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7 Things You Didn’t Know Were Free at the Library

by Shawanda Greene

Inside of a university libraryThe library isn’t a brick and mortar version of Amazon filled with out-of-print books.

And it doesn’t exist for the sole purpose of housing the complete series of Lost.

If you read any version of the countless, generic 99 Ways to Save articles, you’d think the library is some old throwaway. A place you borrow books and DVDs from after you’re knee deep in financial doo-doo.

Well, I’m standing up for the library. You people don’t give it enough credit. It is truly, frickin’ awesome.

Until recently, I also undervalued my local library.

After going there almost every day for the past six weeks, I finally noticed the variety of free offerings available. Actually, they’re not free, but, whether you like it or not, they are funded with your tax dollars.

Because libraries are locally run, the extent of products and services provided vary.

Audiobooks and eBooks: Even though my library has some pretty sweet books on CDs, I gotta be mobile. Which is why I appreciate its wide selection of iPod / iPad / Kindle compatible digital media. Similar to traditional books, a limited number of electronic copies are available for checkout at any one time. No biggie. Place the item on hold, and borrow it when it’s “returned.”

Free Books: Not to rent, but to own. A few years ago, I grabbed a copy of Your Money or Your Life from the rinkydink library around the corner from my place. I picked it up, walked out, ain’t say nothin’ to nobody. I didn’t need to. It was there for the taking. Ask your librarian where they’re hiding the free book stash if you have trouble finding it.

Wireless Internet: In the event this whole quit-my-job, become-a-superstar thing doesn’t pan out, I’m not going back to work. I’ll sell my wares and live in the library. It has clean drinking water, a community garden, and free internets. What more do you need? The only thing left to worry about is how to catch a nap without stoking the security guard’s ire. That guy derives way too much pleasure from startling college students and homeless people awake.

24/7 Access to Premium Subscriptions: There are so many amazing options. It breaks my heart that I can’t list them all without putting you to sleep. I’ll give you five, but see what else your library has by exploring its website.

  • Consumer Reports
  • Learning Express Library
  • MorningStar Investment Research Center
  • Mango Languages
  • ProQuest

Meeting Rooms: Many libraries let you book study rooms for two or more individuals. If you need an area that seats considerably larger groups, you may be able to find one at a nearby branch. Your meetings have to be free and open to the public. That means you can’t use the library to hold your pricey Road to Real Estate Riches boot camp. But still, a no cost, high quality seminar could be a great way to get the word out about your services.

Educational Workshops: This is one of my favorites. Primarily because you can ask the presenter questions, exchange ideas with other attendees and network. Again, your library will probably have different options. So that you get the idea, here are a few examples of classes offered in my region.

  • Starting a business
  • Investing for retirement
  • Using coupons to save money
  • Creating a resume
  • Growing your own herbs
  • Crocheting for beginners
  • Paying for college

Tech Training: While I’m waiting for a PowerPoint 2007 course to appear on my library’s calendar, these goobers are holding classes on how to use Facebook. You can even make a one-on-one appointment with someone who’ll show you how to set up AND download books onto your eReader. Unbelievable.

Even if your local library sucks, hope lives on.

Don’t limit yourself to the county you reside in. You’re probably eligible for library cards in surrounding areas. For instance, I can take advantage of libraries located in Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, and a decent chunk of Maryland.

All these years you were ignorant of the library’s awesomeness. It’s OK. You didn’t know. Now that you do, you can stop buying stuff you already paid for.

What other services does your library offer?

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

addvodka May 25, 2012 at 9:44 AM

They are a great place for child interaction too. I used to have so much fun at our library reading groups as a tot!

I find that my library is really lacking in the ebook category. You'd think it would be way better for them to just have ebooks – less storage!
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Shawanda May 26, 2012 at 10:52 PM

Yeah. Sometimes I forget about the children. I volunteered for my local library when I was in high school. The kids really enjoyed the entertainers who read or sang during story time. There was one guy who'd play the ukulele or banjo or something. It was pretty cool.
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MLISunderstanding May 25, 2012 at 12:48 PM

Thanks for the support! (says the librarian-in-training)

I use my small local branch for entertainment — DVDs for sick days or cheap date nights, and books to top off my 100-book challenge. I like that if the library system has a book anywhere in the city, I can have it reserved for me at the closest branch so I don't have to trek out to the back of the beyond to pick it up.
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Shawanda May 26, 2012 at 10:58 PM

Even though I don't rent DVDs from the library often, this post inspired me to visit the DVD section of my library. Within the last week, I've rented and watched four of the library's DVDs – two of them were about paying for college. Strangely, I never thought they had educational DVDs.
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Jen May 25, 2012 at 3:58 PM

Some libraries also loan out ART! I discovered this my senior year at university. My new roommate had been rotating her wall hangings each quarter for three years. We did the same that senior year – really classed up the otherwise … er… college apartment.
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MLISunderstanding May 25, 2012 at 4:58 PM

That's neat! One of the Oakland branches has a "tool lending library" — http://www.oaklandlibrary.org/branches/temtll.htm
I'm sure it's not the only one!
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Shawanda May 26, 2012 at 11:04 PM

What?! That's kuh-razy! Art and tools seem so random. I should just ask a librarian to show me everything I can borrow or take for free.

