The idea of a public library is a powerful one – rather than just buying a few books for one’s own home, our tax dollars work together to share thousands of physical books and countless additional online resources.
From doing research about one’s family history to taking free online coursework to improve one’s career opportunities, there are incredible benefits to using the public library as a resource. Start your own exploration with this library guide, but then hop over to the Buncombe County Public Libraries website to get even more up-to-date listings for events and activities.
Why are Asheville libraries so important to local residents?
The Buncombe County Public Libraries are a great way to find and check out books, but public libraries have become so much more to their communities. I personally was able to get free COVID-19 tests there, simply because they had some available when I was dropping off and picking up books. Here are just some of the impressive features of these institutions:
- They offer free internet access and affordable printing/copying services, a mainstay for those who are experiencing housing insecurity or who are simply in a housing situation without a printer or reliable internet. When looking for work, for instance, using a public library can be a great way to make sure you still get to check your email and print or copy important documents.
- They offer a variety of free attraction passes known as ZOOM passes that can save a family money when they want to visit places like the Asheville Art Museum, the Asheville Museum of Science, and even paddleboat rentals at Lake Julian. The process can be a little convoluted, with you needing to both reserve a pass online and pick up a physical pass at the library itself, but as long as you talk it over with a librarian, you should know what you need to do. Be aware that the popular passes are reserved quickly, but you can look up to 30 days out to reserve a pass, and visiting places like the Hendersonville Hands On! Children’s Museum for free can be a really great outing.
- The library offers a variety of subscriptions to online resources, like Libby and Hoopla. These resources allow you to download a free app and use your library card number to unlock free e-books, audiobooks, and even music and video resources. These items have a “due date” and disappear after a couple of weeks, but getting free access to these resources may work better for those who don’t want to visit a physical branch often or who love to listen to an audiobook on their commute.
- One of the coolest resources through the library is a system formerly known as Lynda but now known as LinkedIn Learning. Thousands of high-quality courses, featuring videos as well as quizzes and assignments, allow you to learn new skills that you want to know. If your job wants you to use a new software or you want to move into a graphic design career, you can find all kinds of resources here for free to help you get started.
- Got kiddos out of school for the summer? Get them hyped up for the Summer Learning/Reading Program at the library. Each branch increases programming for kids, and there are often prizes for reading along in the program, getting kids excited and helping them avoid the summer slump, where it’s easy to forget some of their hard-won school-year literacy skills.
- Speaking of kids out for the summer, not every family has consistent internet access at home. While they are limited in some ways, the libraries have wireless hotspots available for checkout, which can give you unlimited internet access at home (they still have to be returned by a due date or renewed, but while you have them, they are unlimited). If you’re in the process of changing internet providers or experience an ongoing outage when family members need access for work or school, it can be a really nice interim solution.
- Both virtual and in-person book clubs and discussions hosted by the library help local bibliophiles find new friends and enjoy the books they read even more.
One note, at least for now: I find myself irresistibly interested in going to the library on Sundays and Mondays, the two days they are closed. Hopefully this won’t be true forever, but be aware that if you’re looking for events and entertainment on those days, it’ll have to be outside the walls of the library.
How are Asheville libraries an asset to Asheville’s visitors?
Asheville visitors may feel that destinations like local Asheville bookstores have more for a tourist, but don’t discount the value that a community’s libraries can provide for those who are just here for a few days or weeks. We recommend figuring out which branch is near your vacation rental or hotel so that you can use it if you need it.
- Having a wet and cold day on your trip to Asheville with small children? Check the schedule for toddler, preschool, and infant story times and visit a branch that is having a story time today. Extend your stay by playing in the children’s section of Pack Memorial Library or by snuggling down with your little one and reading a few treasured books before heading back out to see the city.
- Need a spot to get in a few hours of work during your travels to Asheville? Sure, you can hit a busy brewery or coffee shop, but if you prefer to save your dollars for later activities as you explore the town, a library is a great place to get work done with free wireless internet and no need to spend any money.
- Similarly, free special events are often some of the local stars of our community: one branch of the library has an Appalachian music series, while others have board game libraries that you can either get with a library card or play on-site.
- Need a book but don’t want to check it out or read it on-site? The libraries often have either a full used bookstore or a small cart of decommissioned books that, while they have some wear on them, are incredibly inexpensive! Perfect when you don’t want to feel bad if you leave the book on the plane.
