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Traveling Through Libraries

November 4th, 2016
Thao · Staff Recommendations

What does it mean when someone says they have a passion for “travel?” Are they saying they like to go on vacation – who doesn’t like to lounge on the beach? The word travel to me is a very active verb, encompassing the act of movement, exploration, and sensory stimulation.  My passion for travel is based on a desperate need to learn, understand, and discover, by uprooting a familiar environment to explore a new one. Perhaps all experiential learners may have a penchant for travel then. So as one of those people who falls into the “traveling is my passion” camp, let me share some of the ways that libraries can help you realize this pursuit.

Recently for my first anniversary, my partner and I took a trip to Croatia, where we spent a short, busy week traveling the small country about the size of West Virginia. I relied on a combination of online sources and library sources to help us prepare and make the most of our time there.

Beyond travel books the library is filled with other useful and convenient resources to help you plan a trip and enrich your experience. It doesn’t seem intuitive to think that your overlooked local library can be the bridge to the world but I can prove it in no less than 10 resources. Here are just a few, but the resources are as abundant as there are places in the world to visit.

1. An Audio-Visual Reconnaissance:  “Rick Steves’ Europe. 10 New Shows 2011-2012” (DVD)

rsI’m a very visual person so I like watching shows or flipping through books with lots of great colored photographs when seeking inspiration for my next adventure. Never having read anything by the popular travel guide writer, I checked out this DVD from the library to get a better impression of Croatia and its history. All of Disc 2 covers Croatia and nearby countries, like Slovenia, for day trips. Countries covered in this 2-disc series included Spain, Scandanavia (also on my list), Croatia and other Balkan countries. If you’re unfamiliar with Rick Steves, his philosophy on travel is accessible and pragmatic, offering reassuring advice for inexperience travelers, while also giving experience travelers tips and shortcuts to avoid crowds and lines.

2. Travel Guides: “Rick Steves Croatia & Slovenia (2016)”

02Grab the latest edition published of June this year. I traveled with the 2014 edition and checked on for updates. Pick a few different travel guide imprints and see which one best suits you and your trip. There’s plenty to choose from (Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, DK Eyewitness). I like the way Rick Steves’ books provide a section titled “At a Glance” that lists and rates points of interest, which was helpful for me prioritize my short time there.

Super Library User Tip: Travel guide books are also available to download online at Total BooX. And these you get to keep! Though I still prefer the printed version for better page reference and book marks.

3. Lost in Translation: “Lonely Planet Phrasebooks”

03Having lived abroad in countries where I didn’t speak the language, I can testify these set of phrasebooks by Lonely Planet are truly useful in helping express your needs and talk to locals. They are pocket-sized and thus very discrete and handy when traveling.  Differing from a language dictionary, phrasebooks offer preset sentences arranged by topic (dining, emergency, conversation), making it quick and easy to reference on the spot. I didn’t need a phrasebook at all in Croatia because everyone we encountered spoke English very well, but the edges of my Arabic phrasebook are worn and rounded, a sign of heavy use.

4. Fiction:

novelistA few years ago I started a habit of reading books that shared the same location or setting of where I was traveling to (The Maltese Falcon in San Francisco). Reading an author descriptively detail your surroundings gave me a reference point, almost an insider point of view. This habit evolved into a conviction. Going to Istanbul? Read: Orhan Pamuk’s,“Istanbul.” Not only does the book take place in Istanbul, the author is also Turkish, giving you a first-hand, native’s account of the environment. I found my recommendation for Croatia through a great WLS resource, NoveList Plus. The author is a young Croatian-American who grew up dividing her time between the US and Croatia, now a professor at Columbia University.

5. Non-Fiction:

Though some fiction books provide a great reference for setting, some of you more pragmatic minds who prefer non-fiction (like myself) might want something more meaty to get a true context for where you will be going. There’s more of a selection in non-fiction so here are the highlights.

6. New York Times: Fun & Games

Stop by the library to catch up on the NYT Travel section (published on Sundays) and read up on the latest trends in travel. For the plane ride I like to have copies of the NYT crosswords to occupy my time, so I make copies from the Arts section. Both are very valuable resources as fewer people opt for print subscriptions. “New York Times Co. Reports Loss as Digital Subscriptions Grow

Super User Tip: Want more periodicals? HPL card holders have access to Consumer Reports online. You can read reviews of luggage and other travel accessories for your trip.

7. Overdrive: Pack up the library to take with you!

overdriveThat time you couldn’t just pick one or two books to read on your vacation and decided to load 10 titles onto your eReader instead. With your library card you can borrow 10 digital books or audiobooks, allowing you to pack light for your trip. You also don’t get stuck with one book if after a few chapters you realize you’ve already read it! With a long commute and I have befriended audiobooks and podcasts to make it more productive, so I always have an audiobook downloaded on my phone through the Overdrive app. Though I prefer print books to digital, when traveling I like to load up on digital books to lighten the load. Need help setting up your Overdrive account? Call or stop by the information desk.

Super User Tip: Getting a hang of our digital collection and want more? Try Freegal and Flipster which gives library card users access to magazines and music. Download up to five songs a week that you can keep with Freegal. The service just added new songs by Nobel Prize Winner, Bob Dylan.

8. Computers, WiFi, & Printers

A lot of the best travel deals can be self-booked on websites such as Kayak, Expedia, SkyScanner and so.  Many patrons also come in to print boarding passes and tickets before their trip. Travel Tip: I have used digital boarded passes in various apps, and I rely on it as a backup, but I prefer to have printed boarding pass to conserve battery life. Having your phone out and screen on drains your battery and that can be a valuable resource since outlets can be scarce when on the move.

9. Museum Passes & Programs

museum-passesI aim to get my passport stamped once a year. In between far-flung journeys I will satiate my wanderlust by exploring a new National Park, a new city, or a new hamlet every chance and weekend I get. Westchester is situated conveniently a few hours away from rich destinations such as New England, the Hudson Valley, and a world class city that pulsates round the clock. Museum Passes offer free and discounted admission to nearby cultural institutions. Harrison Library Card holders can check out a museum pass for your next trip.

Super User Tip: Don’t want to go far – you can travel the world right from your local library. The library offers free programming covering a wide variety of topics and subjects ranging from foreign films to foreign language classes and from travel talks to food programs highlighting a certain cuisine. Sign up for our e-newsletter online so you don’t miss out on any of our much talked about programs.

10. A Librarian

As a librarian, my favorite reference question is when patrons ask if we have any travel books. My heart lights up as I walk them to the 910s where my Geography and Travel friends live. An instant rush of past travel memories fills me along with vicarious excitement for my patron who’s about to embark on a new trip. Then comes the follow up questions in our reference interview:  Where are you going? When are you? Are you traveling with kids? etc. A librarian is much more helpful than any internet search, because we offer one-on-one customized service when you have a question.

Thao Nguyen
Outreach & Programming Librarian, MSIS

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