Public Library: “Shhhh…” A Quiet Way to Save Money
Like most academics, I have a book problem. It began when I was in elementary school. My dad would take me to the public library every week. As a young adult, I stopped going to the library and would spend hours at the big-box bookstores and end up dropping a good amount of money on a somewhat regular basis. Before I had my son, and especially when I was not in a relationship, this was one of my pastimes. I would peruse the bookstore for novels, music, magazines, and take a seat in the cafe hoping to meet someone new. That never happened. Although, there are many fun times I’ve had meeting my friends and looking through the humor section and making a night of it.
In grad school, also spent a good portion of my life on campus and had access to their library. It never crossed my mind to visit a public library. I was, after all, somewhat sequestered in the halls of the sociology building and the chambers of my advisor’s windowless, basement lab. I approached my graduate studies with an intense focus that made me forget to enjoy the world beyond the university. I forgot about the public library, although it fueled me as a child and young adult.
If you are like I was, using the university’s resources and not spending much time reading for fun because your life was so busy, you might not realize how much that the public library has changed over the years. Including saving money on books (obviously), there are other benefits to checking out your public library and getting a card if you don’t have one. Here are a few. Some may surprise you!
- Books that you don’t have to worry about paying for – if you turn them in on time, that is. Reading books from your library obviously saves money and space in your home, but when you check them out, you are also helping out the environment. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
- DVD collections that rival the rental stores of the past. Some libraries may charge a rental fee, but mine has moved away from that. So, if you are interested in a movie that is a “rental” or a tv series that you have to pay for on a streaming site, you may want to see if your library has a copy first. Their collections may surprise you with newer blockbusters.
- CDs that can be checked out may satisfy that earworm or let you preview all of the tracks before buying the MP3s or CD of your own.
- Audiobooks and eBooks that are used through apps like OverDrive that allow you to access the collections of other libraries in your area and download them to your device. They automatically expire, so you do not have to worry about late fees.
- Playaway preloaded books – no smartphone needed! Great for kids.
- Access to free streaming sites, such as Hoopla. It is not just movies and shows, but also audio and ebooks.
- Themed entertainment kits that the staff puts together to help you enjoy a weekend alone or with friends. For example, I checked out a zombie kit at my library. It included the board game Pandemic, The Art of Eating Through the Zombie Apocalypse (cookbook), Zombieland (DVD), The Night of the Living Dead (book), and Dr. Dale’s Zombie Dictionary, The Art of Staying Alive A-Z (book). If zombies aren’t your thing, you might find kits that are themed for different countries, activities, romance, or pets. They also have them for children.
- XBox, Wii, and Playstation Games can be checked out, played and previewed before you take the plunge in dropping upwards of $60+ for a game.
- Jigsaw puzzles – do you honestly put them together more than once?
- Board games
Those probably were not that big of a surprise, but here are some more things that you might be able to get on loan from your library that you might not know about:
- Language kits to help
- Backpacks with wildlife and park guides, maps, and binoculars
- Arts and craft supplies
- Tools for home improvement
- Scientific equipment, such as telescopes and microscopes
- Musical instruments
- Photography equipment including cameras, video recorders, and lighting
Also, there are services. Besides librarians helping you find materials, they aren’t just providing research help anymore. Many near you probably offer at least some of these (some may have a fee associated with them) that will save you more money:
- Presentations and talks on a variety of topics
- Free WiFi
- Meeting Rooms
- Tax Assistance
- Job Hunting and Career Assistance
- Movie Nights
- Storytime and other free and low-cost activities to help entertain your kids
- 3D printers
- Treadmill Stations
- Computer classes
- Free/reduced-price passes for local or state-wide museums, parks, and activities (often linked to a site on the internet that allows you to print the passes at home)
Using your public library and all it offers is one of the easiest ways that you can start saving money. It is free to get a card, and if your library doesn’t have everything that you are looking for, it is likely that it is part of a more extensive network that can help you access what you need.
Did I forget anything? Comment below!