15 Ways to Save Big Bucks at Your Library
Your local library is often an underused, underrated, but valuable resource that can save you money. Many people aren’t aware of the amazing resources and opportunities available--usually for free--at their local library. They might know they can borrow books and movies. Libraries offer so much more; they’re a veritable treasure trove of free resources! Did you know that some libraries offer craft related programs like knitting circles and painting classes? Other libraries have art collections and historical artifacts and provide free classes and cultural opportunities for members of their community. Each library system is different so be sure to research the resources and opportunities available to you at your local branch.
Just make sure to return your materials on time so you avoid late fees and fines.
Before we get into all of the free resources at the library, let’s take a quick look at the numbers. The American Library Association estimates that library users check out about 8 books per person per year. If the average new book from a bookstore costs between $15 and $20, those folks are saving an average of $120 to $160 each year, just on books! I Love Libraries offers an online calculator to show you how much money you can save by using resources at your local library. If instead of purchasing, you check out just five adult books, five children's books, three audiobooks, one interlibrary loan, and five movies you’ll save an average of $244.85! If you add on attending one adult program, two children's programs, using the computer for five hours and performing one search on a database you will use $353.80 of resources for FREE!
15 Ways to Save Big Bucks at Your Library:
The library has numerous free ways to socialize. You can join a book club, writer’s group, AA or Nar-Anon group for a new, free way to make friends and find community. Not only will you be supporting your local library (many receive funding based on the number of people who use the library every year), but you’ll also be saving money if your usual habit is to go out for dinner and see a movie. The library is one of the few remaining places in our society where you can spend time without being expected to spend money or hold a particular set of beliefs.
14. Meeting Space
Non-profit organizations and local clubs can use meeting rooms at many libraries for their meeting or small gathering, often for free. The library is also an excellent spot for high school and college study groups to meet; providing both access to research materials and a quiet space to read or discuss a school project or presentation.
13. Free Wifi
Most libraries offer free wireless internet access as well as public computers. Others might have public use printers, fax machines, and scanners. Most libraries require you to apply for a library card to use their public computers, but some will allow you a free one hour pass to use their computers. This is perfect for folks who are traveling or visiting relatives - you can still use the local library even if you’re not local to the area!
12. Homework, Research Assistance + Free Activities
Libraries are great places for homework help, games for kids and volunteer programs. Some libraries have specific times set for homework help, others have reference librarians who are available during regular library hours! Libraries offer passive activities for teens and kids, like searching for hidden objects in the library to win a prize or creating poetry out of poetry magnets or using the spines of library books.
11. Job Searches
Job seekers will find a wealth of resources at their local library! Library staff can assist with resume creation as well as GED preparation. Some libraries offer interview coaching, career advice, job search assistance and classes to help patrons prepare for a new job, like learning to use Microsoft Word.
10. Art + Historical Exhibits
Some libraries have art collections, local history artifacts and exhibits without the hefty price of admission so often found at art and historical museums.
9. Subscription Websites
Many libraries purchase subscriptions to websites like Lynda.com, and the Library Edition of Ancestry for their patrons to use for free. With Lynda patrons can take classes on a variety of topics, from beginning classes on how to use social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, to continuing education and classes that meet a wide range of interests like creative writing, video editing, setting and meeting goals, marketing, and photography. Most of these websites patrons can access from their home computers, others must be used on-site at the library.
8. Cultural Programs + Performances
Libraries can be fantastic ways to learn about other cultures, without leaving town! Many offer cultural programs like children’s programs (story time, crafts and kid-friendly performances) and family-friendly entertainment like author talks, cultural programs, movie nights, and musical performances. Some libraries have partnerships with local museums and zoos and offer free passes to visit these attractions, you just use your library card to order them!
7. Genealogy Assistance
Looking for clues into your ancestors' past? Many libraries offer personalized genealogy assistance! From working one on one with a local genealogist to exploring local records to using the Library Edition of Ancestry.com, there are many ways to explore your family tree at the library.
With the Library Edition of Ancestry patrons have access to the American Genealogical-Biographical Index, Daughters of the American Revolution Lineage Books, slave narratives and Native American indexes as well as military records, U.S. federal census records, the Social Security Death Index, New York and other passenger records and some records from the United Kingdom and Ireland. Ancestry must be used on-site at the library.
Your library might offer free classes and workshops on everything from literacy to computer technology. You could learn how to research your family tree, start a blog or sew! Most of the time classes at the library are completely free, or you just have to pay for the cost of the materials you use.
5. Borrow a Magazine or Newspaper
Your library probably has a collection of magazines and newspapers that you can either read on site or take home with you for a short period of time. Many libraries now offer digital magazines and newspapers through a service that allows you to borrow and read on your smartphone or tablet.
4. Borrow Music
Most libraries have a CD collection and many are upgrading to digital music services. Other libraries also offer free downloadable music from websites that allow users to download a specific number of songs per week or use free unlimited streaming.
3. Borrow Movies
The library is the new Family Video! Many loan new movies, classics, television shows and documentaries. These are always popular items so many libraries are well stocked with recently released movies. Think of how much you’ll save by waiting a couple of months to see the latest blockbuster! Even if you usually rent from those automated retail kiosks, like Redbox, for $1 a movie, you can still rack in big savings by borrowing from the library for FREE.
2. Borrow Books
Libraries are mostly used for their extensive book collections. At the library, you can borrow new books, classics, ebooks, and even audiobooks. College students can save a significant amount of money by borrowing textbooks from the library. Many libraries also offer digital books and audiobooks. These services allow the user to download a book straight to their computer or mobile device, read it and return it without having to drive to the library. Since you’re borrowing a digital file, you don’t even have to worry about late fees because the app returns the book when it’s due for you!
A lot of libraries have partnerships with other libraries in the local area. If you can’t find the book (or movie) you’re after, your librarian may be able to order it from another library for you. These items often have a shorter borrowing period and have higher late fees and fines if the item is lost. Check with your library before placing a hold to see what the specific details are for your area.
1. Information + Help
Don’t know what to read next? Ask your librarian! Looking for a great movie to watch with your family but don’t know what to pick? Ask your librarian! Need help with a research project, building your resume or learning to use a computer for the first time? Ask your librarian! Libraries and librarians are a wealth of information - you just have to ask!
“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” Neil Gaiman, Author