Have you been to your local public library lately? Even in smaller towns, the range of services and media offered are much more extensive than they used to be.
A library card might not come with a clever slogan like “Don’t leave home without it” or “What’s in your wallet?” but library membership has its privileges. Getting movies, magazines and Internet for free is priceless.
Visions of doing a book report in high school or gathering information via the Dewey Decimal System might be dancing through your head when you think of a library. There’s much more to be discovered or rediscovered at the more than 16,000 public libraries nationwide.
As Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson says in the video below, you’re already paying for these offerings with your taxes, so why not take advantage of them? Watch the video, and then read on to find out why you should dust off that library card.
About 53 percent of Americans reported visiting a library in the last 12 months, according to a poll by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Of those, 73 percent borrowed a print book.
1. A rainbow of reading
We all know books are available at every library. Magazines and newspapers are generally offered as well. But did you know many popular e-books can be checked out as well? The best part of that technology? No need to return so no risk of late fees. Some let you borrow e-readers too. But, you need to return those.
Most libraries offer free Internet access. Some have desktop computers available, while others loan out laptops if you are without your own. Printers are usually offered as well. Whether you’re job seeking or catching up with old friends, this is a great option to save a few bucks on the cost of monthly Internet access.
“Three-fourths of public libraries offer software and other resources to help patrons create résumés and employment materials,” the American Library Association says.
Another cool part is that you can often avoid many pay walls for databases like LexisNexis, encyclopedias and genealogy programs. Of those Americans who said they visited a library, 46 percent reported that they used a search database.
3. That’s entertainment
Some larger institutions let you download music for free. Others offer compact discs to borrow. Either option, it’s a great way to get some new tunes or test out a band before shelling out the money to purchase the whole album.
Peruse the DVD section of your local library and you might be surprised by what you find. A friend of mine in San Diego was recently very pleased to find the television show “Walking Dead” available for checkout at the city library for free. The same establishment also offers all of the seasons of “The Wire,” which was recently named the best TV show ever by Entertainment Weekly.
4. Blast from the past
Libraries offer some things you can’t find elsewhere. One of these is old newspapers on microfilm. When I was a newspaper reporter, I would sometimes have to visit my local library to get information from decades past because the paper didn’t keep archives.
5. Staying for the course
Class offerings vary by location but can include everything from crafting ideas to cooking to yoga. Some libraries offer courses on topics that are usually pricey when they’re offered somewhere else, like SAT tutorials, foreign languages and tax preparation.
6. Social network
Many libraries host “Books and Babies” events weekly. It’s a chance for new parents to introduce their babies to reading and to other families. Programs designed for teens are also becoming increasingly popular.
Nearly half of library users brought their child to a class or other event, according to a Library Services in a Digital Age survey.
Book clubs are another way to meet other readers and socialize. Most institutions offer reading programs, especially during the summer.
7. A piece of quiet
Study rooms are a great option if you’re a teen working on a group project or someone who just needs some time to enjoy the sound of silence. There are generally sign-up sheets for special rooms, and some large libraries offer reservations.
Check out your local library and see what it has to offer. The Hillsboro Public Library near Portland, Ore., reports having 100 free things for cardholders to do.
What is your favorite part of your library? Visit our Facebook page and let us know.