Libraries are one of the most undervalued blogging resources, especially if you're a food blogger. Today's public libraries are chock full of services, many of them digital and incredibly high tech, to help you develop your blogging skills and create inspired content. Today, we share 10 ways your public library can become your best blogging friend — you might be surprised!
You may think that in this day and age of the internet and e-everything, the public library is a bit of an aging dinosaur. In fact, now that you can get free wi-fi in almost any urban location, why would you ever bother getting a library card?
Because I'm about to show you why your local public library can be a food blogger's best friend. For real!
Public libraries may slip to the back of our mind when we're absorbed in our daily blogging tasks, but they're a treasure trove of resources that are highly relevant to what we, as food bloggers, do. You may be very surprised!
Here's our top 10 reasons your public library can be a food blogger's biggest resource (and it's almost all free!).
1. Back Issues
Libraries are a great place to go for back issues of all your favourite magazines. All your favourite food magazines! You can go flip through a year's worth of Bon Appétit, Saveur, Canadian Living, Chatelaine, and Martha Stewart in an afternoon or two. This is great for getting editorial ideas, dissecting food photography and styling, looking at trends (even older trends that you might be able to twist into something new).
And don't forget magazines you might not traditionally associate with food, like home and garden publications that may have tips on growing your food, or entertaining. Or try health and fitness publications that may have healthy eating tips.
2. Access to Zinio and Digital Magazines
If you have a Canadian library card, you likely have free access to Zinio, an on-line hub of digital magazines with a much wider selection of magazines than your local library can carry in print — and all are digitally accessible from your devices.
Think international magazines like Donna Hay from Australia, Olive from the UK. Or niche magazines on wine, craft beer, special diets, baking and even city magazines that publish local food guides. My quick search turned up Vancouver Magazine, which publishes at least one food-dedicated issue a year, Portland Monthly's brunch issue and Los Angeles Magazine's breakfast issue!
Bonus: you also have access to loads of magazines dedicated to digital photography, design, and creative software like Lightroom, Final Cut and Photoshop, many of which have detailed step-by-step instructions!
Your library card likely gets you free access to Lynda.com, one of the biggest training grounds on the web for creative software. They have digital classes taught by some of the world's experts on everything from Photoshop, In Design, Lightroom, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, Asana, digital photography, marketing, web design and development and much more.
In short, it's Food Blogger University 101 and it's free — with your library card.
4. E-books and Audio Books
I often get asked how I manage to listen to so many podcasts on a regular basis. Answer: I have a big dog who needs at least an hour-long walk every day, and I commute on public transit a lot and reading in a moving vehicle makes me feel barftastic.
But I don't just listen to podcasts; I also listen to audio books! All for free thanks to my library card. If it's available as an audio book it's likely your library has it through one of the many audio book services available.
While you may not want to "listen" to a cookbook, you can listen to books on digital marketing, small business and entrepreneurship and a biography of your favourite chef. And you can download e-books on every subject, which is great when you're flying or heading out on vacation!
5. Try Before You Buy
After being burned by a lot of gorgeous cookbooks that had less than stellar recipes or too many recipes I'd never cook, I've gotten pretty picky about what I'll lay out my money for.
Enter the library. I try before I buy! Sometimes you'll have to wait a few weeks to get your hands on a hot title but it's a great way to give a cookbook a test drive. It's convinced me to buy on more than one occasion, and it's kept me from paying for something that would have been a big mistake.
6. Niche Cookbooks
If you're looking to learn a new technique, immerse yourself in a cuisine you're unfamiliar with or get some historical information, libraries can be a great source of free inspiration and knowledge. Specialty titles that might be hard to get hold of at your bookstore or even on Amazon may be sitting on a shelf in your local library.
Even cookbooks that might be out of print or be considered "dated" can be found at the library and can be a source of ideas.
7. Used Book Sales
Almost every Canadian library will hold a used book sale once or twice a year (or more if it's in a large urban centre). They're usually well publicized and very popular. The books are either donated or they're library materials that are no longer needed for circulation. The prices can range from 75 cents to a few dollars and they're treasure troves of books and inspiration!
Libraries are an often overlooked spot for meeting space. Most will have at least one room available for rent (in smaller libraries) and bigger, urban branches will often have multiple spaces, usually at reasonable rates. There's usually a substantial discount if you're a non-profit.
Your library may even offer free rental space if you're an author (hey cookbook authors, that's you!), publisher, or member of your local creative community.
9. Inspiration & Digital Innovation Labs
What it is is a goldmine for digital content producers like bloggers. These spaces give you access to audio and video recording studios and equipment, state-of-the-art editing and creative software for your videos, audio files and photography, the ability to make your own ebooks, 3D printing access, multi-media classes and so much more.
You literally have access to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment, software and instruction with your library card. No aging dinosaurs here!
10. Peace & Quiet
Libraries are one of the last bastions of peace and quiet in our busy world. My local library branch is a very small suburban satellite branch. The book selection isn't great, but it's quiet, has big windows, comfy soft chairs and good, open workstations. And free wi-fi. There are people around so I feel connected but they're quiet so I can get work done.
While they may not officially allow you to bring in food and drink, most libraries will turn a blind eye if you have a solid looking water bottle and your lunch is in a nice portable container and you're not making a mess!
There you have it. Here's a quick recap of 10 ways your local public library can be a great resource for your food blog:
- Back issues of food, gardening and lifestyle magazines
- Free access to Zinio and digital magazines
- Free access to Lynda.com's huge assortment of on-line education
- E-books and audio books
- Try cookbooks out before you buy them
- Niche and historical cookbooks
- Used book sales to find hidden gems at low low prices
- Meeting space options
- Inspiration and digital innovation labs giving you access to equipment, software and classes
- Peace and quiet — ahhh...
So dust off your library card or head on down to your local branch and get a card today!
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Melissa Hartfiel is a co-founder of FBC and is the site’s Managing Editor. She’s a graphic designer who writes, doodles, photographs and eats chocolate and drinks tea. She blogs about food, photography and creativity at her own blog, Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach. You can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or connect with her on LinkedIn.