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5 Free Resources You Might Be Overlooking at the Library

Guest post by Sarah Anne of Sarah Anne Carter:

I love to read. I love the library. If I had to buy every book I wanted to read, I would very quickly go broke!

My children are now voracious readers, too, and we visit our local library at least twice a month. While we’re most often there for books, we’ve discovered several other resources the library offers that are often overlooked, but are still free!

1. Magazines

Libraries often have a section of magazines you can read while you’re at the library. With Overdrive, a library app that you log on to with your library card, you can also read magazines in the comfort of your own home.

The app can be accessed on smartphones, tablets and computers through a Web site. Magazines such as Mental Floss, Glamour, Homespun and Discover are available through Overdrive. To read them, you will have to download Barnes & Noble’s free Nook app, but that can also be downloaded to smartphones, tablets and computers.

2. Movies

Our library has a large selection of DVDs that you can check out for a week. They also recently started a Quick-Pick selection of recently-released DVDs that you can check out for two days and you can put them on hold.

Overdrive also has streaming videos you can check out for five days. There are movies, TV shows, exercise videos, documentaries and children’s videos.

3. Meeting space

Almost every library offers a meeting space and there are two ways you can use it – go to events held there or hold your own events.

Libraries host events from book club and writing groups to essential oil classes and history talks – and a bit of everything in between. If you have a special interest, expertise or skill, think about using the library’s meeting space to host a class. You’ll be able to advertise the event to everyone who visits the library and possibly reach people you normally wouldn’t reach.

Keeping tabs of events at the library is a good idea, too. You can learn a lot by going to events and classes at the library. We recently learned about African penguins where my children got to touch one and heard a talk from a Native-American re-enactor who discussed Native American history in our local region.

4. Audiobooks

Books on CD are about the only way we survive long road trips as a family. I can check out several children or young adult books. I can also use Overdrive to download audiobooks to my and my husband’s smartphones so we can listen to books, too.

If your child has a device that has apps, you can download audiobooks through Overdrive to that device. This can be helpful if you have children in various reading stages.

5. Expertise

The people who work at the library are usually wonderful, very knowledgeable people. When one of my daughters was stuck reading a series over and over again, I talked to our children’s librarian for suggestions of other books that might entice my child. Her advice worked wonders – she knew a book that was the series’ author’s favorite as a child and my daughter read that one next.

Librarians know about new books coming out and can make recommendations based on what you like. They also know who many of the experts are in the community as they often come through for events or sponsor library events. When in doubt about a topic, ask a librarian!

What else do you use the library for besides checking out books? Share your library tips here!

Sarah Anne Carter often won summer reading programs at her library as a child. She is working on her first novel, but when she is not writing, she is reading. Find book reviews and a free adult summer reading Bingo printable on her blog, Sarah Anne Carter.

photo source

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  • Renee says:

    Different libraries have different options, but some also have:
    Free tutoring for elementary through college, in person or online.
    Free online or in person classes and courses – you can earn official certifications to add to your resume, or just learn new skills.
    Language classes or language buddies.
    Special sensory storytimes and items to checkout for kids on the spectrum.
    Free music to download and keep.
    Streaming movies.
    Business resources.
    GED and/or ESOL classes.
    Adult literacy courses.

    • Olivia says:

      Our former library met in a converted firehouse. It had a summer reading contest for adults and kids with community sponsored prizes, and toddler and children reading programs during the school year. As a result, our kids became voracious readers. They had internet accessible computers for free, fax machine, copier for a small fee, job listing and community events bulletin board. Inter-library loan. They kept a bookshelf full of free publications on our local region and state sent from our congress and senate people, like maps and event calendars and public services, and other rack of bus schedules, another place for tax forms. They were a location for weekly free tax prep help volunteers during tax time. They kept a help yourself/add your own coupon box maintained by someone who sent the expired ones to a local military PX. They had very popular twice yearly book sales. It was a haven for older folk to just connect with other people and haven for students during exam and research paper times. Sadly, a “cost conscious” borough counsel decided to gut all funding. All this is done by grant, bequests, and fundraiser paid skeletal staff and a ton of volunteers. That little library has spunk. We very recently moved elsewhere, and the nearest, (well-funded), library is 20 minutes away by car. I really miss our old one.

  • Kris says:

    Video games, free classes, family programs, air conditioned play area for kids/teens to hang out

    • Yes! Our library has a neat dollhouse and other toys in the children’s area that my kids love to play with while I look around for our weekly book stash. They also enjoy just sitting in the comfy chairs and reading. The library is cool in the summer and warm during the cabin fever months– a perfect free fieldtrip!

  • Jen says:

    I just found out that my local library is lending out TMobile wi-fi hot spots for 7 days at a time. Don’t know exactly how that works but I thought it was interesting.

  • LeAnn says:

    Our local library has toys available for checkout in the children’s section in addition to the books.

    They also offer a wide variety of children’s classes/storytimes that are offered based on age of the child. Usually, the storytime includes 2-3 picture books being read to the children, songs, movement activities, and sometimes a craft project.

  • Bethany says:

    The Denver Public Library has state park passes. The wait list is long, but it’s a cool thing to be able to check out a park pass.

