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Living It Up… At the Library?

This article was written by in Consumer. 20 comments.


Over the next couple of weeks, six finalists will be auditioning for the opening of “staff writer” at Consumerism Commentary. Each will be providing two guest articles to share with readers. After the six writers have shared their guest articles, readers will have an opportunity to provide feedback before we select the staff writer.

This article is presented by FruGal, a consultant for a prominent online educational program.

From the time I was a little girl, I can remember making regular trips to my local library. The sights, smells, and sounds are still with me as if it were yesterday. It’s all still fresh in my mind – everything from climbing up the dark, cobweb filled stairwell in the old building in town, to wandering aimlessly throughout the shelves, trying to find a R.L. Stine horror novel that would keep me up late at night, reading in bed with a flashlight.

Fast-forward twenty something years, and you’ll still find me at my local library. However, I’m immersed in an experience that has been completely transformed from what it was decades ago. Long gone are your old-fashioned, wooden card catalogues to help guide you through the endless shelves of books, and other more traditional fixtures of the public library. Today’s modern library is truly an infinite supply of resources, knowledge, entertainment, and more. And best of all, it’s all completely free!

I could talk for hours upon hours about the different services and materials that are available to you at your local library, which chances are, is probably only miles from your home. However, for the interest of this post, I’ll be highlighting my favorite things you can find at your library today.

I’ll get started with the “what” of the library. Books, DVD’s, and CD’s are definitely at the top of my list. Next time you think about heading to your nearby bookstore, or paying the exorbitant cost of going to the movies (plus popcorn, a drink, etc.), consider heading out to the library. The library is home to an endless wealth of new (and old) releases that are available to community members such as you. I visit my local library about once a week, usually on the weekends, and pick up a wide variety of materials that are of interest to me. Take DVD’s for example. At the library, you’ll have everything from blockbuster comedies that just came out of the theater, to documentaries from around the world. You can even find materials such as Audiobooks, which are great for long drives, or perhaps to share with a friend or family member who, for whatever reason, may not be able to read.

Now, let’s explore the “how”. Your local library has an online catalogue system, called an Online Public Access Catalogue (or OPAC) which has replaced your traditional card catalogue. Within the OPAC, you can search through your library’s inventory of multi-media resources. But to take it a step further, you have the ability to reserve items through the system. This is as simple as securing your library card number, which is located on the back of your card, and establishing a pin if you don’t have one already. If you need help, a library staff member will surely lend a helping hand. Once you’re logged in to the online system, you can search for, and place a hold on the latest and greatest books, DVD, and CD titles, plus lots more. At my library, I can place a hold on up to 15 items at a time, and I’m simply sent an email when my request has been filled. The library has a system where materials are transferred from one branch to another for your convenience. With less popular or older items, you’ll only have to wait a few days, whereas with new releases, it may be a few weeks. Either way, if you keep your “hold” list full, you’ll constantly have a wide variety of materials ready to be picked up and enjoyed. Or, if you choose, you can simply wander the shelves and discover whatever may catch your interest.

Last but not least, let’s talk about the “why”. With today’s economy, every penny really does matter. If you add up the total of just one book, one CD, and one trip to the movies, it’s probably around $50.00 or more. To me, it’s much more practical to take advantage of a free (and fun) resource that so many people have tapped into. Plus, it truly is an enjoyable experience. The other day while I was leaving the library, I smiled as I glanced through the glass that peeked into the children’s area, and a father was sitting in a miniature chair, reading to his son. While the library is constantly changing and evolving, some things never change – which is a good thing.

With this all being said, as a lover of books, I realize that there are some must-haves for your collection. I’m not saying completed deprive yourself of these items, but rather, make an effort to be more conscious in your spending habits. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how you can help the library. After all, it’s done so much for you. Consider becoming a “friend” of your local library, which could include anything from helping to raise funds through book sales, or shelving books. More information about this can be found on your library’s website, or by inquiring in person.

