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Public Libraries: An RVers Best Friend

As an RVer, have you ever needed a document printed, reliable high-speed WiFi, a quiet conference room or just want to check out the latest magazine without having to buy it? What if I told you about a dirty little secret that allows you free access to all of those…and more! One of the best resources available to RVers are local public libraries. And while they are funded almost solely by local taxes, grants and donations, that doesn’t preclude any of us from access. Simply put, public libraries are an RVer’s best friend!

Let’s go back a minute. It all started a few years ago while we were parked at a U.S. Military Naval Weapons Station FamCamp near Williamsburg, Virginia. Every time we tried to get online using our WiFi hotspot and MiFi, the signals were constantly being jammed. I had a blog submission deadlines and proposal emails to be sent out. I couldn’t download or upload anything; even at two in the morning. My frustrations grew to the point of anger so I had to come up with a solution.

I needed to find a clean, quiet, and respectable place to score a decent WiFi signal. A little lightbulb went off– the public library! I opened my mapping app to locate the closest public library in downtown Williamsburg. After, I quickly packed my MacBook, grabbed my purse and asked Dan to drop me off at the library. I set up my workspace and went right to work. In less than three hours, my work was done, deadlines met and proposals were steaming for approval! It was one of my most productive and pivotal moments as an RV entrepreneur.

Fast forward a few years and three RVs later, visiting public libraries is a common occurence in our journey. In fact, they are now our best friend on the road. Every town and city has one and they’re free to use. Libraries are not just a place to check out books. There’s a ton of reasons why we public libraries are our go-to resources for work, research and relaxation.

Free High-Speed Internet

First and foremost, the biggest reason we take advantage of public libraries is free high-speed internet. It’s perfect for nomadic travelers and working on the road. Whenever we need to upload or download large files, get a lot of emails out or work with online graphics programs that demand strong WiFi, we pack our laptop bag and head for book city.

Comfortable and Quiet Workspace

Vanlifers and those living in tiny RVs lack ample office space to spread out. Trip planning can be quite a project when we want to work together with multiple laptops and digital devices. Add in a few paper maps and brochures, we’re on a straight-line course to a train wreck. So, we just pack up our laptop cases and head to the library to get it all done. Also, if we need to have a conference call or Zoom, their conference rooms are great for private conversations and presentation with professional backdrops.

Private Conference Rooms

Most public libraries have a private conference room that can be reserved in advance to ensure you have a quiet place for that conference call or online testing. Or, if you’re meeting up with other RVers, their conference rooms are a peaceful place to work, trip plan or engage together without outside distractions. For more information, check out the library’s website.

Notary Public

There have been times we’ve needed to have documents notarized. We’ve found that some libraries have a staff member that has Notary power. If they don’t have a Notary service, they usually know where we can go.

Document Printing

Most full-time RVers don’t have the space or storage for a printer or even a ream of paper. But there are times we need to print important tax and legal documents, applications, vehicle insurance cards and registrations, and online receipts. So, we’ll ask the Librarian if we could print a few pages. Document printing costs about a quarter per page.

Books, Music, and Movies

We’ve learned that you don’t always have to be a resident to check out books, music and movies from the local public library. The larger metropolitan libraries usually have online checkouts and/or streaming of new releases and older movies, audio books, and books themselves. But before getting excited about this, always check each libraries’ policies on their programs.

Tourism and Local Knowledge

Typically, public libraries are situated near the center of town. So, we will combine our library visit with a lunch spot nearby. We find the best places to eat, shop and tour are those recommended by the locals. They know where all the good stuff is. They also are in tune with local event information. It’s a great way to support the local economy. But also, Librarians are familiar with local history and tourism locations. They can point your compass to the best local adventures.

Families and Roadschooling

Public libraries are a great venue for road-schooling families! The library staff usually schedules children’s reading hour, arts classes, puppet shows, and other events that promote reading for your little nomads. They are a great place to let them go on their own reading adventures while you’re working on a project, trip planning or catching up on your favorite magazine.

