10 Reasons to Have a Library Card

by Michelle · 37 comments

library
For those of us who pay attention to personal finance, the public library should be near the top of our list of money-saving resources. It’s true that we have access to a lot of free information and services today, but there are still some expenses that can be significantly reduced if we take the time to use the library’s resources.

Here are ten advantages you can enjoy for free if you join the two-thirds of Americans who have library cards (as long as you return things on time, of course!):

  1. Books. If you still enjoy turning the pages of a solid tome in your hands, there are many advantages to borrowing books from the library. Besides being free, library books can be requested online and picked up at any location you like. For e-books, see reason #4.
  2. DVDs. No matter what you pay to rent movies, it costs more than renting them from the library. Picking up your DVDs from the library isn’t as convenient as Netflix or Hulu, but it’s still frugal.
  3. CDs. Again, pick them up for free, listen to them for free. Free!
  4. Downloads. It’s a little-known fact that many libraries allow cardholders to download audio and electronic books, movies, and MP3s from the comfort of their homes. How exciting is that?
  5. Museum Passes. Lots of libraries hold one or two passes to local museums that cardholders can check out for a day in order to avoid entrance fees. These passes tend to be popular though, so it’s a good idea to stop by the library early in the day to request them.
  6. Software/Databases. We are fortunate to be able to access a lot of free information and tools from our homes thanks to Google and open source applications, but libraries often have subscriptions to resources like LexisNexis and the Adobe Creative Suite. All you need to access them is a library card.
  7. Librarians. These people are trained to research and find answers to all of your most probing questions completely free of charge, and most of them seem to get a real kick out of doing it. I’ve asked librarians for help more than once in my professional life, and their support seems like a gift from above every time!
  8. Classes. Libraries exist to encourage life-long learning, so they frequently offer classes or discussions on a variety of subjects. You usually don’t need a library card to attend these.
  9. Wi-Fi. Absolutely free. You can even work there if you’d like.
  10. A Place to Kick Up Your Feet. Also unlike Starbucks’, you can settle in for some quality work at the library, studying or reading without having to fork over $5.99 for a latte and a muffin (*personally, I feel bad about reading in a coffee shop and not buying anything, but I understand that not everyone feels this way). A library card is also not usually required for this.

Besides offering so many important things for free, libraries are community staples and a great place to learn about what’s going on in your neighborhood. I encourage you to check out yours and report back to us the free things you discover that aren’t on this list.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Barbara says:

    Instead of going to the library I use the overdrive app to download books to my kindle. You can also read books on your browser, or other device, if you don’t have a kindle. Using the Zinio app you can check out magazines to read, current ones or older ones. And there’s also a hippo app that you can use to stream movies, so far I haven’t got this one to work on my tablet, but it’s advertised.

    There’s another app that lets you borrow comic books.

    You can also print from the library’s computers . At my library I get 10 pages for free every day.

    And if you are still going to the library, every month my library has museum displays . In April they display quilts it’s one of my favorite displays, they are so beautiful.

    Another feature that my library has is they will let you borrow a kill a watt device to use to see which of your appliances are using up the most electricity.

    • David Ning says:

      Thanks for the app suggestions! I’ll check out overdrive and Zinio for sure.

      And the kill a watt device sounds interesting. I’m also wondering how much electricity my portable heater/fan uses, so that will be interesting (or scary).

  • Jennie Morris says:

    Unfortunately, most libraries today have become home to the homeless. Who wants to sit next to a smelly bum while you are trying to read?

  • Roger says:

    Free Kindle ebook lending is working now at the 11,000 U.S. libraries using the Overdrive system:
    http://overdrive.com/news/OverDrive-and-Amazon-launch-Kindle-compatibility-with-Library-eBooks

  • librew29 says:

    starbucks is now free as of july 2010

  • Amy Saves says:

    oh cool, didn’t know they offer wi-fi now.

  • Craig says:

    Since when is wifi that expensive at Starbuck’s? I don’t go there much, but I’ve never paid. It used to require a Starbucks card and a purchase in the last 30 days, but even that is not so anymore.

    The same applies to Panera, Peet’s, etc. Wifi is normally free in cafes.

    But I agree that going to libraries is awesome. I plan on using the Mango language learning software available at some local libraries (I have a big stack of cards from various local systems).

  • Justin says:

    Starbucks has free internet now… for the record. I do, however, love my library card. I bought a kindle a month ago and have bought very, very little so far because I can still find everything that I want to read for free at my library. When we hear about how the US compares in education to other countries, it’s not due to a lack of resources available–in most cases. It’s more about being distracted with so many entertainment options. Who wants to read when there are so many other options.

