Libraries began as a collection of documents. The buildings were marked by dimly lit rooms, as well as shelves of books and reading materials considered important for learning. Today learning takes many forms, and in response to these changes, your local library is now a resource for much for than books.
Visiting a library does not require thumbing through indexes to find a book to check out. Instead, they are bright and colorful learning centers, which have transitioned with the times. Approximately 61% of individuals older than 16 have a library card, giving them access to an abundance of free resources available to residents of the community.
A few of the free resources found in most local libraries include the following:
Information and Entertainment
In addition to supplying visitors with books, you can borrow movies, CDs, magazines, newspapers, and other materials. Free resources might also include information on local history and access to genealogy websites to research your personal family history.
DVDs and Blu Rays: Libraries do not stock the latest movies but make family classics available for checkout. Movies typically have a one week borrowing time and libraries allow you to extend the time, provided no one else has placed the movie on hold.
Music: Music lovers can borrow CDs or connect with Free gal, an app partnering with local libraries, which permits you to download up to five songs a week at no charge. You can keep downloaded music permanently.
If you would like a book or other resource found within the local library system, you can typically have it delivered to the closest branch, making it convenient for you to checkout the materials you want. When others are using the desired item, you can place it on hold, and the library will notify you when it becomes available.
In many cases, libraries also offer outreach programs to help residents who are unable to personally visit the library due to either transportation or mobility issues. Outreach programs bring a mobile unit to homebound residents, senior housing facilities, correctional facilities, and community events.
E-Books and Audiobooks
Audio books are also a popular way to find and use reading materials. Today, 28% of adults prefer reading eBooks, and 14% listen to Audiobooks. That number continues to rise. As a result, in addition to physical books, most libraries now offer digital versions of popular books and magazines. For example, you can access digital versions of hundreds of current magazines through the computers at the library or through the library's website from your home.
Instead of buying a book through Apple iBook or Amazon Kindle for $9.99 each, you can check out eBooks at no charge for up to 21 days.
Your library system may partner with companies like Overdrive. You gain access to eBooks and Audiobooks, which you can read on your iPhone, iPad, Android, Chromebook, Windows Phone, Windows 8 & 10, Kindle Fire HD, and NOOK HD/HD+. Using your library card, Overdrive allows you to checkout up to 10 titles at a time. You can also hold up to 15 titles at any given time. You can receive email notifications when your titled eBook or Audiobook becomes available and check them out automatically.
Computer Use, Wi-Fi, and Internet Access
Free access to computers and desk space for the use of laptops are popular resources found in nearly every library. The facility may place a time limit on the use of in-house computers to ensure shared access. In some cases, you can also reserve private or small meeting spaces at no charge.
The free internet access typically does not require a password, thus making it useful for research but not for banking or other password required activities.
Subscriptions to valuable computer programs are an overlooked free resource. For instance, you might find test software, which allows you to study for the SAT or GRE, without having to pay for the program. Other popular subscriptions might include resources like Lynda.com, which offers over 3,000 instructional courses related to business, creative, and technical skills, or Mango Languages, which includes software for more than 70 languages. Resources often include tutorials, videos, and training through in-house computers.
Events, Activities, and Classes
Libraries enhance the educational environment by providing programs, which can include poetry and book readings, book groups, summer book clubs, organizations based on political or civil interests, language courses, or job readiness classes. Programs often bring in local specialists to teach on a range of topics including computer skills, gardening, or investing. Due to limited space, classes typically require registration, even though they do not charge a fee.
Designated children’s areas can target preschoolers, school-aged children, and teenagers. Kid friendly areas might include computer learning centers loaded with interactive educational games, puzzles, toys, board games, videos, and reading time mats. Sponsored activities often include story time and classes in science, art, and school readiness programs.
A published calendar can track the events, activities, and classes available in your community.
In addition to free classes, libraries also offer a range of products residents can use and sometimes checkout. Items might include sewing machines, laser and vinyl cutters, 3D prints, knitting machines, or tools.
You could receive discounts or free passes to local attractions through the local library. Access might include:
- Sporting events
- Educational attractions including living history exhibits
- Cultural attractions including ballet or orchestra
Due to the limited number of available tickets, you should reach out to the library in advance for availability.
With an active library card, you can gain access to many free services provided by your local library, saving you money in the process. However, make sure you return borrowed material on time to prevent daily late fees.