Oh, and speaking of road-schooling, libraries are an awesome resource for nomadic families to work on projects, research and work at their computer stations. But, don’t forget to bring each child their own headphones.

Poetry and Book Readings

If you’d like to a no-cost afternoon or night out, some public libraries schedule book authors to speak about their writings. Just log onto the public library website you’re near and visit their events and speakers calendar.

Clean Bathrooms

I saved this one for last because it’s the least likely reason one would think of for visiting a public library. Did you know they have the cleanest bathrooms!? For vanlifers or smaller RV’s under 25’, parking is easily accessible. And while I’m not suggesting to just run in to use the bathroom, it is an added bonus to other reasons I’ve mentioned while utilizing any public library.

So, as you see, local public libraries are an RVer’s best asset while living or traveling on the road. While they may have resident requirements of library card checkouts, they are free to enter and use any or all of the above. So, next time you’re looking for a great WiFi signal, a place to work quietly, research local attractions or get some documents printed, head to the library!

Lisa Brown and Dan Brown

Author

Lisa Brown

Grass doesn’t grow under the feet of Dan and Lisa Brown of Always On Liberty. They started out as part-time motorcycle nomads while Dan served in the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A few years after Dan retired, they traded their five-bedroom Kentucky home for an RV to set out for the open road. They and their two Maine Coon cats have been full-time, adventurous RV nomads since 2014 with no plans of stopping anytime soon.

Now, three RVs later, Dan and Lisa are still forging their own paths; exploring, hiking and kayaking their way across America and Canada. They enjoy sharing their on-the-road experiences and the RV lifestyle through their blog, YouTube channel and social media platforms. They also work as Brand Ambassadors; assisting RV component manufacturers in developing, improving and showcasing their products.

5 Responses to “Public Libraries: An RVers Best Friend

  • Kathy Thomas
    1 month ago

    Lisa, great article.
    You’re so right about the library being an RVer’s best friend! While serving on my university’s Nursing Alumni Society, I found myself with 100 on-line scholarship applications and no WiFi in our beach campground. YIKES! What to do?
    I am pleased to recommend the Barbee Library on Oak Island, NC. They saved my day, actually 3 days, and I finished the project before deadline.
    Kathy SKP#143724

  • Totally agree with you Lisa. One of my favorite public libraries is in Sierra Vista, Arizona. Home to Fort Huachuca the Sierra Vistaa library has all the benefits you mention AND a large parking lot. When we moved out of our home to go back on the road, I donated 3 car loads of books to the Friends of The Sierra Vista library. Their store is HUGE with a selection to match so there is always another book I would like to buy 😉

  • Glenn B Nulty
    4 weeks ago

    I agree – great article – and public libraries are a great asset to use when on the road.

    But not to be a “Debbie Downer”, public libraries are not free. True – there is no cost to use the facilities or enjoy a book, magazine, rest room, music, free Internet, but please be assured, someone is paying for this service you enjoy. I also realize as an RVer, we stay in local communities and add to the economy.

    But libraries are funded with local tax dollars, which most libraries get very little of. I often wonder how my local library stays open! I can tell you, here in my town, there is a lot of fund raising.

    So my point being, if you use a public library, consider a small donation to the “Friends of the Library”, donate old books that can be sold in a library thrift store. By doing this, especially in todays digital world, you will help keep public libraries open and the communities that support them will appreciate it.

    Glenn SKP# 128059

  • Margaree
    4 weeks ago

    As a Tucson librarian I can tell you we are more than happy to see RVers, good thing since I’m in that group too. While our, and many other systems are offering limited admittance and service during this frustrating and scary time, know that all Pima County Libraries have wifi until that reaches outside the building. Too, we will print, make a few copies and send a fax for you until you are once again able to come in again to do it yourself. Life on the road can be bumpy. We can make it a little smoother.

  • I know this sounds crazy, but libraries are also good for books! Many libraries have ebooks you can check out digitally and read wherever you happen to be.

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