    I was taught by a wise man at one point that the most important thing that you need to cultivate around your education is not a degree or a list of what you’ve studied but 1.) To know how to learn, 2.) To love to learn. With these two things you’ll be driven to your library card by an insatiable desire to learn…and once you read you’ll actually know how to turn this into knowledge.

    • Set says:

      Amazon recently announced that they will be making Kindle books available for check-out through libraries, so you might a use for it yet. That’s exactly why I haven’t bought a Kindle yet, because of my library.

  • Bonnie says:

    I love the library. Unfortunately, DVDs at mine cost $1 for a week rental and $1/day late fee, so I’ll mainly use it if I want to watch a whole season of a TV series in one week. My latest discovery is Overdrive Media e-book borrowing online. You find your library and log-in with your library card # and check-out books just like you would at the library. You have to have a book reader (there’s an app in the iTunes store for iPhone/Touch/Pad), but you can check them out for 7, 14, or 21 day periods and it just disappears from your reader after that. I was actually surprised that my library has a pretty nice selection of e-books. You can also place hold request and they’ll email you when the book is available just like w/ paper books. So convenient.

  • marci357 says:

    and thousands of free downloads of books for the Nook 🙂
    My library is NOT kindle compatible – so eventually, I’ll be getting the Nook – and download the books from home…. how cool is that…. FREE. 🙂

  • Thomas Powers says:

    Wow they didn’t even mention ILL, Inter Library Loan, where I can check out books from over 90 other libraries through my small local library—including rare hard to find ones in University libraries. ILL rocks.

  • Nasrullah Mardani says:

    yea libraries are community staples and a great place to learn about what’s going on in your neighborhood…….

  • Michelle says:

    My sister just sent me this link to 20 of the world’s most beautiful libraries: http://oddee.com/item_96527.aspx. Enjoy.

  • John DeFlumeri Jr says:

    You are so so right. Nothing feels quite like like “scoring” at the public library. all that wonderful stuff for free. (yes i know i pay Taxes)

    But it’s still free to me.

  • Jon says:

    Thanks for the heads up- I knew most of the above, but I’d never heard the bit about the museum passes. Recently my pop has been getting some quality DVDs from the library in addition to Netflix- it might be too much of a good thing hehe

  • KateMTP says:

    I was just on my library’s website reserving some CDs that I wanted. My whole family uses the library because we all love to read – it has saved us thousands of dollars.

    I will be heading there after work to pick up some things I reserved.

  • PW says:

    I no longer order magazine subscriptions, but go the library and spend and hr and breeze thru all of them. I get music CD’s there, instead of buying the new Susan Boyle CD, got if from the library. Movies, get the DVD’s from library. Many new releases as soon as available on DVD. Don’t like it or no time to watch, back it goes. You can also download audio books onto your MP3 player and they also have devices that they download books onto for free if you don’t have an MP3. New books out–put on waiting list for library. I enjoyed “I Will Make You Rich” by Ramit at the library. Our library has free wi-fi and a bank of about 50 terminals for going online and free homework online chat. The great library is a huge asset for homeowners, and it is always crowded. Many of the financial statistical journals that are very costly can be accessed online thru the library. Also have constant event lectures in the evening, like how to use the new Microsoft 7, couponing, using the new Iphone, how to sell and buy on Ebay, and on and on. I love libraries, especially ours.. We no longer have books hanging around, DVD’s etc. Saves money and space.

  • Craig says:

    The books and dvds are a great reason to have it. Most library allow you to use the free wifi even if you don’t have a car.

  • marci says:

    Free Monday night at the movies with free Popcorn. I took the grandkids to see How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Polar Express. Wonderful.

    Free access to Heritage Quest and other genealogy programs, as well as the microfilm of all the newspapers dating way back for obit info.

    Our library has connections with 4 counties for free book borrowing – order online. Luv the email notifications that my book is in. Or that it’s due to renew. Etc.

    The grandkids have ‘filtered’ internet there – I can allow them online without worrying about what will pop up 🙂

    The Play-Stage is always open – they can give impromptu puppet plays every time we go there. The weekly Read-to-me sessions start at the preschool level at our library.

    Magazines and newspapers….save your subscription cost and read them there. A stack of free ‘take home’ magazines – older but still useful. A used book bookstore.

    In the summer when it’s hot…free air conditioning 🙂 Nice.

    • Rachel says:

      I love the parental controls at the library too, since it’s much easier for me to explain to the kids when we set them at home. No more of that “but Amber (her best friend) doesn’t have it” nonsense.

