Libraries Are Better Than You Think

by David Ning · 45 comments

book returnFor many of us, the library is not a place we remember anymore. If I ask my friends right now about it, they would not even know where one is located. Some might not even be able to guarantee that one exists. I conducted a survey at the front door of the grocery store where a library was located within walking distance and got the following results.

Last Time You Went to The Library

  • Within the last 12 months: 15.7%
  • Within the last 5 years but longer than 12 months: 7.8%
  • Longer than 5 years: 76.5%

Primary Reason For Going To the Library

  • Study: 21.6%
  • Nothing else to do: 9.8%
  • Regular event in my schedule: 15.7%
  • Don’t currently go to the library: 52.9%

public libraryMost people have not been to the library for at least the last 5 years. Some people actually do not like libraries because it always reminds them of their study days and therefore would not set foot in there unless they are forced to.

Only 15.7% of all people surveyed thought of the library as a place they wanted to go to. So after gathering the data, I also went to the library to check it out. I found that there is so much to do in a library nowadays. Other than having those books available, you can also read some of the latest magazines. Unlike bookstores, the library even keep past issues on the shelf where you can read on site or borrow them home. Apart from the huge collection of magazines and books, the library also has computer stations where people can surf the web. I went online to make sure MoneyNing.com was accessible and it was loading nice and quick.

The best thing of all is that the cost of all this is $0 other than the cost of transportation. Consider checking out the library next time you are thinking of something to do. It is an ultra inexpensive activity, and the increased comprehension skill you gain by reading is priceless.

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephen H July 11, 2007 at 9:03 am

Omg, you are so behind on the library. There are tons of books on cd/tapes, dvds, podcasts, free children’s programs for reading, arts/crafts, music events, movie nights, and book sales for next to the penny. Also, many counties now have home delivery that is free right to your door. Just reserve the item online. (ymmv) My library even has a large foreign language dvd collection that rivals blockbuster video. You can even check out the some playstation and xbox games that you might have never played nor would never buy. All free.

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MoneyNing July 11, 2007 at 10:07 am

Stephen: Thanks for sharing that. I’m way behind and what you mentioned just adds more value to the library as a fun and inexpensive event..

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TraditionalBookworm December 8, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Oh, I so love books. I have a mini Library back home and have a collection of books, magazines and newspaper clippings organized according to subjects. For this year, I have purchased more than 50 books but still unread as I dont have time to browse them. I used to read books a lot but since I got this eye condition, I just buy without reading..

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Family Savings July 11, 2007 at 10:54 am

Plus the library is open until 9pm so there is always time to go. I take my son their to play computer games. There are also lots of free childrens activities. When my son goes to those I can go into the books and get lost.

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MoneyNing July 11, 2007 at 11:35 am

Its amazing how not many people realize the value of library in the modern world… The shear collection of books of any subject is just so great that somtimes it beats google at indepth researching.

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LennyP July 11, 2007 at 4:26 pm

The largest part of the problem is that most people don’t read period anymore. The biggest on why they don’t go is most likely that they don’t read. I do admit from when I completed school until recently I would rather buy my books than borrow them. Only recent when I have become more concerned with my finances have I started regularly using the library.

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Baz L July 11, 2007 at 4:52 pm

What I love about my new library (just moved) is that online capability. I hardly ever search for books in the library anymore. I go online, pick out what I want, put it on hold.

Then I step in and go to the “hold” shelf, look for my initials, do the self checkout of go home.

On the weekends, when I’m bored, I go down there and browse and see what’s available.

The one complaint I have is that there are too many kids. lol. But what you gonna do?

Baz L
Day In The Life of Baz

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MoneyNing July 11, 2007 at 6:13 pm

LennyP: Yeah I agree with you that most people don’t read much anymore. Why did you like buying books instead of borrowing them? I assume its because it is more convenient and that you just never thought about it rather than something where you sat down and weighed the pros and cons?

Baz: I actually never knew about the online capability. Silly me :) This makes things so convenient if I can “schedule” my borrowing.

Kids are good. They are our future and having them in libraries are a good thing (if they aren’t really reading, the fact that they are in there is a good start.)

