I can remember the last day I did research at the library. I was in grade four and had already begun copy-pasting my projects from the internet. (Coincidentally, it was the same day that my best friend's older brother introduced my best friend and I to internet porn on a library computer.) But primarily, libraries are a place for books.
At the Dalhousie (6225 University Avenue, 494-3617), Saint Mary's University (923 Robie Street, 420-5544) and Atlantic School of Theology (624 Francklyn Street, 423-7941) libraries, you can find books that are more than five centuries old. Mount Saint Vincent University (166 Bedford Highway, 457-6445) has the largest collection of lesbian pulp fiction in North America. Dal has original recipes for Oland and Keith's beer up to 1971 and an entire library devoted to Rudyard Kipling (author of The Jungle Book).
But the world is changing, and libraries are expanding their mandates beyond books. If you're behind on readings for class, you can now download an audiobook or ebook straight to your laptop at home with a Halifax Public Library membership, and then do your reading on your iPod while you bus to class.
For hard copies of books, most libraries in Nova Scotia have implemented a program called Borrow Anywhere Return Anywhere. You can use your membership from almost any public, university or community college library in the province to borrow a book from any library in the province, and then return it to any other library in the province, or to their new drop box at the Seaport Farmers' Market (1209 Marginal Road, 429-6256).
Membership to any library in Nova Scotia is free, and comes with myriad programs and services. Most of these libraries offer an online ask-a-librarian service. Night before your final report is due? An online librarian can answer basic questions for you---What's the phone number for the Mars rover project?---or get your started on answering bigger ones---Do aliens exist?---by pointing you towards useful websites, books, subject experts and databases.
Those databases are oceans of knowledge that a librarian can help you navigate. With online library databases you can read today's paper, find out what the weird lump behind your left ear is or even bring up the manual for your 1996 Pontiac Sunfire.
Meanwhile, if you're trying to fight a noise complaint from a crotchety downstairs neighbour, the librarians at the Sir James Dunn Law Library (6061 University Avenue, 494-2124) can guide you through their hundreds of thousands of volumes of statues, regulations, cases and journals. They disclaim that they cannot offer legal advice, and strongly recommend getting a proper lawyer, but they do regularly field questions from people who are trying to represent themselves in court cases.
For kids, the library is a wonderland. There's a block room at the Spring Garden Public Library (5381 Spring Garden Road, 490-5700), a read-away-your-late-fees program through the summer and dog therapy, where youth who have trouble reading can practice their skills by reading to a big friendly dog through the Paws to Read program.
There are a few toys for grown-up kids as well: Dalhousie's Killam Library just got a 3D printer that anyone can use to make small models for not-much-more than the cost of old-school 2D printing.
The Halifax Public Libraries have a movie selection formidable to Canadian Netflix, with free one week rentals. They also offer programs as diverse as Flamenco dancing lessons, digital photography courses, a graphic novel book club and free movie screenings.
The NSCAD Library (5163 Duke Street, 494-8196) is occasionally home to "interventions"---guerilla art installations. One student put paintings on cue cards and clandestinely installed them in the library's card catalogue.
There's also something to be said for the serendipity and culture of the library. It's a place where you can meet strangers and stumble upon interesting literature. There may, literally, be some magic behind this. The Spring Garden branch is currently under paranormal investigation by Light Workers Paranormal Investigators.
Apparently the ghosts don't disturb everyone, though. The quiet stacks have forever served as a popular spot for a romantic get-away, a discreet drink or even a nap. The bottom floor non-fiction section of the Spring Garden library, the top floor of the Dal law library, the study carrels in the basement of the University of King's College Library (6350 Coburg Road, 422-1271) and the upper floors of the Killam all seem to be favoured spots for this.
If you're just looking for a quiet place to study, the library in the Nova Scotia Legislature takes the cake (1726 Hollis Street, 424-5932). Though members of the public can't borrow books, it earns points for having previously been the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, where Joseph Howe made his famous appeal for freedom of the press in 1835. The Atlantic School of Theology library, hidden deep in the south end, is also highly recommended as a quiet, serene space. And don't forget that there's only another year and a half to take in the Spring Garden branch before it will be closed and replaced by the new Halifax Central Library across the street.
Halifax is home to 14 public libraries, nine university libraries, three community college libraries and a handful of others, including the NSPIRG Library (6136 University Avenue, 494-6662), the Roberts Street Social Centre Zine Library (5684 Roberts Street, 446-1788), and the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia Library (1113 Marginal Road, 423-8116). If nothing else, you can probably find something decent to read.