    • Chris says:

      second motion on the air conditioning… during the summer, when we were younger, my brother and I would ride our bikes up 6 blocks to the local library. At around midday it would easily reach a humid 100F and the library always had a ice cold water fountain in the front and nice cool AC to relax and read a few books until we cooled off and were ready to head out to the next adventure.

  • FFB says:

    One more thing – You can find lots of events for your children. From story time for toddlers to board game night for teens, there’s so much offered at the library.

    • Cd Phi says:

      Great point. Libraries often offer reading programs for kids especially during winter and summer breaks so that kids can actually have an educational vacation. Sometimes they’ll bring in guests who have show and tell time. It’s a great free resource for everybody.

  • FFB says:

    I love that I can reserve books online and have them delivered to a local library for pickup. Makes it so much easier. And the museum pass bonus is something I only recently heard about. I need to get out to the library soon.

    An important aspect is that it’s important to use the resources the library provides. With budget cuts growing in this economy, many services are use it or lose it – if the library isn’t being used by the community then services will be cut. This could mean even losing the local library. Go out and take advantage of what your library has to offer.

  • Daniel says:

    I really like the idea of picking up the books I like at the library, and I’m definitely going tomorrow to see if they have any books I can read during lunch or during my commute.

    The cost of having to wait until the book you really want is returned is definitely worth the value of getting free entertainment.

    • MoneyNing says:

      With so many books, I bet there must be ones that you can read while you wait.

      Speaking of books, I’m reading one called “Made to Stick” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. I highly recommend everyone picking up a copy.

  • It’s so funny, my wife LOVES the library. She checks out 5-8 books at a time and lugs them all the way back home (4 blocks) 🙂

    That’s another thing. When you find a property to buy or rent, it’s SUCH a bonus living near the library. You get free internet, and a place to chill as well. A lot of times, there’s a playground close by for the kids too.

    Libraries rock. My library card is right next to my bus pass.

    • MoneyNing says:

      Opps. I love this post and wished I wrote it, but this is actually Michelle’s piece. (Sorry Michelle. The post is updated now.)

      I never knew library had WIFI connections, never mind that it’s free. I need to go check it out since many people are going to be coming over when baby Sara is born and the house will be more like a Chinese dim sum place rather than a place where I can work.

      • Haha, “Chinese dim sum place” nice. Hope all your relatives give you massively stuffed “hong bao”s.

        Thanks for the post Michelle, can’t believe David tried to take credit for it. 😉

      • marci357 says:

        If it’s cool enough to sit in your car or outside, you don’t even have to go inside the library to take advantage of the wi-fi 🙂 It works all around the building outside too.

    • Rachel says:

      Your wife can’t be me, but I’m exactly the same. They are heavy but since I don’t do this often, I’m okay with taking them home every couple weeks.

      It’s really the same as my groceries after I go to the super market, only that I get to enjoy reading the books, rather than eat them 🙂

      I love the library.

    • Good for her. When I was a kid I was always made fun of for the amount of books that I would check out from the library at a time.

    • The Col says:

      Library Cards? I was into it until gas went to 3.79$. Also go to Abbes Book Seller. You can get a better deal if you stay with the same store. It easy When you use the search engine one time it comes up with the lowest price of the book your looking for, in my case I am reading a series so I wanted about 5 books. Click on that book price as if your going to order it and put it in your cart. It then gives you an option to search that store for more books, keep doing it. You may have to repeat the process of searching the Author from the beginning and finding one book from that store click on it then you get that option again. Listen, now you can throw the paper back in the back of your car, not panic on Sunday, get a page wet, bend a corner, you get my drift. That book is now costing us less than the gas it is costing to go to the Library. Most of the good low cost sellers use free shipping to enhance customers. I bought 7 books for 25. 00 and three ended up being hard back. All were in pristine shape, I believe it was from Winter something books you will know they have the lowest prices and free shipping. Thanks you lord no more library and no more Big Brother over my shoulder and over MY BOOKS.

      • marci357 says:

        Put the library books on your “hold” list… when they all come in you get an email that they have arrived – from over a 4 county range – all free – and go once every two weeks to pick up or return. Unless you live very very far away, that’s still gotta be better than $25 for 7 books…. I usually have up to 2 dozen books, CD’s, movies,and audio books out at once, altho some are for my grandkids. I am fortunate tho that the library is in the center of town, a block from the grocery store and 4 blocks from the post office and bank, so it is never out of the way for me to stop there 🙂

        And the best part is, everything gets returned and doesn’t clutter up the house indefinitely 🙂

        If they do not have a book or series, I request it. Usually they buy it, and by requesting it, I am first on the list to read it also 🙂 Nice. I LOVE MY LIBRARY…

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