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Public Libraries Offer a Real Fresh Start in 2020

Now that The Seattle Public Library has ditched overdue fines, it’s a better time than ever to rediscover your library

Published on: January 07, 2020

A young boy reads books at a public library

Got mid-winter break doldrums? The February blahs? Rainy-day blues? With more programs, events, classes and — yes — books than ever, your local public library can solve all of these doldrum-y dilemmas and keep your kids reading and exploring until spring.

And if you’re a card-carrying member of The Seattle Public Library, now you don’t even have to worry about the only downside about libraries — the overdue fines. In January, SPL ditched late fines for good, joining Snohomish County’s Sno-Isle system in this forward-thinking move. (Contrary to conventional wisdom, research shows that fines don’t really work as an incentive for returning books; instead, they punish the people who can least afford them, such as low-income families and children.)

Here are five fabulous library offerings to check out this month:

Level up

Dust off that one-month-old New Year’s resolution to learn a new skill and submit it to Seattle Public Library’s Your Next Skill program, which will craft a personalized learning plan for you within 48 hours. (It’s cousin to the book recommendation program called Your Next Five.) 

Ditch Disney Plus

Why pay for Disney Plus when you’ve got your library card? Head to the “online” section of your library system’s website to find one of our favorite thoughtful family entertainment choices, Kanopy. At Kanopy Kids, you’ll find a dream list of (mostly) terrific documentaries, indie movies and shows, as well as Scholastic video books. Don’t forget to check out the offerings for you, too. Hoopla is another winning streaming service offered by most public libraries.

Learn a language

Got an international trip coming up? Your library website can connect your family to Mango language classes in six languages; and you can track your progress, too. An app called Pronunciator also offers instruction for 99 languages. Tacoma Public Library also offers Rosetta Stone “dynamic immersion” classes through its website.

Go maker mad

Have a budding coder, comic artist, 3-D crafter or superhero fanatic? Libraries have been upping their STEAM game so much in recent years that it’s hard to keep pace. A sampling of upcoming events at KCLS’ downtown Bellevue Library’s IDEAx Makerspace includes a Harry Potter crafting class, a drop-in creativity lab and Minecraft coding workshop. At The Seattle Public Library, LibraryLab offers cool classes such as robot coding and Little Bits inventor kits.

Free museum passes

C’mon, this is not that hard. Seattle Public Library’s Museum Pass program offers passes to 15 venues (including the Seattle Aquarium, MOHAI, MoPop and Living Computer Museum and Labs, plus a boat ride at the Center for Wooden Boats). New passes become available online each night at 9 p.m. for 30 days ahead. At KCLS, you can check out tickets to eight attractions (hottest tickets include KidsQuest Children’s Museum and Seattle Aquarium); you can reserve two weeks ahead and new passes are available at 2 p.m. every day. Pierce County Libraries offer passes to six South Sound attractions. Tacoma Public Library offers a similar program.

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