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11 Awesome Things You Didn’t Know You Could Get from Your Library

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If you’ve just been using your local library for books—or not using it at all—you’re missing out on a wealth of entertainment and money-saving life hacks. While every library system is different and yours may not have all of the perks listed below, if you poke around your library website, you might find even cooler stuff.

1. YOGA CLASSES

Many libraries have open rooms for public use. These rooms are often reserved for group meetings, workshops, and all kinds of free classes taught by members of the community. 

2. E-BOOKS, AUDIO BOOKS, AND MAGAZINES

Need a new novel for your e-reader or an audio book for your commute? You probably don’t even have to get off the couch. Libraries now offer remote downloads of e-books, audiobooks, and even magazines. 

3. FAMILY ACTIVITIES

Storytime? Check. Arts and crafts? Yep. Music? Games? Yes and yes. These free activities nourish kids’ creativity, let them socialize with others their age, and expend some of that excess energy.   

4. DATABASE ACCESS

This may not seem like a big deal until you need to look something up, but then it will be a very big deal. Outside of universities, it can be hard to get your hands on a log-in for academic journals and other databases without shelling out a lot of money. But your library is just giving it away, and, once again, you may not even need to leave home to get access.

5. HELP GETTING A JOB

Whether you’ve been out of the work force for a while, are changing careers, or just need to beef up your résumé, the library may be the place to go. Check the library calendar to find classes, workshops, and even one-on-one assistance.

6. DVDs

You know that show everybody keeps telling you to watch? How about that movie you meant to see in the theater last year? Your library’s probably got it. Sure, you could try to rent these things online, but those services cost money and often have gaps in their collections. If your library doesn’t have the DVD you want, another local library might, and you should be able to request it. 

7. MOVIE NIGHTS

If you prefer to take in a flick in the company of others, the library can still help you out. Libraries screen new releases, classics, and even film-festival-type series all year long. Look for posters on your library’s bulletin board, or ask a librarian what’s coming up.

8. COMPUTER CLASSES

Maybe you never learned how to make a spreadsheet. Maybe your mom is driving you up a wall with her requests for tech assistance. For your sake and hers, take a look at the library calendar.

9. HELP WITH YOUR TAXES

There’s no question that tax forms are unnecessarily complicated. Even the smartest, most grown-up grownup can get tripped up in the process and end up underpaying or leaving money on the table. But you don’t have to go it alone, and you may not need to pay anyone for help. Beginning in late winter, many libraries offer free help with tax preparation. 

10. READINGS AND TALKS

From big-name authors to underrated local treasures, library reading series are a terrific way to take in literature, learn something new, and meet other book lovers.

11. MUSIC

Yes, music! Depending on the library, you may be able to check out CDs, sheet music, or even digital downloads. This is a great risk-free way to try out an album and discover new artists.

All images courtesy of iStock.

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Courtesy of MICRO
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science
The Brooklyn Public Library is Now Home to a Tiny Mollusk Museum
Courtesy of MICRO
Courtesy of MICRO

The Brooklyn Public Library is one of America’s largest public libraries—and now, its lobby is home to what’s being billed as the world’s smallest mollusk museum (and its first, no less). The vending machine-sized installation contains 15 different educational “displays,” all of which highlight fun facts about bivalves, snails, octopuses, and other soft-bodied creatures, according to The Washington Post.

Installed on November 10, the mollusk museum is the brainchild of Amanda Schochet, a computational ecologist, and media producer Charles Philipp. In 2016 they co-founded MICRO, a nonprofit organization that makes and distributes compact science museums.

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

“Science museums are amazing,” the duo said in a video about their company, which is supported by Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation. “There’s just not enough of them. They’re all in wealthier neighborhoods. It’s fundamentally important for everyone to have access. So we decided to reinvent the museum, taking everything that we love about museums and putting it inside a box that can go anywhere.”

The factory-made museums are designed in collaboration with scientists, and created using 3D printing techniques. They’re easily reproduced, and can be set up anywhere, including libraries, airports, or even the DMV.

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

The BPL’s Smallest Mollusk Museum is MICRO’s first public project. Why mollusks, you might ask? For one thing, they survive in every habitat on Earth, and have evolved over hundreds of millions of years. Plus, a mollusk museum of any type—large or small—didn’t exist yet, as Schochet learned after she once misheard Philipp say he was going to the world’s “mollusk museum.” (He was instead going to the “smallest” one, located inside a Manhattan elevator shaft.)

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

The Smallest Mollusk Museum is “packed with exhibits including miniature movie theaters, 3D-printed sculptures of octopus brains and leopard slug hugs, optical illusions showing visitors what it’s like to experience the world as mollusks, and a holographic mollusk aquarium,” Schochet tells Mental Floss. “We've identified nearly 100,000 species of mollusks, but there could be as many as 200,000—they’re all around us, all the time. Every one of them is a lens onto a bigger universe.”

Librarians have also joined in on the mollusk mania, prepping an accompanying series of books for kids and adults about the many creatures featured in the museum's exhibits.

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

The Smallest Mollusk Museum will gradually circulate through several of the library system’s branches. Meanwhile, MICRO’s next public offering will be a second mollusk museum, which will open in the Ronald McDonald House in New York City in December 2017. Additional locations and projects—including a small physics museum called the Perpetual Motion Museum—will be announced soon.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
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Design
China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Newsweek]

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