Phew, all this and I’ve barely touched the surface! The library is home to special events, classes, story time for children, author talks, arts and crafts… need I go on? I’ll guess I’ll have to save the rest for another time. For now, if you aren’t already, I encourage you to visit your library and explore the many opportunities that are available to you, as well as your family. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed AND you’ll have some extra money in the bank.

I’d love to hear from Consumerism Commentary readers about your experiences with the local library. How often do you visit? What are your favorite materials?

This is a guest article by FruGal, one of six finalists interested in being Consumerism Commentary’s staff writer.

Photo credit: (Erik)

Updated January 16, 2010 and originally published November 19, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

FruGal currently serves as a Professional Development Consultant for a prominent online educational program and as a Social Media Specialist for a Luxury Real Estate company in Atlanta. You can follow her on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar KC

Full disclosure – I’m a librarian. I used to work for the Memphis Public Library – fabulous system – had about anything you could want. I was a regular user of books and sometimes the DVDs, CDs, audio books (tape and digital download) and even some great vinyl records. Even after I left my job I continued to use the library regularly – saved lots of money that way.

I’ve moved to Winston-Salem, NC and the library here is sub-par. It has a pitiful collection of dated materials that are not well maintained (dirty, water stained books!). I’m not even aware if they have audio/video, etc. I’m sure they have those materials, but, apparently, they aren’t marketed too well.

On the other hand the next county over, Greensboro, NC, is outstanding. So I drive 10 miles or so to go to there new central library with a fantastic collection – I mostly use the print materials and audio downloads. Greensboro gives me, a non-taxpayer, a free card and lets me renew materials up to 3 times if no one has a request on materials. This lending policy certainly shows they are customer friendly. This benefits not only their regular, in-county customers, but it helps those of us who don’t live so close and it greatly helps those who use materials for academic purposes and need materials for longer periods of time.

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avatar FruGal

KC,

That’s too bad that your local library hasn’t been the best. I’m glad that your neighboring county’s library is so helpful and that it’s close by. Take care!

-FruGal

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avatar LeanLifeCoach

We visit the library regularly. When we do buy books we look first to sites like Half.com for $3-$4 most books can be delivered to your door. We also will sell books on Half.com. Then any leftover inventory at the end of the year is donated to our local schools and the library.

Sadly due to continuing budget problems with communities around the country more and more libraries face closure. It’s too bad that our government leaders continue to fund programs and initiatives that add no value while taking things like libraries away!

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avatar FruGal

Hi LeanLifeCoach,

Thanks for your comment. I love half.com as well! Have you ever visited biggerwords.com? It’s a great site that does the comparison shopping for you when buying books and gives you the best possible price(s). Often half.com ends up being a great deal but I’ve also run across some other great sites with incredible prices. I’m currently in graduate school and even found a site that let me rent the books I needed for the semester at an incredible rate!

FruGal

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avatar Amber

My fiance and I love our library so much we had our engagement photos taken there! This is the first place I’ve publicly admitted that… hence, you will see no links to the photos. They were, however, totally hilarious. It’s nearly impossible to do cutesy we-love-each-other photos in a public library (this place is really just like your old building from your childhood). The session rapidly degenerated into picking up ironic books and posing with them.

We essentially have to shoot an entire extra session (no worries, though, I’m a photographer myself) so that we have something to put on a Christmas card!

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avatar Allison

Oh I love the library! The network of libraries that includes my (small) hometown is pretty great – not only do they let you put items on hold, they will mail them to you (and not charge overdue fees, which is possibly not the greatest decision, but since I always return what I borrow, I’ll admit to taking advantage). I almost never rent movies because I can always find one I want to watch at the library. :)

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avatar FruGal

Hi Allison,

Wow, I’ve never heard of a library that even mails you your items. That is so convenient! What a great (and free) alternative to a service such as Netflix!

-FruGal

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avatar Jen

I also love the library and can’t remember the last time I purchased a book. I love being able to search for and request books online and then stop in to pick them up at my local branch. My library tip: enter books you’ve enjoyed on Amazon.com and use their recommendations to find other books/authors you might like.

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