  • Okay…so this is still books, but might get overlooked. 🙂

    Our library allows us to inter-library loan books for free. That means we can still access rare, less popular, or out-of-print books our library doesn’t carry.

    Thanks for the reminder about the awesome resources at the library!

  • Karen says:

    Georgia libraries offer free admission passes to Georgia state parks and historic sites, Micheal C. Carlos Museum at Emory, and the Atlanta Zoo.

  • Don says:

    My local library is an affiliate of So I get access to courses and don’t have to pay $20 to $30 per month.

    The key is to find the portal at your library site so that you can log on with your library card number.

  • Kara says:

    My library has a makers lab that includes 3D printers. Instead of paying $25 for a cap for his video camera, my husband found a file online and took it to the library to print one for free (although we did give a small donation, which they appreciate). They have all sorts of neat equipment in the lab and it is definitely under-utilized.

    • Kara says:

      Oh and my library also has museum passes to check out. I don’t know how long the wait list is, but I am planning on requesting them once we return from some upcoming travels.

      They also have a network of other libraries from which you can borrow books, so if I don’t find what I am looking for in the San Diego City Library collection, I can often find it at the county library and they will send it over to my city branch.

    • WilliamB says:

      Several of my libraries (I’m a big fan of taking advantage of reciprosity) have maker labs. It’s fantastic.

      Some libraries have tool checkout.

  • Sarah says:

    I am a children’s librarian and acting branch manager. Our library offers so much to our community. There are over 50 in our system, and no two libraries look alike. Each of our services are based upon the communities we serve.

    Check out the free programs for kids. I host science club, bingo, LEGO Club, and crafts for our school age students. We have stay and play for our preschoolers. Our adults can participate in weekly line dancing classes. We offer homework help during the school year, as well as a school supply giveaway in September. We offer to visit local day cares and classrooms to share storytimes. My local fourth grade class recently made scales out of LEGOs! We visit festivals and host community groups and police meetings in our meeting room.

    We offer books, movies, CDs, magazines, and audiobooks for checkout. Books for children and adults are available in five languages other than English. Research a new travel destination. Study for a career test. Learn English or another language. We can find you any book imaginable through interlibrary loan. We have computer access and Wi-Fi. Ask a librarian today how to format those margins on that resume or how to sync your email on your phone. We also have a newly renovated children’s manipulative area, with magnets, blocks, and other educational games.

    Check out online resources. We offer tutoring online, college courses and language classes, databases covering every subject imaginable.

    All of this, and more, for FREE (some is from taxpayer money). And believe me, these services are not cheap. Utilize your public libraries today!

  • Diane says:

    My favorite resources at the library are peace and quiet! Sometimes when I’m working on my blog, I go to the library where I can focus solely on my project. There’s no laundry or dishes calling my name, so I find that I get a lot more done at the library.

  • amy says:

    Oh my gosh we live at our local libraries! One really fun thing I’ve been doing lately is taking some of the maker lab classes. Our libraries have sewing machines, embroidery machines and fancy paper cutting machines (cricut). It’s really been fun for me and I’ve made so many great teacher gifts and embroidered pillows and towels and things like that! My kids also thought it looked fun so we’ve done several classes together and it’s become a family activity!

  • Christina Street says:

    Our library is part of a county wide system, so you can request (most) items from any library in the county and have them delivered to your branch. In addition to books, audio books, and dvds, some things I’ve seen offered include video games, American Girl dolls, cake pans, and a ukulele! They also have passes to several local museums available. We also take out educational kits that the library put together with a theme. At the library there are toys for the kids to play with as well. My daughter rushes straight to the mag tiles every time we go. Our county’s summer reading program includes great prizes for places we otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.

  • We love our town library and go once a week most of the time, though it probably works out to about 3 times a month. We also enjoy the education library that we can access through an online catalog. I don’t have American’s have access to a program such as this, but here in our province (in Canada) homeschoolers have the opportunity to access the education library that Public School Teachers can use. It has been an awesome resource.

  • Carmen says:

    Our small local library has toys that children can play with on several tables provided – I believe they can even check out some of them. Last time we were there they had an electronics kit that could be checked out.

    We love our local library not just for resources to take home, but they have a great reading program for kids. This summer they’ve had special events with a magician, puppeteer, build an ice cream sundae (this year’s reading theme is on building) and somebody from the university extension office brought in (I had fun participating in that one!)

    We rely heavily on our library to keep our budding reader excited and I’ve used the interlibrary loan quite extensively. Don’t forget that many libraries also have associations with ebook systems like Overdrive!

  • We love to rent movies from the library! And they have a great selection of educational DVDs too. That is always a perk my girls love. And I love that it’s free.

  • Quinn says:

    A podcast that just came up talking about how to use and support your library. Got off the press! ?

    If your a book fan – these are fun podcast to listen to at read aloud revival. Sarah is a doll!

  • Agnes says:

    free coupons 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    Our local library has a heap of resources (too many to name). But I’ve really enjoyed free access to Consumer Reports Magazine (with all the back issues) and Hoopla Digital Audiobooks. Hoopla has numerous titles including NYT Best Sellers, faith based, and loads for kids. All you need is a library card to sign up for free.

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