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Public libraries

Public libraries are free, open to all and offer not only books, but also music and film, useful information and access to computers. There is certainly one near you. This information explains what they offer and what to expect if you have never been in a public library before.

Welcome To Your Library

How can public libraries help me?

A Place to Go

You do not have to be a member of a public library to use it. You only need to become a member if you want to borrow books or other items. Anyone can sit and read books, magazines or newspapers, or just find a quiet corner.

  • The staff can help you if you do not see what you want and are there to answer your questions but you do not have to speak to them.
  • If English is not your first language, the library may have books or newspapers in your language.

Find Information

  • Public libraries are an excellent first place to go for information. You can use books and computers in the library, or take leaflets away.
  • Library staff can refer you to the best people to contact for help with debt, education, employment, health, housing, immigration or welfare benefits. They can help you with local travel information, tell you about local services that you may need or community organisations that may be relevant to you.
  • Many libraries also have rooms that community organisations may use for events and activities.

Read, Learn and Enjoy

  • If you join a public library, borrowing books is free. You can usually also borrow tapes, videos, DVDs, music from around the world and other items, but there is a small charge for this.
  • Staff can help you find online computer courses, learn or improve your English or number skills and get help with writing your job history so that you can apply for jobs.
  • By learning how to use the internet you could catch up with news in your own language at the library and send messages to family and friends in other countries.
  • In some libraries your children can get help with homework. There are often free storytelling and other events that children can join in especially during school holidays. There are also activities and toys for babies.

If I can't come to a library, can a library come to me?

  • A mobile library service may stop near where you live or ask about home library services if you cannot go out alone without help.

How do I become a member?

  • You can join the library at any age, even as a baby.
  • Some public library services require one proof of your identity and some require more. Ask the staff exactly what is required in your area.
  • Your proof of identity should be a recent and official document like a gas or electricity bill or a document from the Home Office if you are a refugee or asylum seeker.

How do I find where my nearest library is?

  • Every local council has a website with details of public libraries in their area or see this full list of UK public libraries