I hear a lot from and about people who take their laptops or tablets to places like Starbucks, Panera, or just a local place with wi-fi and hang out there. These are informal places that don’t seem to mind how long someone stays, so long as they spend some money. Meanwhile, the folks that hang out there often say how much work they get accomplished, including working online or interviewing people. What could be better?
Consider the library.
Both libraries and coffee shops offer wi-fi, and they’re both convenient places to meet people. In fact, they both accommodate both one-on-one meetings and groups. The coffee shops have the better menu if you want to nosh while you work, but libraries offer a number of advantages themselves:
- Library tables are always clean if you want to uses one.
- Libraries have couches and easy chairs if you don’t want a table.
- If it’s an academic library, you can even find a private study carrel.
- Libraries have meeting rooms, some equipped with a variety of audio-visual equipment.
- Libraries have lots of information you can’t find on your own. Undigitized books and periodicals for one. Also, their own computer network gives you access to their databases even if it’s an academic library and you’re not part of that institution.
- Besides printed materials, libraries have sound and video recordings in both current and obsolete formats–and the equipment to play all of them.
- Libraries have printers, copiers, paper cutters, hole punches, and all manner of office equipment.
- If you need expensive software (Photoshop, for example) once in a while, but not often enough to justify getting your own copy, the library probably has anything that’s widely used.
- Librarians and paraprofessionals are on hand to answer your questions, whether to help you find information or teach you how to use unfamiliar equipment or software.
- If you have special needs, from equipment for a meeting to some kind of personal disability, the library probably has a system in place to give you special help
It used to be absolutely forbidden to eat anything in the library or drink anything but water from the fountain. Times are changing. The old rules make sense in terms of protecting the collection, the equipment, or the furniture, and many libraries still adhere to them. But other libraries are loosening up.
If your library happens to be one of them, you can take your laptop or tablet to the library after stopping off to get your latte and pastry and enjoy the best of both worlds.