10 College Crises You Didn’t Know the St. Louis Public Libraries Could Solve

If college students had a dollar for every time they didn’t know what to do next, chances are, they still wouldn’t be able to afford their tuition. Thank goodness for public libraries, which provide answers to virtually anything—at absolutely no cost to cardholders. 

Though libraries have served as community hubs for centuries, many still view them as mere book archives or exchange systems. In reality, these public perceptions of libraries are long outdated. The St. Louis Public Library system provides far more than just reading material, and young people can reap limitless benefits from their vast collection of resources. 

“The purpose of the modern-day public library is to connect people to the resources that they need or want,” said Samantha Dozier, manager of Central Youth Services for St. Louis Public Libraries. “We offer free food programs, no fines, access to historical documents. The scope of what we can provide is so vast, I always say if you’re having trouble finding what you need, the public library is probably going to be the place you can find it. And if you can’t find it there, we can probably help you find it.”

Accessing these resources can feel daunting, especially for those unaccustomed to library systems. However, according to Becky Smith, Teen Services Coordinator for the St. Louis Public Libraries, the library staff is always more than willing to help. 

“We are one of the true community spaces. We are there to help you in whatever way that might be. We are knowledge seekers ourselves, so if you come in and have a question, we also want to find the answer to that question,” said Smith, whose passion for library services ignited while working with teens after school in the Carpenter location (South Grand Boulevard). 

According to Smith, more specialized teen and young adult services have appeared over the course of her career. Once a social worker, she and her colleagues—like Dozier—work hard to institute community change, using libraries as a vessel. 

“The library has recognized that teens and young adults are valued members of our community and sometimes need a little extra support,” said Smith. “Sometimes they need their own programs, specialties, services.” 

Behold 10 of those programs, specialities and services, carefully curated to help you find solutions (no Dewey Decimal system necessary). 

1. Beat tech trouble by checking out a hotspot or Chromebook. 

SLU wifi got you down? Try checking out a hotspot from the St. Louis Public Library system. Anyone over the age of 18 can keep a hotspot for 21 days—longer, if there is not a hold—and each hotspot can connect to 15 devices. They also offer unlimited data. Just be sure to reserve yours online by going to slpl.org, then choosing “Services” followed by “Hotspots” on the menu bar. 

If your computer breaks down while you have impending assignments, fear not; you don’t have to live in the library until you can get the issue resolved. Chromebooks from SLU’s Academic Technology Commons are only rentable for seven days, but the St. Louis Public Library will loan to you for 21 days. You can even bundle it with a hotspot, to ensure quick operating times wherever you go. Reservations can be made by going to slpl.org, then choosing “Services” followed by “Chromebook & Hotspot bundles” on the menu bar. 

2. Get abroad with ease by utilizing passport and notary services. 

Going abroad is a rite of passage for many SLU students, but the journey to just get to the journey can be overwhelming. If you miss a crucial deadline and SLU’s Study Abroad office can’t help, chances are, the St. Louis Public Libraries can. 

The Buder, Carpenter, Central, Julia Davis and Schlafly locations are official Passport Acceptance Facilities, meaning you can submit and process your U.S. Passport Applications there. Furthermore, all locations offer notary services, which are required to obtain a student visa in most countries. Before you one-and-done your abroad application at a public library, be sure to allot 18 weeks for your passport to ship, and call your chosen location in advance to set up an appointment. 

3. Enhance your U.S. citizenship by registering to vote. (Not a citizen? SLPL can help you become one.)

The federal voting age in the U.S. is 18 years old, meaning political engagement is just beginning when a typical college education is. Couple the right time with the right ingredients—more reading, more discussion and more independence—and it’s no surprise that young people are flocking to the polls in higher numbers than ever. According to The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, “young people turned out at a higher rate in 2020 than in 2016, and their impact—especially youth of color’s overwhelming support for Biden—was decisive in key races across the country.”

If you aren’t yet registered to vote, the hardest part can be finding where to start. Fortunately, the St. Louis Public Libraries offer voter registration services at every location. Bring your Missouri license, U.S. passport or SLU ID, along with a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck containing your name and address to register to vote in Missouri—no matter which state you call home during the summers. Note that the next primary election is Aug. 2, making July 6 the last day to register. 

International students who can not vote can still make use of library services. In the Social Sciences Room on the second floor of Central Library (Olive Street), non-citizens can find the Citizenship Corner: a place specially designed to connect immigrants, refugees and multilingual communities to find resources relating to U.S. immigration or citizenship. If you’re looking to extend your time in the States post-graduation, the Citizenship Corner is a great place to start. 

4. Save time and Billiken Bucks by printing from your phone, for free. 

Though SLU students receive $10 of print credit per semester, St. Louis Public Library cardholders receive $5 of free print credit per month—that’s $20 to $25 per semester. When the libraries in Pius are failing and your Billiken Bucks have run dry, send your print job over to a library and let them take care of the rest. 

