unfortunately, they can also be frenzied and stressful, as people rush to buy gifts, deck the halls with Pinterest-worthy decorations, and have as much family time as possible (or tolerable).

Lucky for us, libraries can be a great resource during the holiday season.  Sure, you can check out cookbooks, how-to manuals, and your favorite Christmas DVDs.  You can also bring your kids to Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa-themed story hours.

But libraries can also help you save money, figure out your gift list, and decorate your house.  Here are just a few ways you can take advantage of libraries during the holiday season:

Get holiday gift advice.  Finding the perfect gifts for family and friends is hardly ever easy.  Not only do you have to consider things like price and personality, but you also have to stay on top of all the latest trends and coolest gadgets of the season.

This can be a daunting task, but many  libraries have you covered.  They offer workshops on things like using Consumer Reports to compare potential presents, finding out about the hottest technology of the year, and choosing the right eReader.  Check your local library to see if you can take advantage of any workshops or classes this holiday season.

Make gifts and decorations.  Maybe you’d rather give your family and friends a thoughtful handmade gift instead of the latest electronic doodad.  Many libraries offer holiday-themed classes where you can make gifts such as jewelry, books, or mason jars filled with the ingredients for a holiday treat.  After you’ve made your gift, why not wrap it beautifully?  One library offers a workshop on creative wrapping for the holidays.

Not interested in handmade gifts?  Your library could be the perfect place to craft decorations that will be the envy of all your Pinterest followers.  Some libraries offer workshops on everything from ornaments and gingerbread houses to wreaths and holiday table runners. The best part? These workshops are usually free!  This is a great way to have a beautiful house and a few extra dollars in your pocket.

Catch a free concert or movie.  As we’ve already established, the holidays are an expensive time.  The library is a great place to find some holiday entertainment that won’t break the bank.  The New York Public Library has holiday concerts scheduled about once a week during the month of December, and the Onondaga County Public Library here in Syracuse is showing some holiday movies this month.  Other libraries also have events scheduled, from showings of How the Grinch Stole Christmas to themed holiday concerts.

Mingle with friends old and new.  With many libraries holding parties or gatherings of some kind, the holiday season is a great time to meet new friends in your community, or hang out with old ones.  You could participate in a cookie swap, attend a Hogwarts Yule Ball, eat at a Dickens Christmas dinner, or go to a holiday open house.  Different libraries have different events, so make sure to find out what festivities your local library has planned this year.

Take care of your library fines-and help a family in need.  Many libraries choose the holiday season to hold a Food for Fines program, during which time library members can bring in cans of food to “pay” their overdue fines.  Libraries have different policies, but generally, each nonperishable item will replace one dollar’s worth of fines, up to a certain point (in Syracuse, the maximum is $10).

Items are donated to local charitable organizations such as food banks.  This is a great way to keep a few extra dollars in your pocket and help those in need during the holidays.  Even if you don’t have any overdue fines, libraries are more than happy to accept your donations.  The time frame for these programs varies depending on the library, so check to see if and when your local library offers a Food for Fines program.

The holidays should be a time of joy, but they are often hectic, stressful, and expensive.  Using your library during this time of year can be a great way to get some gift advice, save some money, and help those in need.  Take advantage of all your library has to offer this season, and have a happy holiday!

What library programs are you looking forward to this holiday season?  Let Alison know in the comments, email her at, or find her on Twitter @AlisonJane0306.

Alison Glass

Alison is a grad student in library and information science at the iSchool. Because she is perpetually indecisive and persistently curious, this is her third round of graduate school. Alison was a teacher in a previous life, and is interested in all things education, including information literacy, social media in the classroom, censorship, and the future of school libraries. She is addicted to Pinterest and chocolate. Find her on Twitter @alisonjane0306.

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