Things you never knew you could get from your library

Things you never knew you could get from your library
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If your notion of what a library lends out is based on your childhood, you’re woefully behind the times. With libraries lending everything from sewing machines to e-materials, cultural passes to pots and pans, these important community institutions provide so much more than books these days. So dust off your library card and check out these amazing and free resources!

E-Books and audiobooks

If you’re a fan of e-books, audiobooks or streaming video, you’re in luck! Free library programs such as Hoopla, ‘lets you instantly borrow free digital movies, music, e-books and more, 24/7 with your library card.’ Yes, you read that right. It’s like Amazon, Netflix, Audible and Spotify rolled into one! If you’re lucky, (and you likely are) your library system will also provide free access to Overdrive, which also allows access to endless digital audiobooks and e-books, categorized by genre, availability, language, age level with additional specific featured collections. It’s like a virtual candy store for bibliophiles! Old fashioned with your content? Your library likely has shelves of DVDs, CDs and maybe even a video tape or two.

Foreign language instruction

Looking to add a second or even third language to your repertoire? Look no further than Mango Connect. This free library program can help you to ‘Learn over 40 languages, including Arabic, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, French, Italian, Vietnamese, German, Russian, Swahili and many more.’

English as a second language

Have a friend or family member that needs to strengthen their English language skills? Go to your library’s website, or better yet stop at your local branch’s information services desk to ask if your library has English as a second language resources. A quick look at the Atlanta-Fulton library website confirmed this service, and your library system is likely to provide similar opportunities.

College e-textbooks

College is expensive enough without required textbooks that can run well into the hundreds of dollars. Luckily, your library may provide free access to the eBrary, which allows you to check out or even fully download such fascinating books as Understanding Applied Behavior: An Introduction for Parents, Teachers and Other Professionals. Like its paper counterpoint, you’ll be able to highlight passages and even print up to a certain number of pages.

Cultural passes

Love your city’s museums and galleries, but don’t have the money to explore within your own community? You’re no longer relegated to a dreary home life, as most libraries offer cultural passes that allow for free admission from museums, zoos, literary events, concerts, even movies! You’ll likely have to reserve them in advance, but this is a great opportunity to explore your community’s resources without breaking the budget.

Individual one-on-one librarian services

Wish you could sit down and pick a librarian’s brain on a certain subject? It turns out that you can! Many libraries allow you to ‘Book a Librarian,’ who will research a certain subject and then sit down with you for 30 minutes to an hour. Just let them know in advance what subject you need researched, and they’ll come armed with materials and information to discuss your area of interest. Whether you’re a student, toiling over a work-related project or simply wanting to expand your knowledge in a certain area, this service holds a world of possibilities.

SAT and ACT prep classes

Have a student who’s approaching the dreaded ACT and SAT tests, yet don’t have an extra grand to drop on prep classes? Look no further than your library system. Many libraries offer test prep, both online or even in person that can help your college and scholarship prospects. This resource is neither expensive nor is it inconvenient!

Resume and job resource assistance

Between jobs, yet unsure how to craft the perfect resume? Or maybe you just need to buff up your job search and interviewing skills? Yup, the library can help you with this one as well! Many libraries provide resume services and even have classes to help you optimize your job search and present your best self in person. Either hit up your library’s website, or even better go in person and ask your friendly librarian.

Live homework help in multiple languages

In the middle of your algebra homework and about ready to tear out your hair? pairs with many library systems to provide free live homework help to tackle that neverending schoolwork. Tutors will help with everything from proofreading rough drafts, PSAT and GED prep, to help tackling those tough math problems. Live from 2 P.M. to 10 P.M., these services are available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese!

Digital magazines

Whether you’re a reader of Cosmopolitan or Popular Science, your favorite magazine is likely available through the Zinio library program. With over 5,500 choices, you can read current or back issues on any of your devices. These digital magazines include all the content found in the paper editions, both editorial and advertising. Give this program a try, it’s free and has the potential to replace your pricey and wasteful magazine habit!


Have a home maintenance project, yet lack the necessary tools? Your local tool library is available to save the day! It’s far from necessary to own a tool you’ll only use once every five years, and tool libraries have cropped up to assist with this dilemma. Some are associated with municipal libraries, although many are independent non-profits run by volunteers. Do an internet search for ‘tool library’ plus the name of your town to borrow instead of buy.

Summer reading programs for kids and teens

It’s easy to let students spend their summers sleeping and staring into their phones, but signing them up for your library’s summer reading program can help to combat the dreaded summer brain drain. Everyone from babies through teens can earn prizes by reading and completing library-related activities. (OK, maybe babies are more likely to be read to.) Libraries provide game boards, which young patrons fill in and then bring back for fun prizes. Complete the entire board, and your young reader earns a T-shirt! Too old to participate? Worry not, as many libraries have adult summer reading programs as well!

Meeting space

Have a knitting group or a Chaucer discussion group or even a World of Warcraft debate club and nowhere to meet? Your local branch library often has meeting space that’s free to reserve. Rules need to be reviewed ahead of time, and likely will include a clause that your meeting needs to be free to all, but you know it’ll be clean, warm, inviting and free!

Computer literacy

You may consider yourself computer-savvy, but perhaps you have a friend or relative who would benefit from this service. Whether it’s how to use Word or even simply how to navigate the Internet, these classes are offered in multiple languages at almost all libraries across the nation.

Stuff you never dreamed was available

Libraries across our great planet keep thinking of new and better ways to serve their communities, and it’s not uncommon to run across articles that feature libraries providing everything from prom dresses to sewing machines, kitchenware to humans. Yes, humans. Started in Copenhagen, The Human Library organization promotes diversity in over 50 countries and encourages library patrons to ‘not judge a book by its cover.’ Participants can check out a person for 20-30 minutes, and hopefully ‘foster understanding between different types of people that would normally not interact with each other.’


Because sometimes you simply want an honest to goodness, made-from-a-tree book.

Read more: Boy had no books, read junk mail, so mailman helps him build a library


I’m an active library patron and thought I knew everything the library had to offer, but boy was I wrong! Libraries’ available resources seem to expand with each new day. I hope this article inspires you to run, not walk to your local library and discover the amazing stuff available to you!
Katy Wolk-Stanley About the author:
Katy Wolk-Stanley, a.k.a. The Non-Consumer Advocate is a Portland, Oregon based RN and writer who describes herself as a utility bill scholar, library patron, laundry-hanger-upper and teenage boy wrangler. She’s been featured on The Today Show, The NY Times and The National Enquirer.
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