St. Louis Public Libraries allow you to send print jobs directly from your personal laptop, tablet or cell phone. Just go to mobileprint.slpl.org, enter your library card information and head to your chosen location to pick it up. It should be hot off the presses and ready at the desk when you arrive: no hassle, no mess. 

5. Enhance your Student Organization and School Projects in the Creative Experience Labs. 

The Central (Olive Street) and Barr (Jefferson Avenue) locations offer Creative Experience Labs, well-stocked with a vast array of resources to take any project—technological or tangible—to the next level. 

Tired of spending $40 to print a poster for your student organization at Walgreens? In the Creative Experience Lab, you can use your cardholder print credit on posters, banners and photos.

Canva not cutting it? The Creative Experience Labs offer full access to Adobe softwares like Photoshop, Lightroom, Audition and Premiere Pro. You can bring your projects and promotions to a professional grade using these resources, at no cost to you. And for the less tech-savvy among us, the libraries offer free courses to help you master them, with levels ranging from “beginner” to “experienced.” 

6. Spice up your museum roster by checking out an exhibit. 

SLU is situated in the prime art-perusing location, with the St. Louis Art Museum, Contemporary Art Museum, Pulitzer Arts Foundation and MOCRA all within a few miles—but you can only frequent Art Hill so many times before it’s time for something new. Once you’ve exhausted your museum options, check out an art exhibit at a St. Louis Public Library. It isn’t uncommon for exhibits to rotate in and out of different library branches, oftentimes featuring local artists who you may never hear about otherwise. You can view St. Louisian Maxine Thirteen’s “Old Fashioned Figures,” a collection of vintage and Hollywood-era oil paintings, now through March 31 at the Buder location (Hampton Avenue). 

7. Stop worrying about getting a job, and actually go get one. 

St. Louis Public Library cardholders get full access to Brainfuse Job Now, an online service which their website says “provides support for every step of the job search process.” From 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily, cardholders can receive interview coaching from live experts, have their resumes and cover letters reviewed and even receive specialized help searching for jobs. Resume resources and templates are also available. Trying to figure out your next step can be overwhelming, but fortunately the St. Louis Public Libraries have ensured it never has to be lonely. 

8. Be less boring: learn a new skill. 

Whether you’re looking to monetize a small business, enhance your employment eligibility or just spice up your Tinder bio, St. Louis Public Libraries are here to help. If you want to learn a new language, the library system offers over 60 foreign language courses (and English courses provided in 17 native languages). Classes like “Small Business Financials,” “Stop Motion Animation,” “Planning Your Vegetable Garden” and “Laser Cut Birdhouse [making]” are all on the schedule for the month of April. 

Between school, work and extra-curriculars, it can feel like young adulthood is slowly sucking away your personality. Don’t let learning become a leech; register for a course at the library, and do something just for the sake of doing it. 

9. Study with a snack, a view and significantly less distractions. 

Studying on campus is great, until you get stopped by half of your friends on the stroll to Pius, someone decided to get rowdy on floor three, Einstein’s has been out of cold brew for the past two weeks and the temperature in the library is sitting at below zero. Lucky for you, the St. Louis Public Libraries can offer solitude, mature audiences, reliable snacks and, above all, temperature control. 

Each branch has its own unique vibe, and library-hopping can be a great way to keep even the most mundane studying interest. If you visit Central (Olive Street), you can even grab a meal and some local delicacies, like Kaldi’s Coffee and Billy Goat Chips, from the Spiced Just Right! Cafe (open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). 

10. Grow into a more competent adult. 

If you still don’t know how to change a tire, create a budget or find your way around the city on public transportation, the library is a great place to grow without fear of judgment. Your St. Louis Public Library card grants you access to a myriad of digital resources that can be accessed any time, any place, from any device. Just visit slpl.org, click the “Digital Content” tab on the top menu and select “See all…” under “BY SUBJECT.” And voila! The world is at your fingertips: vetted just for you. 

Sounds good, but how do I get my card?

If you’re interested in any of the services detailed above, go get a library card! You do not have to be a permanent resident of St. Louis, so long as you study here. All you need is a valid form of photo ID (your student ID works just fine) and proof of address, like a piece of mail sent to the mailroom or a housing bill.

  According to Dozier, “If you just make contact with the person at the front desk, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them. We just want you to connect to the things we have to offer you. We’re so passionate about the services we provide, we’re more than willing to help you.” 

Next time you aren’t sure where to turn—whether the issue is technological, financial or personal—your local librarians hope you’ll turn to them. 

“For most [library workers], we live in the community we work in, and we really view it as a community space and somewhere that’s welcoming for everyone,” said Smith. “We hope other people can see it that way as well.”