My library recently opened a digital lab where you can create and edit videos. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks like the public has access to some amazing equipment and software.
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Lance@MoneyLife&More May 25, 2012 at 10:15 PM

The library is definitely a great place. When I was in college I used it more often than I do now but I do stop by from time to time. I love the free wifi for my kindle fire :)
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Shawanda May 26, 2012 at 11:06 PM

You reminded me of something. I spent almost all of my college years without internet OR a home computer. Now I feel like I can't survive without either. Ah, college. Those were simpler times.
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Squirrelers May 26, 2012 at 11:11 AM

The library is so underrated as an option. I've discovered that it's a great way to get movies rented at no cost, newer release books, and a quiet place to get work done. To your points, wireless internet and meeting rooms are nice to have access to.
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Shawanda May 26, 2012 at 11:09 PM

The small group study rooms are great. If you operate a home business and don't want to meet with clients in your house or a coffee shop, the library is great alternative.
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investlike1percent May 28, 2012 at 4:12 PM

i read every business book at 2 local libraries. it was invaluable to my success later on in life.

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Shawanda May 29, 2012 at 8:27 PM

In spite of all the additional products and services provided by libraries, they'd only be marginally less awesome if the only thing you could find in them were books.
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MyMoneyDesign.com May 28, 2012 at 8:18 PM

The library is pretty great. You can't beat free. Even my small one has some pretty relevant books and DVD's. It makes my to-do list.
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Shawanda May 29, 2012 at 8:30 PM

Isn't it? I'm at the library as I type this, trying to fight the urge to check out another book.
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AmericanDebtProject May 29, 2012 at 5:26 PM

YES!!! If I had a formal religion, it would probably be the library. I love/worship/believe in the library. When I was a kid, the library in my neighborhood was housed in a temporary building when we first moved to the neighborhood while the new library was being built. The new library was huge, big open spaces, indoor gardens, a kid's corner with padded walls and floors (that my friends and I inappropriately used as a sumo wrestling practice ring), and tons of meeting rooms and study cubes. The new library became my sanctuary from elementary school all the way to senior year of high school, and even in the past few years, I will still stop by when I am home just to enjoy the sense of possibility and the perfect use of daylighting in the building. Libraries can give people a sense of peace and quiet (I love my family but we are a rowdy bunch when we're all in the same place) and a chance to discover new interests. Now that I live in LA, there are two awesome services that LA County Libraries have that I use all the time: unlimited online requests and the free language courses. I love that I can request as many items as I want, have them routed to my local library 100% free. Many other cities charge $1 per item for transfers, not so in LA. LA's also sweet because you can renew books three times, for 3 weeks each time. And my other favorite is the Library's website allows you to log in to Mango Languages, and take full-length language courses for free. The site tracks your progress, you can log in anytime, and the courses are pretty good (I've taken the first two lessons in Mandarin). To me, the library says "There is nothing you can't learn, nothing you can't find out about, no reason you should be unprepared for that test or license or business opportunity. It's all here. What do you want to know?" Also I watched the entire Sopranos series on DVDs borrowed from the library :)
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Shawanda May 29, 2012 at 8:34 PM

Is it possible that you love the library more than me? Whenever I don't know how to do something that I think is important, my first reaction is to check to see if there's a book available on the subject at the library. It's amazing how many people don't take advantage of a free resource that filled me so many things that could change their lives: books.
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AmericanDebtProject May 30, 2012 at 6:18 PM

Oh, I totally agree. I love blogs for teaching me a lot of things in the last couple years, but there's nothing like reading a book on it (whatever it is).
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deaconhayes June 1, 2012 at 3:03 PM

That is awesome to hear about Ebooks being available at the Library. I will have to check that out!
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Anne June 6, 2012 at 2:46 PM

I love to visit the local library. I also discovered how many free resources there are to take advantage of. Many local businesses conduct regional meetings in rooms at our library. Sometimes they also have a rack of fre books or other resources when they update the shelves.

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verity September 23, 2014 at 3:16 PM

Was wondering when is the best time to apply the honey mixture? Before washing hair or after? Dry or wet hair?

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