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Stephen H July 11, 2007 at 8:28 pm

Just so you know.. there are also many classes that are free to take. I learned how to use quicken, microsoft word, building a webpage with html, and other classes. What Lenny said is true to only a certain extent. Yes there are less people reading now a days. But just like any activity, to find people who enjoy what you do, you have to go the places that have people who share your same passion. So most readers go to bookstores now because of the coffee and visual stimulation instead of the library. The word library sounds old and ancient to the newer generations.

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MoneyNing July 11, 2007 at 8:40 pm

Stephen: Since these generation/trend/hip stuff always has a cycle, I wonder when libraries will become the IT thing to do again :)

Anyway, I wonder if every library has classes. Are the classes you are talking about city run? I wonder if they are available in every library since some are offered at community centers etc.

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Laura McDowell July 31, 2010 at 8:43 pm

As a librarian, I can tell you that every public library I’ve ever seen has offered classes and activities. There are book clubs, film nights, theatrical events, lectures, and classes on everything from photography to personal finance (these classes are usually one-evening only). As to how they are funded, it would depend on the library, but I would guess that most of it comes from local government money, along with grants. Some classes/events may be conducted by volunteers. Go to your local government/library website to find out what’s being offered in your area. BTW, since the recession started, library attendance is up.

And thank you for your articles; they are informative and helpful.

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Richard January 22, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Librarians, contrary to the stereotype, are most helpful and capable. They are educators, who want to share their enthusiasm for reading and learning. As a professor for thirty years, I have often benefitted from their technical knowledge of IT and their willingness to help access remote databases. I always make it a point to ask what good books they have been reading for their personal pleasure.

Librarians are underutilized and under appreciated.

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KMull July 12, 2007 at 6:50 am

You’re absolutely right. Libraries are great resources these days. Just recently my wife and I went to a local library a few weeks ago to look at recent/older Consumer Reports. We were able to find 3 different magazines talking about kitchen appliances — just what we needed. I was rather impressed by the selection.

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MoneyNing July 12, 2007 at 12:43 pm

KMull: it is great to hear all these encouraging stories of everyone going to the library. Also, good luck with your new home.

Harry: Unfortunately, the last harry potter book will probably not be available until a while from now as there is most likely a huge lineup to borrow it.

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate July 12, 2007 at 3:19 pm

Our local library is very small, but we have a “4 county” library system where you can use your card at any library, then return items at any other library and they will send them back to the right place. Also you can browse the combined catalog of all 4 counties libraries online and request books/DVDs/Videos/Audiotapes etc-so even though my library is small, it’s like we have a huge one.

My mom is on Long Island, and now at her library with your card number you can download entire audio books onto your IPOD. Some libraries apparently have a way for your to “check out” videos by downloading the movies to your computer for one time use-but I don’t know anyone who has this personally

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JadeEJF July 12, 2007 at 4:44 pm

Oh man, I love the library :) I’m all about using it for CDs, DVDs, magazines… and, of course, books :) But then, I was one of those kids who thought the worst punishment was having my library card taken away :)

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Ann July 12, 2007 at 5:40 pm

Our library is part of a system that covers several counties. We used the library extensively when I still homeschooled the kids. (They’re grown now.) We borrowed great books and movies from there. As a child, our local library was one of those old buildings with hardwood floors and mahogany everywhere. It smelled of old books and furniture oil and old-maid-librarian lavender, but I loved it so much I spent many afternoons there, reading.

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MoneyNing July 12, 2007 at 6:37 pm

Jenn: Wow the libraries where you are are pretty cool. I am sure one day you can walk into the library and all the media would be downloaded to your devices instantly :)

Are you in Long Island NY? I was just there this morning.

JadeEJF: Hehe me too. I used to love the library when I was REALLY young. We were only allowed to borrow 3 books at a time back then but it was fun.

Ann: Those old libraries are really part of American history. I have never been in one of them but I really want to go. Where is your location so I can go check it out if I’m in the area? (I’m in sales so I get to travel quite a bit, maybe I will be around your area to check them out some time).

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Stephen H July 12, 2007 at 6:48 pm

Just go online to your local county library system. They will tell you all about the classes. Most of them are free. Or with a donation. Also, each library will list what classes they have. My girlfriend went to a bellydancing class. It was 8 classes deep. Each library has fliers or a cork board that shows you all the events.

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MoneyNing July 12, 2007 at 8:19 pm

Stephen:

Cool. I gotta check out what’s available in my area. :) Thanks for the suggetion and advices…

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate July 18, 2007 at 5:30 am

MoneyNing-Actually, I’m upstate near Binghamton NY. My mom lives in LI, Greenlawn, and we go to visit her several times a year. She just got an MP3 player (I don’t have one) so I’m interested to try downloading a book for her to see how it works next time I’m there.

