When I was in my teens, I spent hours in my school library. All through middle school and into high school, I made regular trips to the stacks to source new reading material.
Somewhere along the line, I swapped the library for the bookstore, and started buying books instead of borrowing them. While there are certainly perks to having my own personal collection, I recently found myself missing the experience of browsing the shelves at the library and discovering new stories.
Since I’ve been reconnecting with my local library, I thought I would point out some of the things I’ve learned about what it has to offer.
1. You Can Check Out More Than Just Books
This might not be all that surprising, but most libraries have a lot more media available to rent than just books. At the library near me, you can check out:
- E-books. Downloadable e-books are great for on-the-go reading, but also because there’s no waiting involved. You don’t have to worry about whether the title you want has been checked out or when it will be available again – just download and go!
- Audiobooks. Like e-books, audiobooks are super accessible and available 24/7. Many libraries enable you to download them using an app on your smartphone, so you can check out new ones wherever you are.
- Movies. You can save tons on streaming services and Redbox rentals by checking movies out from your local library instead. Plus, at least in my experience, the selection is terrific. You may be able to find titles that aren’t available on Netflix and other online services.
- Music. Not only does my library enable cardholders to rent music – it also has a lot of songs available for free download via Freegal Music. They never expire, and while it might be hard to find some of the really popular recent hits, there’s still a decent selection.
- Video games. Unless you know you’re going to replay them over and over again, buying video games is a pretty poor investment. Instead, you can rent them from the library and save yourself some money.
- Newspapers and magazines. Literally reading old news might sound pretty boring. However, if you’re into history or pop culture, it could be cool to look up some celebrity interviews or articles on now-monumental moments.
Of course, availability of certain formats and the quality of the titles on offer will vary from library to library. However, I think it’s generally safe to say that there’s enough to keep you entertained for months sitting on the shelves at your local branch.
2. You’re Not Limited to Your Library’s Catalogue
If you’re looking for a particular book, movie, or video game and it isn’t available at your local library, ask about interlibrary loans before you give up and head to the store. Many branches have relationships with other locations and can easily get the title you’re looking for and have it sent to your preferred location.
This significantly expands your library’s catalogue. There are probably thousands of books available throughout your library’s network. On the off chance none of the branches in your area have what you want, you may still be able to suggest a purchase and get the title you’re looking for at no cost to you.
3. Libraries Provide Access to Free Software and Tech
Although I do print things fairly regularly, I find it difficult to invest in purchasing a printer. They seem to break down or become outdated so quickly, plus ink is crazy expensive. So when my most recent machine became incompatible with my computer, I decided not to replace it.
Instead, whenever I need to print something, I do it at the library. Cardholders get a certain amount of free prints per month, and I haven’t yet had to pay for extra pages because I’ve maxed out my allotted resources.
Libraries also provide tons of other (and frankly, much cooler) technology. For example, mine rents out Wifi hotspots so you can work on the go.
Some branches also have recording studios where cardholders can create podcasts or music. They also have some premium software, such as the Adobe Suite and other products.
If you’re wanting to start a creative project but are also on a tight budget, look up your local library and see if they can help you.
4. There Are Online Resources Available and You Can Use Them from Home
Every once in a while you hear people talk about libraries becoming endangered in our ever-more-digital world. On the contrary, new technology and types of media just add to what libraries can provide guests.
For instance, you can now find many online resources through your library, such as ancestry and genealogy programs, online learning platforms, and even foreign language courses. Many of these can be accessed from any computer, as long as you have your library card number. This means that you can take French classes from your living room at no cost.
5. Libraries Host Free Events
If you’re looking for budget-friendly things to do around town, check your local library’s events calendar. Many branches put on free concerts, plays, and other entertainment that might pique your interest.
In addition to children’s storytimes and play groups, our library also puts on movie screenings, lectures, community forums, author appearances, readings, and book discussions. There are even Dungeons & Dragons campaigns.
All of our library’s events are free to the public. If you’ve been thinking about taking a class or just want a fun way to spend your weekend, it may be worth your while to look to your local branch first.
Libraries are great places to pick up new books, but they have a lot of others resources available. Taking advantage of them is not an opportunity you want to miss!
Some things I recently discovered about my local library include:
- You can check out a lot more than just books.
- You’re not limited to your library’s catalogue.
- Libraries provide free access to software and tech.
- There are online resources you can use from home.
- Libraries host free events.
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Featured Image Credit: Unsplash.