Save Money By Using Free Public Library Services
Published 2/7/08 (Modified 3/22/11)
Despite what some people may think, many people still visit public libraries - such as myself. Although the societal trend seems to be shifting towards an entirely digital world where the internet dominates the information landscape, traditional brick and mortar library branches still serve their useful purpose.
Other than studying at the school library during college or university, the last time most people were inside their local public library was probably during high school. These days, your local public library branches are a bit different than those that are affiliated with schools. Rather than focusing on academic research type resources, many cater more to community and family needs. Today they offer a wealth of free services that should be part of everyone's everyday frugal living strategy. Instead of buying expensive books, movies, video disks, or audio tapes without sampling first, you should think about test driving them out at the local county or city library before committing.
Here Are Some Free Services Your Local Public Library Likely Provides That You May Or May Not Be Aware Of:
- Books - Okay, duh that's stating the obvious. It's a library so obviously they provide books on loan, but the key thing here is that they are free. The average book worm spends hundreds of dollars each month at their neighborhood Borders or Barnes & Noble bookstore on new books. Frequently, once those books have been read, the pages are never opened again. I personally have a hardback cover of The DaVinci Code that I bought a few years ago for a long plane ride. After reading it, I placed the copy somewhere on my bookshelf, never to be seen again. Frankly, I would have been better off borrowing it from the library, reading it, and pocketing the original cost of the book at the time - $24 . For some reason, I will watch DVD's and video tapes again and again, but when it comes to books, it's always one and done. Not sure why actually.
- Free DVD Discs and VHS Tapes - Well they're no Blockbuster or Netflix, but public libraries usually do have a reasonable size collection of movies that can be checked out with your library card. Keep in mind that popular titles are likely to be in greater demand. Many branches also carry old fashioned video tapes offering lots of interesting instructional and do-it-yourself lessons.
- Exercise Videos - I'm a guy so I don't use them (I don't know a single guy who does), but I've heard from my female friends that it's easy to get bored of them after you purchase and view them a few times. Try borrowing from the library to increase your selection instead.
- Foreign Language Learning Tapes - This is one of the most untapped resources found at public libraries. Rather than buy expensive and one-time usage tapes, you can try borrowing them and using them for free.
- Dance Instruction Tapes - If you've always wanted to learn how to dance - e.g. salsa or ballroom - many libraries have dance instruction tapes for loan. My library had a wide selection, albeit in VHS format.
- Learning How To Play An Instrument Tapes - I play the guitar and the drums so I was pleasantly surprised to find numerous instrument instructional VHS tapes at my local library - although most were for beginners.
- Audio Book Tapes - I've tried them a few times and noticed that audio books are actually pretty useful for activities when your eyes are preoccupied, such as when you're driving during your morning commute, running on the treadmill, or cranking away on your stationary exercise bike.
- Magazine Subscriptions - Sometimes there are certain magazines you'd like to glance through but don't feel like paying the money to buy or subscribe to - such as US Weekly, the latest U.S. News and World Report school rankings, or the latest issue of your favorite video gaming magazine. Libraries frequently have a decent magazine collection on their racks, although newer issues are usually browse-only and can't be checked out.
- Internet Access And Free Computer Usage - Most public libraries offer free computer workstations for patrons. At my local library, usage is free but it's limited to only one hour per day after sign on, tracked by your library card number. The time limit is short, but sufficient for times when your home internet fails. Back when my apartment experienced a power failure for several days, the public library was my source for emergency internet access. Kinkos Fedex also offers internet access, but you have to pay for your usage time and that can get very expensive pretty quick.
- Free Community Classes and Events - If you want to find out the latest free community events or gatherings, your local library is the place to find that out. Most have public bulletin boards advertising the latest neighborhood events and workshops for various things.
- Place To Study and Meet - If you need to just get away and study for something, the public library is the perfect place to go. If you tutor someone, it's also a nice quiet place to meet, especially if you can reserve a private study room a few minutes ahead of time.