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MoneyNing July 18, 2007 at 6:39 am

Jenn: Pretty cool :) Hopefully it works well for you and you will have discovered another convenient way to use the library.

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Personal Entrepreneur July 18, 2007 at 7:37 am

Don’t forget inter-library loans. My library is part of a huge network of other librarys. Combine that with the ability to request items online, and I haven’t bought a book, cd, or video in months.

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marie August 8, 2007 at 10:49 am

I go to the library once or twice in a period of 2 weeks.

I love my library. There is no way I could afford to read all those books at
$40.00 a shot.

I call it my free university education.

Marie

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Mrs. Micah August 9, 2007 at 3:16 pm

I used to work at one (5 years.) and they’ve got such a wealth of resources. As people have mentioned, DVDs and the like, mine even had a number of TV Series on DVD. Between the different county libraries, which had different copies, you could watch most series of CSI, etc. And if a movie’s out, you can reserve it so that you’ll get it eventually.

I’ve found that some libraries do charge for loaning DVDs. But it’s less than a video store. (probably because it’s a poorer county and libraries have to pay a lot for their DVDs, since they’re loaning them. Same as rental stores. Around $100 for a new release.)

Anyway, if people are cutting back cable, books are another great form of entertainment. Lots of modern thrillers and mysteries for the CSI/Law and Order/Numb3rs fans, Romances for people who watch soaps, libraries have it all. :-)

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MoneyNing August 10, 2007 at 11:05 am

Mrs Micah: Thanks for sharing your personal experience :) Do you know how the libraries determine what to offer?

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Spodeworld November 7, 2008 at 12:30 pm

I love the library. I have 2 little kids….love to bring them there. They love the books, videos and sometimes, events. I can also get videos and music. I can go online if I want something, reserve it, and sometimes download it right then and there. The library is a great resource and I wish more people would take advantage of it.

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Becky February 13, 2009 at 8:04 am

Many of them have downloadable books. You have to find their website adn see if they have it, but many do. Mine limits you to 6 books a week, but that is a lot (these are audio books). They expire after a week but once you put them on your mp3 player, they don’t expire at the end of 7 days, so if you aren’t done yet, it isn’t such a big deal.

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Jane December 28, 2009 at 2:30 am

I don’t think I’ve ever actually checked out a book there but I do currently check out 5 dvds a week. The nice thing about my local library is that they have the newest hottest stuff. I watched all 7 seasons of 24 and all 4 seasons of Prison Break courtesy of my local library. All FREE….

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dlm April 21, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I used to spend a fortune on reading material. And I thought the library had only dusty old books. But they have brand new books and magazines etc as well as old. If you reserve from the new list, you may be the first reader.

And not only is everything free, but you’ve already paid for the library service in your taxes.

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McKay June 2, 2010 at 8:34 pm

shhh. Don’t reveal the secret of the library ;) Actually, I have noticed that library attendance at the public library nearest my home has gone way up in the last year. This is just one of many ways to save money in these difficult times.

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Elwin June 19, 2010 at 7:09 am

I go to the library weekly. Our library is part of a statewide “Evergreen System”, so not only can we go online and search for books at our local library (and put them on hold), but we can do the same with all the libraries in the whole Evergreen network, so if the local library doesn’t have a book we want, you can actually put that book on hold at another library and have it shipped to our local library for pickup (this doesn’t work for DVD’s, CD’s, etc, only books).

In addition, there is a place to put in for interlibrary loan for stuff that isn’t in the system or for DVD’s etc. I have been able to borrow two complete seasons of Dr. Who using this. If I had to buy them, I’d be looking at $60 or so.

Further, on more than one occasion, I have asked to get a book through interlibrary loan and had the library actually buy the book in question, so I get to read it without having to pay anything directly.

Libraries really aren’t “free”, they are paid for with tax dollars (at least where I live), so if you aren’t taking advantage of your local libarary, you are losing money.

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IC July 21, 2010 at 7:48 pm

I love the library too. I find the silence good for reading comprehension and our library too has great internet access. Although there are many e-books available I still prefer reading books as they are. I have a slight vision problem that’s why 5 hours of e-book reading hurts my eyes quite badly. I’m a single mum and buying new books can create a dent in my pocket. Although I know where to run for fast money, I forego book buying and stick to the libraries instead. Want books and DVD’s for free, befriend your local library.

