We all know that libraries are typically quiet and peaceful places, home to millions of books for readers of all ages. But over the past two decades, these sanctuaries have been used for much more than just perusing through volumes of publications. With the rapid increase of the gig economy, many freelancers on a tight budget have discovered the library to the be their “secret” office space to focus and get work done.
Whether you’re a freelancer or just looking for a place to work outside the office, here are some quick and easy insider tips on how to make the best of your new favorite workspace:
Scout for Your Needs
Large metropolitan areas often have branch libraries in every neighborhood, and even multiple library systems, which means that you have your choice of what works for you. Every library is a bit different so do a tiny bit of research before committing, a few things to consider:
- Hours of operation vary. Look for a library that suits your work desired work schedule.
- It’s nice to get a boost now and again. Are their nice coffee shops nearby or inside?
- Is it near a school? If so, afternoons will likely be abuzz with rambunctious young people.
- Do you need expert assistance or special resources? Larger libraries are more likely to specialized collections, or even business librarians that work specifically with entrepreneurs and freelancers.
Free wifi at libraries is pretty much ubiquitous nowadays, but some libraries also offer free wireless printing, scanning, and fax machines for public use. When you get your library card, ask for a quick tour and explanation of these services, and the steps necessary to use them. This will save you lots of hassle when you’re rushing to meet a deadline.
Prepare for the environment
You know yourself, do you get cold easily? Libraries tend to be air-conditioned so bring a light sweater. Most libraries these days allow lidded drink containers and simple snacks; if you’re planning on being there all day, bring both! Likewise, are you easily distracted by small noises? Not to worry, just pack your headphones (or ear-plugs) and you don’t have to worry about shelvers putting books on the shelves, or the person at the next table flipping pages.
Communicating with the Outside World
Libraries have a reputation for being no-cell-phone zones, and for good reason. Loud personal phone conversations are extremely annoying, especially for someone nearby trying to get work done. This is actually good for you, because without the constant need to check your phone, your focus will increase. That said, sometimes you need to take a call, lead a remote meeting, or have a video chat. Conveniently, most libraries have study rooms ideally suited for this purpose. When you get that tour mentioned above, also ask for study room guidelines. Book that room in advance, and you’ll be good to go for your call.
Get to Know the Staff
If you’re going to be a regular, introduce yourself to the staff! Don’t be afraid to occasionally chat with them about what you’re working on, especially the librarians at the reference desk. Many of them are regularly reviewing potential library resources and collections, and will be glad to put aside items that may be useful for you. The best thing, though, is that the your new “home” office will feel a lot more cozy and welcoming if you’re greeted by name when you enter.
The Library as Inspiration
Work can be dull and exhausting sometimes. Yet, projects have to move forward, and you have to be creative even when you don’t feel that way. Not to worry, the library provides several very easy creativity boosters: 1) Go and browse the stacks. The very creative Ezra Butler talks about this very thing in his article: “Libraries, Structured Randomness and the Creative Process”. 2) Change seats! Sometimes a different perspective comes at a different able. 3) Take a walk around the block. A few minutes of easy exercise has been known to boost creativity and willpower. 4) Meditate. Libraries are generally quiet so you’ll have few distractions while you let your mind ease up on itself. 5) Remember where you are — Libraries are the ultimate inspiration engines, full of knowledge and narrative, expression and enlightenment. When you think of that, how can you not feel energized?
If you have other tips for using the library as your “home” office, leave them in the responses section below!