[0:09] I was at the library today and, Oh my God, do I love libraries! I'm always catapulted back to my childhood, because somehow German libraries have this atmosphere, this vibe that never really changed ever since I was a kid - and when I was a child, I spent a lot of time in libraries. The only thing that's changed is that there are a few more computers now. And today I saw some kids actually playing some kind of Fortnite knockoff on the computers, and I was like: That's interesting, they have 3D games that you can play in the library! Now that was definitely not a thing when I was a child, but otherwise they feel more or less the same. And in this episode, all I want to do is encourage you to check out the many, many libraries in Berlin and to get a library card, because even if you don't read that many books, there's so many things that you can do with a library card.
[1:11] So, for a brief overview, there are many, many, many libraries. It's probably safe to say hundreds of libraries or well over a hundred libraries in Berlin. The first kind of library association that exists in Berlin is called FÖBB, which stands for Verbund der Öffentlichen Bibliotheken Berlins, the Association of Public Libraries in Berlin, and that's already 83 libraries. And those are the public libraries that are just kind of meant for the general public. And for those libraries, you can get a membership card for €10, not per month, per year! What service these days costs €10 a year and includes this many things? It's kind of amazing. Libraries, I'm so glad we live in a country that still has libraries and still supports the library system because they do such important work and it's so amazing to go there.
[2:22] So FÖBB, I will put a link in the show notes, you can get a library card either online or in person. But you don't even have to go, you can literally get the card online. It's €10 a year. If you are a student, it's €5 a year. And if you receive money from the state because you are unemployed, it's free. And once you have the card, you can of course go to any of these 83 libraries and check out books. By the way, they have a nice map on their website that shows all of the libraries, and they're well distributed. There's a library ... No matter where you live in Berlin, you're going to have a library somewhere close. My closest library is a 10-minute walk from my home and it's tucked into like a little park almost. You wouldn't even tell from the outside that it's a library, but then you go in, and it's small but it's super cozy, super nice, and I just love being there.
[3:28] And not only can you check out books, the main reason I went today is because we're having a games night with my neighbors tonight, and we went to get some more games because they have lots and lots of board games that you can check out. They also have PlayStation games. I always check what they have in terms of games. They have DVDs, they have Blu-rays, they have so many things that you can check out. And yeah, it's just nice kind of going through, looking at all the books. The other thing that they offer, which even if you never set foot in one of these libraries the €10 per year library card might be worth it to you, is that they now have a bunch of digital services. So once you have the card, you can just log in.
[4:19] And I'm logging in right now with my account. And the one that I use all the time, that if you don't have a library ... like if you don't access this through your library is super expensive, is Statista, which is a portal, a website where you can access statistics, studies, reports. And it's super useful if you want to know, I don't know, how many people listen to podcasts every day in Germany, or what's the city with the highest crime rate. Like they just have statistics and reports about everything. And just, now I want to know, Statista, if you just get a regular account from them - sorry, I'm doing some real-time research here - it's like at least €40 a month for a starter account, and that's already discounted. Normal personal account is €435 euros per month. And you just get it for free with the library ... like you get it for €10 a month with the library card. It just blows my mind that that's just included.
[6:44] They also have Filmfriend, which is a streaming service, like you can watch movies and shows. I don't think the selection is as great as Netflix or the likes, but come on, it's like included! You can just check it out and see if there's anything there, especially maybe some German movies you would want to see. PressReader is the other one that has lots of newspapers and magazines. So they have several apps like that. And then they also have apps where you can get music and audiobooks. Oh yeah, so, sorry, Onleihe and OverDrive, the ones I just mentioned are actually audiobook apps. And the ones for the magazines are PressReader and, I guess, OverDrive as well. Well, just get the card, log into the digital services tab on the website and check out all the different things that they support, and you can just play around with it. But you get a lot for your €10.
[7:55] The other thing that these public libraries are great for, are they're good places to get some work done. If you don't like working in a café where it's loud and noisy and you have to order coffee and stuff like that, you can go to a library. There's a list of libraries that I will put in the show notes that have WiFi. Unfortunately, it's not every library that has WiFi and I think some of these or even all of them, you need to have a library card to be able to use the WiFi. But yeah, I think it's a really nice, quiet place to do some work, and there's a bathroom, and you can bring your water and you can get some work done.
[8:40] The other library that's outside of the FÖBB, outside of the association of public libraries, is the Berlin State Library. So the Berlin State Library is ... it's called a universal library. It is one of the largest libraries in Europe, and it's more of an academic research library. For example, it holds a Gutenberg Bible, it holds the main autograph collection of Goethe, the world's largest collection of Johann Sebastian Bach's and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's manuscripts, so it has kind of these classical things. You don't necessarily go there to roam around and find a book you want to check out.
[9:31] But I really want to go there - I haven't done this yet - because they have two locations, and the location Unter den Linden, super central, super close to Brandenburger Tor, has a reading room that was just renovated, and it looks stunning. So just to go there to read or also just to get some work done, I think it's a super special atmosphere. And I'll put the Wikipedia entry in the show notes and you can check out ... there's a picture of the new reading room at the bottom. Highly recommend going there to check it out. And then of course ... And by the way, they also have a digitized collection of public domain books, so books where the author has died more than 80 years ago, so super old books, they are now in the public domain. And they actually digitize these books and you can search them and see them. You can look at Alexander von Humboldt's travels diaries and stuff like that.
[10:37 ] And then, of course, there are tons and tons of university libraries. So adding all of those apps up, I think we're well beyond 200 libraries probably. University libraries of course are mostly meant for students. I think some or many of them are more or less officially open to the public, yeah, probably easier if you're actually a student. But if you are, then I would definitely encourage you to find out which which university libraries are close to you. I used to go to a university library with a friend who was finishing her studies, and we would just go there and work. These university libraries always have tons and tons of space to just get work done, desks and such. But their WiFi, I know for a fact, you can only use if you're actually a student. In Berlin, it doesn't matter which university you study at, I think they're all kind of under one umbrella, they all use the same WiFi system, so if you're a student in Berlin at any university, you can use any of the libraries to do work.
[11:54] But yeah. So in summary, I would just say, if you're new to the world of libraries in Berlin, just get the regular library card, figure out which libraries are closest to you, check those out, obviously go to the big ones, and just roam around, check out some books, check out some games, use the digital services. It is an amazing offer that's just there and that you should make use of even if you're not reading that much.