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Beth October 6, 2010 at 10:18 am

Thanks for speaking up for libraries. I take my kids there almost every Saturday, replacing blockbuster/redbox/netflix as they can pick out several new cartoon dvds to watch on Sunday morning, and a new family movie we all enjoy, as well as 3 or 4 new books to read at bedtime during the week. I could never buy all those books new for them. Not to mention the audiobooks I enjoy on my commute to work and all the lovely new authors to try for free. The Librarian is purchasing several audio books by my favorite author just because I requested them-how is that for customer service?

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Slackerjo February 16, 2011 at 5:27 am

Libraries are more than a place for the homeless to doze and pee.

I don’t even mind paying taxes for the library system in my city. I definitely get more out of the library than I put in.

I read about 110-120 books a year (it’s my main source of entertainment) and there is no way I could afford to buy all or even a fraction of these books. The library is so convenient now I don’t even have to go there to get a book. Audio and ebooks are easily downloaded in minutes. I listened to many audiobooks last summer while I painted my apartment.

I am going to see a play on Sunday at my local library. Free of charge too.

When asked what is the one thing you could not live without I always answer “my library card.”

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Virginia July 28, 2011 at 11:44 am

I am a liberal Art Major–what I can’t find at the library I can find at the public library and let me tell you they usually have the books I need for classes. I save a lot of $$$ along with checking out Google books for free.

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class factotum August 2, 2011 at 6:24 pm

A key factor in picking our house was that it was within walking distance of the library. I calculated that if I had had to buy or rent every book and DVD that I get from the library (where I go at least twice a week) for the past year, I would have spent over $10,000 – and that’s if I got used books. (I read a lot.) I love my library – makes me feel like my property taxes aren’t wasted.

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Gerard September 16, 2011 at 12:34 pm

And yet, in Toronto they have elected politicians who want to close libraries, because they think (incorrectly) that there are more libraries than donut shops. Seriously, I couldn’t make up anything this stupid.

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Jones October 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm

I have a college textbook right here that I borrowed, for free of course, from my local library. I have it until November and if I am very lucky no one else will want to borrow it between now and the end of the semester. This is a $50+ book and all my textbooks are expensive. Frequently I am able to borrow them, and also any supplemental reading books (quite often this is the difference between us A students and the rest of the pack-we read the extra stuff and it shows in our grades) then I can return my brand-new textbook, possibly even for a profit, since it has never been used. Each semester I have to buy my textbooks because I cannot count on getting them from the library or keeping them for the whole semester. I am very careful not to underline and use Post-it tabs which leave no mark on pages. I buy my textbooks brand-new because I can resell them for close to if not higher than the original price at Amazon.com.

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Lynn July 27, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I’m on a library moratorium at the moment. I love the place, but end up borrowing about eight books at once. Even more since I discovered that I could search the online catalogue at home and order books from my Amazon wish list. The problem with this is that I already have a backlog of books that I bought or got as presents, so I have to go through them first.

Funny thing is, I can’t even let myself go into the library to study, as I know I’ll get sucked in and come out with like ten books.

In short, libraries rock!

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Merelle July 27, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Libraries are fantastic! I stay up late reading those books really fast. Lately, though, my kids have started to use the library, and have started to rack up fines. We are taking a little break while we build up skills in managing and keeping track of loaned items!

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Shane August 22, 2012 at 9:42 am

My library also offers movies to rent and books on CD. I like to listen to books on CD/Tape when I am on long driving trips.

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F Sampson October 8, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Our library in the greater Atlanta area has a computer link on their website to the Galileo system so we can access newspapers, magazines, journals, and more plus a language learning program called Mango I haven’t tried yet.

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Jane December 3, 2012 at 11:06 am

I bought an inexpensive e-reader and now download books from the library. The library in my area has an extensive list of fiction and non-fiction books and all the new releases are now available. I don’t have to go near the library except to renew my card once a year. The library is “open” 24 hours a day online.

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babs February 19, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Libraries are fabulous and keep getting better! Our local library also offers online career testing and resume help, free (!) tickets to area museums, a low-cost printing press and countless activities for kids through adults. And more! (I’m sure I’m forgetting something . . . )

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