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Let Your Library Save You Money

Young people saving money in library

If you think books are the only thing in public libraries, it’s time you visit your own. Far from the stereotypical impression of cavernous spaces filled with rows of dusty books, public libraries are dynamic, community spaces filled with nearly limitless, free information. What’s more, they are curated by librarians eager to help you access it. Today many libraries, committed to serving every age and demographic, are full of state-of-the-art offerings including eBooks, streaming media options and even computers and technical equipment to use there or borrow to use at home.

Whether you’re looking to learn a new skill, try out new equipment or stream the latest in media, you are sure to be surprised with the amount of free, current offerings—both onsite and virtual—at your fingertips. As you’ll see from the list of offerings below, libraries are one of the best ways to save money without limiting your experiences, fun or education.

Free media

Undoubtedly, one the best ways to save money is to take advantage of the vast collection of media at your fingertips. With Netflix raising its prices, what better time to search out other venues?

While some libraries use the digital media streaming service Hoopla, others may use Kanopy, Overdrive or Freegal. No matter what the platform, however, libraries give you free access eBooks, audiobooks, music, videogames and movies to enjoy in the comfort of your own home! You can also access subscription-only websites like The New York Times and Consumer Reports, as well as a plethora of databases on health, medicine and genealogy–including ancestry.com. With Flipster, you can view hundreds of digital magazines online from your computer or on your mobile device.

Programs and classes

Whether you’re looking to pass the GED, train for the GMAT or start a new business, libraries are also a go-to place for otherwise expensive educational and professional programing. In 2016, the Pew Research Center reported more than one-third of libraries offered GED prep courses and materials, for example. Some offer free access to online courses from Lynda.com and most any will have their fill of how-to books “for dummies.”  Language-learning platforms are a staple for most libraries. Plus, you can save hundreds of dollars if your library happens to offer GMAT and other test prep courses.

Supplies & equipment

Perhaps more surprising, there are now a variety of objects you can borrow from the library, including tools for home maintenance, lawn care, baking and other cooking supplies. After all, why purchase a weed trimmer or cake mold only to have it sit in storage most of the year? And if you’re watching your household’s energy consumption, see if your local library offers a portable energy meter for check out.

Games, toys and hobby gear

While taking your kids to libraries for story time is one way to keep them busy during the winter months, some libraries also let you check out board games or other types of games, or offer space to play them there. Others offer a plethora of educational kits that explore everything from astronomy to birds, electricity to bugs and insects. In Arlington you can even check out those pricey American Girl dolls. In Massachusetts, you can choose from a vast selection of musical instruments, from the autoharp to violins, to borrow.

Clothing

One-time use clothing is even an increasingly common offering. Why shell out hundreds of dollars for formal attire you’ll wear just once? A library in Dallas lets patrons check out prom dresses. And if you’re stumped while coming up with an inexpensive Halloween costume, check and see if your library, like some in Michigan and Arkansas, offers costumes to borrow and return.

Outdoor & sports equipment

If you’re looking for adventure, see if your library offers outdoor gear to borrow. A library in Maine offers snow shoes. One in Chicago offers fishing poles. Some will lend out backpacks or a whole host of other gear. And if you’re lucky enough to live in Chicago or the New York area, you can save big bucks when you borrow family passes for museums and other cultural attractions.

New technology

Finally, one of the most innovative trends in the library world is the growing number of makerspaces that offer patrons the opportunity to try out creative technologies such as 3-D printers, GoPro cameras and professional-grade audio / video equipment. It’s not all digital either. Some libraries offer the use of sewing machines and even staff to help you get started.

Far from the silent, book-centered world they may once have been, today libraries are responsive, evolving community-based organizations staffed by people eager provide you with access to resources and information that enrich your life. Remember, even if your library doesn’t have the program you’re looking for, you can still ask if they’ll consider it or if they have reciprocity agreements with others nearby. Thanks to your local library, your finances no longer withstand in the way of your chores, your entertainment or your dreams!