While many features of the library are localized, don’t be a stranger when you visit other towns and find a public library there. Even if some amenities and activities have a cost if you don’t have a library card, it may still be cheaper than seeking out those kinds of resources or programs outside the public library.
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Asheville Library Guide: Get to Know the Branches
While a few of the branches of the Buncombe County library system are technically outside of the city limits, every one of them should be on your radar as a resource, even if they are clear across the county. Here are some of the features that make each of these libraries popular with their local residents and visitors alike.
Support Your Town at the Black Mountain Public Library
As one of the smaller branches, Black Mountain Public Library is a great place to pick up reserved books from the entire Buncombe County collection. If you request specific titles online, they can often be delivered within a few days if they are available at a different branch.
If you’re a Black Mountain resident, it’s well worth it to get a library card and take advantage of the ability to use the computers and internet if you happen to be without it at some point. They host children’s programming like the ecoEXPLORE science programming from the NC Arboretum, as well as community art and music events that are open to all ages.
If you’d like to get more involved, consider joining the Friends of the Black Mountain Library, which advances literacy and community involvement through projects like creating a story trail in town and raising money for equipment and programming.
Location: 105 N. Dougherty St., Black Mountain
Enjoy the New Facilities at East Asheville Public Library
While many of the public libraries in Buncombe County are tried and true older buildings (a little dated, but functional!), the East Asheville branch is a great place to go when you want to enjoy a newer, natural-light-filled space as you browse for books or enjoy a program.
The building hosts Flowstate, an innovative community arts space being used for artist residencies as well as other programming. It’s conveniently located next to a great playground and basketball courts, making it a nice one-stop shop if you have multiple kids and want something for everyone to enjoy (in addition to some good summer reading options!).
It’s a great branch to visit for study rooms if you need to get some work done, and there are ongoing groups to join, like the monthly quilting bee that gathers those who want to work on their own sewing projects or work in the community with others.
Location: 3 Avon Road, Asheville
Enjoy Children’s Fun at Enka-Candler Public Library
This library gets rave reviews from parents of children who like picture books. There’s a good selection, and since the littlest ones are the ones who most like to browse covers, this is a good place to visit if you’re near Candler.
The librarian’s story times are well-received, and they also offer activities like “open play” for toddlers, where there are mats and equipment for toddlers to explore in the community room of the library. The YMCA mobile market (which distributes free fresh food!) and other groups host events there. Nearby, you’ll find Enka Lake and Historic Enka Village Park, great for a quick jaunt after picking up your books or attending some programming.
Location: 1404 Sand Hill Road, Candler
Enjoy Beautiful Scenery at Fairview Public Library
Reviewers of the Fairview Public Library mention the nice amenities: a craft table for kids, a strong selection of books despite being a smaller branch, and really pleasant and knowledgeable staff.
It has a reading lounge and a meeting room that will seat 60 people if you ever need to reserve it for a community event. Fun events like bingo afternoons and story times for children bring out the locals and make it a popular spot, especially when school is out. One fun feature is the puppet show option in the children’s section, which often means that story times get acted out with puppets!
Location: 1 Taylor Road, Fairview
Get the Personal Touch at Leicester Public Library
When people write reviews about Leicester Public Library, they mention librarians going above and beyond: helping people find the books they need or request them through the library catalog online, showing children fun activities like scavenger hunts around the library, and helping them find books they’ll enjoy in the local collection.
There’s a nice selection of children’s and adult gatherings, including a Lego club for kids and book clubs for adults. They have their own Giving Garden, which fosters community and allows local gardeners to bond with each other over growing plants on the library’s property, programming connected to the WNC Nature Center for children (and their adults!) who love animals.
Location: 1561 Alexander Road, Leicester
Read and Play at Oakley/South Asheville Public Library
City of Asheville’s park system and library system occasionally have found ways to combine forces, and this is a good example: the Oakley/South Asheville Public Library is located immediately beside Murphy-Oakley Park, so for one trip, you can pick up some new books, check out a baby or toddler story time, and go tromp through the park and get some energy out.
The library throws fun events like the Back to School celebration for the whole family involving stories and crafts. Like many of the other branches, it’s a smaller location but brings great resources to the Oakley neighborhood rather than making everyone commute to a few big branches.
Find Plenty of Spots to Work at North Asheville Public Library
As my own home library branch, the North Asheville Public Library has a few top points to me. One is that it’s just a quick walk from two great spots for outdoor exploring: the Bird Sanctuary and the walking path around Beaver Lake. Both of these spots are a great way to get some fresh air, especially if you’re about to head to the library to submit job applications or work in the library.
