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10 Free Public Library Services & Resources (Besides Just Books) You Should Take Advantage of

By Hope Nardini

public library services resourcesPublic libraries have more than just shelves of free books for loan. In fact, most offer different types of media, free community programs, and other valuable resources.

With my credit cards and debit cards taking up so much space in my wallet, it’s nice to know that my library card actually saves me money. My public library has served as a money-saving substitute for Starbucks, Blockbuster, and Showcase Cinema, just to name a few.

Here are ten library freebies you should take advantage of.

10 Freebies Local Libraries Have to Offer

1. Special Events For Kids
Every year, a community service club at our local high school organizes an Easter party for children in the basement of the public library. Admission is free, and kids can search for Easter eggs, play simple carnival games, or get their faces painted by the high school volunteers. The library offers similar programs year-round, which are usually sponsored by local organizations or children’s authors promoting their new book release.

2. Toddler and Preschool Story Time
If you have a preschool aged child or a toddler, you know that entertaining them outside the house can be challenging, and often very expensive. Libraries offer weekly story times for these age groups. Check your local library’s website for a schedule, and take the opportunity to encourage a love of reading while giving yourself a little break.

3. Museum Admission
Most public libraries have special membership agreements with local museums. If you have a library card, you can reserve a free admission ticket to museums all over the state. Check with the Library Resource Center for a listing of the venues available to you, and plan a free, educational trip with the family. This is especially useful if you’re homeschooling your child.

4. Audio Books
If you have a long commute time to work, an upcoming road trip, or otherwise just spend a lot of time in the car, you can get books on tape from the public library. It’s a good deal if you usually pay for audio books on iTunes, and it might make your morning commute a little more exciting. Larger libraries, like the New York Public Library, even offer audio books that are compatible with your iPod.

5. Internet Access
I have yet to switch to a smartphone, which means I always carry my little netbook in my bag with me. However, sometimes Wi-Fi hotspots aren’t complimentary. If you’re on the go, you don’t have to buy something at a coffee shop just to use their Internet. Cross things off your virtual to-do list for free by popping into a public library and browsing the web on community computers.

6. eBooks
With the Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook, Apple iPad, and Sony Reader, a lot people aren’t interested in the Dewey Decimal System anymore. These e-reading devices allow readers to carry around one machine instead of several books. To keep up with this trend, many libraries have transitioned to free downloads of ebooks with your library card log in. According to a New York Times article on digital learning, one advantage of library e-books is that so few people know about the service, the waiting lists are usually much shorter.

7. Local Artwork
My public library has a monthly artist showcase. The director chooses an artist each month to display their best work. Each piece is priced to sell, and it’s great for local artists looking for extra support and publicity. My favorite displays have been professional photographers who took beautiful photos of my hometown. Your local library can be a great place to buy contemporary fine art on a budget.

8. Performing Arts
Along the same line, many libraries offer free performances for children by local musicians and theater groups. If you’d like to expose your kids to the performing arts, but don’t want to break the bank on a performance they might not even sit through, the library is a great option.

9. Personal Development Resources
Did you know that public libraries offer college prep services and career support? The Seattle Public Library, for example, invites college-bound high school students to brush up on their test-taking skills with a free practice exam. Many, like the Toronto Public Library, even offer business seminars and workshops from local Human Resources professionals to help people get a head start on their new job hunt or guide college students to find internships and summer jobs.

10. Movies
Growing up, we rarely paid to rent movies. Our library had plenty of classics, documentaries, and new releases to rent instead. The newer movies usually had a time limit of a few days while the older films were available for a week, but this slight inconvenience paled in comparison to the rental prices at private companies. Today, I don’t feel the need to subscribe to Netflix or Blockbuster, knowing that any movie I’d like to watch is probably available for free at the library. I recently saw that the library also has entire seasons of popular television shows, which is definitely something to keep in mind for sick days.

Final Word

The library isn’t just a quiet place you can go to borrow books and magazines! Every library is different, but many offer free services that you may have overlooked. Head on down to your local branch or hop onto their website to find out what they have to offer. From free entertainment to career resources, you never know how much money that library card might save you.

What kinds of programs and services have you discovered at your local library? Please share in the comments below!

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Hope Nardini
Hope Nardini is a freelance writer who enjoys saving money. She once opened a Roth IRA with the earnings of her first summer job. In addition to full time bargain hunting, Hope plays Ultimate Frisbee, makes homemade sorbet, and loves to salsa dance in her free time.

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  • http://www.messengerpl.org Jessie Affelder

    Oneinteresting freebie you forgot: Our public library also provides lots of programming for adults and seniors. Careers and job searching, cooking, exercise, sports, crafts and fine arts, gaming, gardening, budgeting and finances, book discussion groups, summer reading and winter reading programs, writers groups, online blogs, music, wedding planning, computer and technology skills…all for free. People don’t even have to get a library card, though that is certainly encouraged.

  • Hope Nardini

    Thanks for adding to the list Jessie! I agree that libraries are great community centers. I’ve never heard of wedding planning resources at the library- do you mean they rent out their facilities for a wedding ceremony/reception or that they actually provide support in the wedding planning process?

  • Jeremy Vaughn

    Some libraries offer free song downloads (3 per week) via freegal.com, and they’re yours to KEEP. Our local libraries do this and apparently others, too..

  • marie sanchez

    Thanks for the info about the librarieshave so much to offer.

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