Libraries are often depicted as places where the staff shush visitors and guard the books like jewels, but in fact these community-funded institutions provide a wide range of resources to local residents. A great place to start is at home, with a visit to the library's internet site. You can check out the local branches to see which is closest to home or has a special event that you might be interested in.
If you don't already have a card, make sure to check out the "borrower policy" page to find out what documentation you'll need to take with you to get one. Just visiting? You may find that you can patronize the local library anyway. Some states like Colorado have a reciprocal borrowing program allowing a cardholder at one location to borrow anywhere in the state. In other cases, you can pay a small fee for an annual non-resident card.
Already have a card? You may be surprised at the resources available to you at the click of a button. Many libraries now have digital collections where you can download an e-book to your home computer, handheld, or listening device. They also have online databases which can be accessed with your library card and access code. There's no need to trek to the library now to search a variety of reference books; you can read them on your home computer.
During a visit to your local library, you will find a wide range of choices. Make sure to locate the new acquisitions section to see the most recent purchases. Don't see the newest best-seller or DVD? These books often circulate very quickly. You can get a copy for yourself by placing your name on the reserve list, which can often be done online. The library will contact you when your materials arrive. If you are part of a multi-branch system, you can also use this service to get materials from other sites. No need to drive all over town; the library will do that for you!
Not sure what to read? Browsing will often find you great treasures, but the librarians are a wonderful resource also. Most of them joined the field because they love books and readers and come armed with recommendation lists and reference books. If you can tell them one author or genre you like, they can suggest "readalikes" of similar works. A hint; the children's librarian or reference librarian are more likely to be able to take time to help you than the circulation desk clerks, who are often not trained librarians.
Education. 5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Library. Accessed October 20th, 2012.