This branch has a decent amount of seating and nice light, so it’s a particularly pleasant spot to work on a laptop and get some quiet work done. Lately, there has been a nice resurgence in options in the children’s area, with a very cool cardboard pirate ship available for drawing on and for pretending to be a sea captain (this may disappear any day now, but I do hope they’ll commission another at some point!).
The building itself is also quite pretty and spacious, and the librarians are helpful sources of information about all the offerings at the library.
Location: 1030 Merrimon Ave., Asheville
Visit the Center of It All at Pack Memorial Library
As the largest and main branch of the Buncombe County library system, Pack Memorial Library is the spot to visit if you’re going to visit anywhere. It has more programming and events than most of the other library branches in part due to having more spaces for events, as well as housing the Buncombe County Special Collections, a set of rare and unusual books and other documents.
From rhythm and drumming classes to actual Pilates classes (for free!), there’s more than just bookish topics and children’s story times. Explore what’s happening and see if you might want to dive into a new social setting that also happens to either be very affordable or totally free.
It’s a good large space if you just want to read a book, take a break from the hustle of downtown, or want to get a little laptop work done. There’s even a used bookstore area with books that have been taken out of circulation, making it a great source for your next inexpensive beach read. The reviewers overwhelmingly praise the great staff who answer questions and help every visitor to the library – it’s a gem in downtown!
Location: 67 Haywood Street, Asheville
Enjoy the Community Atmosphere at Skyland/South Buncombe Library
This branch is known for being a bustling community hub; while not the quietest of the libraries, you can still find a great spot to sit and read if you don’t mind the sound of people getting excited about reading around you. With a bubbly and kind staff, you’ll find what you’re looking for easily.
Some remote workers have mentioned it’s not an easy place to find an outlet, so definitely come fully charged if you’re here to use a laptop. Not too far from TC Roberson High School, it’s a great place for visiting to get books, DVDs, music, and also audiobooks.
There’s even the longest-running book club of the entire library system – those book-related insights run deep! Visit the children’s area for a space to read with your kids or wait for the next story time or children’s programming to start.
Location: 260 Overlook Road, Asheville
Enjoy the Calm at Weaverville Public Library
When I visit Weaverville, I love that in the middle of Main Street, the walkable downtown of Weaverville, I can stop at the public library. They have a fairly small building but it features beautiful high ceilings and a downstairs community room for events like their children’s story times.
Events range from children’s events about animals and yoga to a full electric vehicle auto show and a hands-on demonstration of how to make hooked rugs! While there aren’t a ton of open tables or study spaces, there are lots of comfortable chairs and even a window seat, as well as a cute children’s section stuffed with fun titles for any little one to enjoy.
The beautiful building is also home to the FOWL used bookstore, an ongoing fundraiser of the Friends of the Weaverville Library. It’s bigger than many of the used-book-sale shelves in other branches and supports this neighborhood library well!
Location: 41 N. Main Street, Weaverville
Don’t Stop at Books at the Swannanoa Public Library
Many people who still have their DVD players can benefit from a visit to a public library. Collections often contain plenty of modern movies and you can request almost any title if it is at another branch.
Drop the streaming services and enjoy free entertainment through the library. Located right by Grovemont Park/Square, this library is a great stop either after or before a visit to the playground – bonus points if you time it to stop by after a great preschool story time.
If you need it, there’s a 35-seat public meeting room that can be reserved for community events, and there is a truly incredible mural showing a bunch of famous book characters that is a simple can’t-miss if you are visiting. It makes you feel the sweet friendliness of Swannanoa.
Location: 101 W. Charleston Ave., Swannanoa
Find Helpful Services in the Heart of the West at the West Asheville Public Library
I briefly had my kiddo in a West Asheville preschool, and this library became one of my go-to places to visit. It’s walking distance to Izzy’s Coffee Den if I needed a cup of joe and barely a block from the adorable and simple Augusta Barnett Playground. It’s small, but for a highly active small one, it was the perfect amount of swings and play equipment.
The branch itself is functional and stuffed with books, with a few spots for setting up a laptop and a substantial children’s section. There are computers to use, helpful librarians, and it’s truly in a great location, right there on Haywood Road.
Like other branches, they will sometimes have craft kits for kids, letting them bring home a fun activity even on a day they visit when there isn’t a special event.
Location: 942 Haywood Road, Asheville