If your notion of what a library has to offer 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 community institutions provide so much more than books these days.
What You Might Be Able To Get for Free at Your Local Library
Dust off your library card and check out these amazing and free resources!
Editor’s Note: The coronavirus pandemic has significantly affected library operations, hours and services. Check with your local branch before visiting.
1. E-Books and Audiobooks
Free library programs such as Hoopla, let you “instantly borrow free digital movies, music, e-books and more, 24/7 with your library card.” It’s like Amazon, Netflix, Audible and Spotify rolled into one! Kanopy is another great option.
Your library system may also provide free access to Overdrive, which also carries digital audiobooks and e-books, categorized by genre, availability, language and age level. It’s like a virtual candy store for bibliophiles!
Prefer old-fashioned content? Your library likely has shelves of DVDs, CDs and maybe even a videotape or two.
2. Foreign Language Instruction
Looking to add a second or even third language to your repertoire? Look no further than Mango. This free library program can help you to learn more than 70 languages including Arabic, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, French, Italian, Vietnamese, German, Russian, Swahili and many more.
3. English as a Second Language
Have a friend or family member who wants to strengthen their English language skills? Go to your library’s website, or call your local branch’s information services desk to ask if they have resources for English as a second language (ESL).
A quick look at the Atlanta-Fulton library website confirmed this service, and your library system may provide similar opportunities.
4. Culture Passes
Love your city’s museums and galleries but don’t have the money to explore within your own community? Some libraries offer culture passes that allow for free admission to 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.
5. 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 to be 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.
6. 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.
7. 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. Check your local library’s website for more details.
Have a home maintenance project, yet lack the necessary tools? Your local tool library could 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.
9. Summer Reading Programs for Kids and Teens
Many library systems offer programs that let kids and teens earn prizes by reading and completing library-related activities.
Some libraries provide game boards, which young readers 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!
10. 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.
And these days, some libraries are starting to offer virtual meeting spaces on Zoom.
11. 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.
12. Stuff You Never Dreamed Was Available
Libraries 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 Denmark, The Human Library organization promotes diversity in more than 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.”
I’m an active library patron and thought I knew everything the library had to offer, but boy was I wrong! Libraries’ resources seem to expand with each new day. I hope this article inspires you to contact your local library and discover the amazing stuff available to you!
Does your local library offer a particularly cool program or service? Let us know in the comments below!