Libraries are the sanctuaries of bicycle travelers. They’re your shelter from life on the road. They’re your oasis in an endless sea of roads and highways.
To put it succinctly, libraries are a great place to hang out… and the services they offer can be of great assistance to anyone traveling by bike.
Escape From The Elements
One of the main reasons you might want to stop at a library while on a bicycle tour is the chance to escape the weather. Whether dodging a rain storm or getting out of the heat and humidity, spending some time at the library is a great way to kill time and escape the demands that come with constantly being outside.
Secondly, libraries are a great place to fill up your water bottles. Water is of great importance to the traveling cyclist, so if you have an opportunity to fill up your bottles, you should take it! Most libraries (at least in North America) have a drinking fountain of some kind where you can get a drink and fill up your reserves. If the library you stop at doesn’t have a drinking fountain, just ask the librarian if she can help. There’s usually a sink or faucet of some kind to get water out of.
My number one reason for stopping at libraries is to use their Internet. Whether you are carrying your computer with you or if you simply want to log on to a library computer and check your email, this is the place to do it! Most libraries have free Internet, but I know that some libraries do make you pay for your time on the computer. Printing is usually extra and you usually have to give the librarian some form of ID or at least write down your name before you are given access to a computer. If you’re blogging about your bike tour, updating your Twitter status, checking in with your Facebook buddies, or simply sending emails back home to your friends and family, use the library’s resources to your advantage and enjoy the Internet while you can!
Another good reason to stop in at the local library is to ask for directions. Librarians are usually more than happy to help you find a specific road, navigate your way to a nearby landmark, or secure a place to sleep for the evening. If the librarian isn’t able to personally assist you, you should at least be able to find directions, a phone number, or a book to reference for the information you are looking for.
Food and Drink
A surprising number of libraries now offer food and drink services. Larger libraries often times have a small café or coffee shop located either inside or adjacent to the library. If the services are available, these are great places to stop with your bike, sit down in the shade, and enjoy a nice meal.
Finally, you might want to visit a library while on your bicycle tour if you need to find something to read. The problem with reading on a bicycle tour is that because you have the time, you tend to devour books in a matter of days. And when you finish that book, you don’t want to be carrying it around with you for the rest of the trip. Luckily, libraries solve this problem for you! Libraries are a great place not only to find new books (most libraries have books that you can buy or take for free), but a surprisingly large number of libraries have some sort of book exchange program in which you can bring in a book of any kind and take another book in exchange. For the bicycle traveler, this is the ideal solution to finding great reading material for your tour. It doesn’t cost a thing (usually) and you aren’t wasting books by throwing them out every time you finish one.
As you can see, libraries are an excellent place to stop and rest on your bicycle tour. The next time you’re looking for a great place to take a break, escape the weather, get some water, check your email, ask for directions, grab a meal, or find a new book… do what you can to find the local library.
Have I missed anything? What other reasons are there for stopping at a library when traveling by bike?