The library holds many wonders — books, yes — but so much more.
Since the first library in Tucson was founded in 1883 and then moved into what is now the Children's Museum Tucson, the local library system has grown to include almost 30 branches and quirky offerings that you probably didn't know you could find at a library.
We love the library here, because — besides indulging our bookish tendencies — the Pima County Public Library offers lots of other cool, free things.
And who doesn't love free?
Next time you're at your local branch (or even better, come explore the enormous Joel D. Valdez Main Library downtown at 101 N. Stone Ave.), take advantage of these other free services. (Or check the library out at the Tucson Festival of Books on Saturday March, 10 and Sunday, March 11).
Here are 10 things we bet you didn't know you could do at a local library.
1. Start a garden.
You can grow your garden with help from the library's Seed Library. Here is a list of nine libraries where you can borrow open-pollinated and heirloom seeds. The "Now Sowing" blog will give you seasonal directions on what you should be planting and libraries around the city offer classes with gardening tips.
The seed library works like this: You borrow seeds from a participating branch using your library card, plant them at home and then collect the seeds from your harvest at home and return them to the library. This process is supposed to cultivate seeds that do well in the desert.
2. Learn how to adult (if you're a teen)
On Thursdays from 3-4:45 p.m., the 101 Space for teens at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library has an Adulting 101 class on everything from career planning to car maintenance. Check out the Facebook event for more information.
3. Admire art.
Perhaps not your first thought, but the library has rotating art exhibits accessible any time the library is open. Upcoming exhibits include "Arizona Wildflowers" and the "Green Man Army Exhibit" at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library and "The Art of Paying Attention: Wildlife Drawings and True Nature Stories Exhibit" at the Kirk-Bear Canyon Library, 8959 E. Tanque Verde Road. You can see which exhibits are where here.
University of Arizona Art Museum docents also bounce between branches to give talks on art. For example: The Nanini Library, 7300 N. Shannon Road, has a talk at 2:30 p.m. today on watercolor. On Thursday, April 5, you can learn about food in art or head over to the Joyner-Green Valley Library, 601 N. La Canada Drive, for a talk on contemporary Native American Art on Wednesday, March 7.
To find more art talks, go here and then use the "Art and Artists" filter. You'll even find a few art classes to develop your own artsy side.
4. Get a high school diploma.
And not just a GED (although the library does have a program for that, too). Earlier this year, the first class of graduates through the library's Career Online High School received their high school diplomas. Library card holders 22 and older can apply to the program. Through scholarships, it offers an education to its students at no cost. For more information, go here.
5. Get help with your taxes.
Not the most exciting thing on this list, but 'tis the season.
Through April, tax aids will be available at a handful of branch libraries to help you conquer your taxes. The program focuses on helping people with incomes of $60,000 or less through the national Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. Volunteers certified by the IRS will help you prepare your taxes if you bring all the necessary documents. Go here for more information.
6. Explore museums and the theater.
Get cultured. The library's Culture Pass program can get you free tickets to 15 Arizona museums (most of them are in Tucson).
Again, your library card acts as the golden ticket. Eleven participating libraries have two passes available each week in kiosks at the library. One pass = admission for two to a participating institution and you can only check out two per month. Go here to peruse available passes.
The library also will help you get tickets to local cultural performances by organizations such as UA Presents or the Arizona Opera. These Performance Passes are only available at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library. Arts organizations typically release extra tickets to the library two weeks before a show. Find available passes here.
7. Start your own business.
The Idea + Space at the main library downtown aims to be a go-to hub for small businesses, nonprofits and entrepreneurs. You'll find mentoring opportunities here, seminars on starting your own business and best practices for social media. The library partners with SCORE Southern Arizona, the YWCA's Women's Business Center and other organizations to provide "the workshops and resources you need to thrive," said Holly Schaffer, the community relations manager for the Pima County Public Library. Visit library.pima.gov/ideaspace for more information and a schedule of upcoming events.
8. Find your zen.
And we're not talking about the magic of reading (though that is a solid way to find your center). No, the library literally hosts yoga and meditation classes. For free. Get you downward dog on at these three libraries: Quincie Douglas Library, 1585 E. 36th St., Kirk-Bear Canyon Library and Joyner-Green Valley Library. The Dusenberry-River Library, 5605 E. River Road, has a "Yoga Preschool Storytime" 11:15 a.m. to noon Thursday, March 8. You're welcome.
9. Get expert advice on your novel.
The libraries regularly host local authors who set up shop as a Writer-In Residence. For the next few months, Susan Cummins Miller, author of the Frankie MacFarlane Mysteries, will be available for one-on-one consultations with Tucson's writers at the Kirk-Bear Canyon Library. She'll also be giving workshops about writing and storytelling.
Go here for more information.
10. Stream indie films and documentaries.
This is super new. Your library card will get you access to the streaming service Kanopy, where you can find 30,000 movie titles.
You can watch 10 movies per month, and the collection includes foreign language films, indie and film festival favorites and documentaries. For more information or to access the streaming service, visit pimalibrary.kanopy.com.