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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

It’s all happening at the library: Spokane’s library systems go beyond books

Andy Rumsey, the Spokane Library’s music education specialist, gives guitar lessons 
to Pam Wise, left, at the Downtown Spokane Public Library in September. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
By Audrey Overstreet For The Spokesman-Review

From Shirley Jones’ Marian in “The Music Man” to Parker Posey’s night-clubber in “Party Girl,” stereotypes about librarians – and libraries – are as prevalent as late fees. But these days our public libraries no longer serve as simple book storage facilities filled with card catalogs and piercing silence. (Although that sounds nice too.) Modern libraries and librarians have expanded their missions to provide the public with so much more.

So undo that bun, stop shushing each other, and “check out” – get it? – some things you might not have known you can do and get at your local library right now.

Spokane Public Library

At the Spokane Public Library – with six locations in downtown, the East Side, Hillyard, Indian Trail, Shadle and the South Hill – you can:

Get a free board book and a library card if you are a brand new baby born in a Spokane hospital from the Books for Babies program, which is funded by Friends of the Spokane Public Library.

Get a fine-free library card if you are a student in Spokane Public Schools using just your student ID.

Attend “Lilac City Live” the third Thursday of every month, an award-winning late-night talk show featuring local Spokane talent. You can even buy a local beer to sip while you enjoy the show.

Learn the basics of music theory with free music lessons at the downtown library and a free instrument to borrow.

Get a personal storytime and craft if you are an oncology or heart patient receiving treatment at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital. Parents and patients can also access digital materials through Kindle Fires provided to the hospital from the library through a special grant.

Check out books and movies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the 24/7 Library outside the West Central Community Center. It’s the first one in Washington.

Access cutting-edge financial information on a Bloomberg Terminal. Spokane Public Library is only the second library in the country to offer one.

See special items from the Northwest Room Fuller Collection including a full portfolio of Edward S. Curtis prints, books from the 1500s and even a collection of cuneiform tablets from between 2400 and 2100 B.C.

Reserve free meeting rooms for events or meetings.

Checkout seeds from the Seed Library at Hillyard.

Receive hand-picked book deliveries if you are a resident in a retirement home or assisted-living facility (select facilities only, new locations added regularly).

See storytime without leaving your child care facility; Outreach Youth Services brings storytimes and book deliveries to 60 day care centers across Spokane.

Earn a high school diploma in the HS21+ Program at Hillyard Library in partnership with Spokane Community Colleges. To enroll at anytime call (509) 533-4600.

From Swedish to Swahili, learn 87 languages for free online.

Stream award-winning independent, classic and foreign films on your device or television.

Check out snowshoes, sewing machines, Washington State Parks Discover Passes, laser tag sets and more from the Library of Things.

Learn anything, from how to use Photoshop to how to Navigate an Awkward Situation at Work using the library’s free subscription to

Check out a book club kit – a bag full of 10 copies of the same book with a book discussion guide; 88 different titles are available from “The Hate U Give” to “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Download free music to your device that you can keep forever, legally.

Browse amazing historic digital photos from around our region on The Northwest Room Digital Archive.

Enjoy local artists. Each of the six locations for Spokane Public Library displays a different local artist each month.

Research your house history.

Print a cookie cutter or a chess set or crochet hooks or more on a 3-D Printer.

Learn how to start a blog at the South Hill branch on April 3 or go to to plan to attend all manner of crafting circles, free movies, and how-to lectures galore at all the branches.

Read a book in the palm of your hand with the Libby app and Overdrive.

Learn to play the guitar, bass or drums in private one-on-one free lessons with a Music Educator.

Access all the resources you need to start a business, including a one-on-one business consultation with a business librarian.

Trace your family tree with a genealogy librarian and free access to genealogy resources.

Find funny pictures of your friends in a digitized collection of old Spokane High School yearbooks.

Get a head start on learning to read at early literacy Storytimes, available at all seven branches.

Spokane County Library District

The Spokane County Library District has 11 full-service libraries serving all Spokane County residents and affiliated cities including Cheney, Deer Park, Fairfield, Latah, Medical Lake, Millwood, Rockford, Spangle, Spokane Valley, Waverly, and Airway Heights. Here are some of the cool things you can access at the SCLD:

Free family passes to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Mobius Science Center and Children’s Museum, the Spokane Symphony, and coming soon, Washington State Parks Discover Passes.

Download the library’s eBooks and audio books, as well as streaming options for movies, music, TV shows; online classes in a multitude of topics, Consumer Reports, and The SCLD’s digital library can be accessed remotely, so you can research your family tree, read magazines, fix your car or lawnmower, learn a new language or hobby, or get medical info, all from the comfort of your own home.

SCLD also has access to a Library of Things, where you can check out STEM kits for the kids, including Legos, telescopes, upholstery kits, audio/visual equipment, sewing machines, and bottle cutter kits, among other “things.”

Check out editing software, video and audio equipment, green screen, plus classes to learn how to use all of these at the Studio at Spokane Valley Library and the Lab at North Spokane Library.

Borrow from a selection of vegetable, herb, and flower seeds, and plant them in your garden. When harvested, collect some seeds to bring back in for the next round of gardeners. Available at Cheney, Fairfield, and Otis Orchards libraries.

For students from kindergarten through college, receive tutoring from a live person online.

Enjoy local art exhibits at all 11 SCLD libraries, which offer art walls or display cases for people to share their work.

Learn to blacksmith, or just play one for a day with a hands-on mobile forging center coming this summer to the parking lot of the North Spokane Library.