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Living It Up… At the Library?

This article was written by in Consumer. 8 comments.

Your local library has a lot more than just books. From magazines to movies, you can save money using your library’s resources. Here’s how.

Do you think of your local library as a stuffy place? Beaky-nosed librarians scowling over their glasses? Constantly being told to shush while you sneeze from all the dusty books?
Your view of the library could be more than a little dated. While a few libraries still operate in this old-fashioned way, most are getting more current. As cornerstones of neighborhoods across the country, libraries are coming up with innovative ways to engage their communities.

Plus, if you’re at all interested in living frugally, you should definitely get familiar with your local library. They’ve got more than a few ways you can save some serious cash. Here are some to consider.

Save on Reading, Listening, and Watching Material

Obviously the library is a great place to go to check out reading material. But these days, you can get way more than ancient, dusty books from the library’s shelves. Most libraries are great at keeping up with current trends in all sorts of genres.

I never have to wait long to get even the latest bestseller from my local library in Indianapolis. And I save the $20+ dollars by waiting a few extra days to read it. Sometimes I am about dead with anticipation by the time the book arrives, but that’s part of the fun.

Besides traditional crackly-covered library-bound books, though, you can also get digital books from most modern libraries. Our library uses the Overdrive app. You can add it to your phone and then access thousands of ebooks and audiobooks using your library card. The ebooks can even be pushed out to your Kindle if that’s your preferred reading device. Plus, libraries offer other types of reading material, including newspapers and magazines.

I mentioned audiobooks above because they’re often available through library apps. But many libraries stock loads of audiobooks on CD, too. These were favorites of my husband and me when we drove back and forth to college I won’t say how many years ago. They’re still an excellent option for long road trips with kids, too.

Another option is traditional CDs and even digital copies of music. Some libraries offer Overdrive-like services specifically for music. For instance, you might be able to access Freegal Music to get free songs each week. Both CDs and downloads are great option for checking out new music without spending a dime.

Finally, the library is a great place to go for new things to watch. Most libraries stock the latest releases of movies. You may have to wait on a hold list, unlike with Redbox. But it also won’t cost you anything to binge watch favorite classics and new releases on the weekend.

Save on a Place to Work or Hold Meetings

If you’re part of the growing telework workforce, the library can be a boon. If you’re anything like me, you just have days when “work from home” doesn’t cut it. The laundry and other housework is too distracting. Or the temptation to fall back into bed is too strong.

On these days, I tend to default to a local coffee shop, where I can get more work done surrounded by a bit of ambient noise and people who would look at me oddly if I fell asleep. But my library is a great place to get work done, as well.

And, guess what? They don’t even care if you bring your own coffee into the library. So there’s no temptation to spend money on an expensive coffee drink at the shop, but I still get to enjoy free internet and ambiance while I get my work done.

Many libraries also offer a variety of study and meeting rooms to their patrons. My tiny local library even has a couple of quiet rooms that can be reserved for small meetings or study sessions. And our larger downtown branch has loads of rooms for a variety of purposes.

Check your library’s policies and procedures, especially if you’re trying to schedule a meeting with others. But the library can be a great way to put on a presentation or hold a meeting or brainstorming session as a small business owner or freelancer.

Save on Internet and Computers

If your job is literally typing words on a screen for hours on end like mine, you can’t really get away with not having your own computer and internet connection. But what if most of your day-to-day internet transactions take place on your phone? Maybe you don’t need a computer except for once in a while when you need to do something more complex like write a paper or pull together a presentation.

In this case, the library is a great place to go. Most libraries have a variety of publicly available computers, and they usually have free internet and Wifi. So you can just head to your library to get done what you need to get done.

You might also be able to access more complicated software like the Adobe suite or coding platforms. These can be great if you need to complete projects or are trying to learn something new but don’t want to spend a ton of money on new software.

Save on Things to Do

Our local library has a huge variety of events and entertainment available. For instance, local branches host toddler groups all the time. They are great for stay-at-home parents who need something to keep their kids busy. But the library also hosts loads of events for adults, including speaking events with authors, music events, and even cultural events like its annual Kwanzaa celebration.

In larger cities, the bigger events are likely to take place at the central or larger branches. Ours normally take place downtown. But even the smaller outlying branches offer plenty of interesting evening and weekend events geared towards the local community.

If your library has a Facebook page or Twitter feed, follow them to stay on top of the latest events. Or check out the library’s website, which likely includes a calendar.

Save on Further Education

Are you looking at applying for a job or building a new career? The library should be your first stop. Research librarians are great at helping your sort through the information that’s out there on your intended career. They may even be able to help you find good websites for applying to jobs. And many libraries host regular resume and cover letter writing workshops.

Plus, more and more libraries are offering workshops on coveted skills for the workplace. This used to be mostly focused on basic computer literacy skills. And many libraries still offer basic workshops on Microsoft Office and using the internet. But now more and more are offering innovative options like coding classes and talks with local business owners about career development.

The library isn’t necessarily a place to get an actual certificate in your area of study. But it can be an excellent place to try out new skills to see which direction you want to go.

Save on a Bunch of Other Stuff

Honestly, libraries are becoming so innovative these days that it’s impossible to detail all the ways you might be able to save money at yours. It really depends on your particular library system and branch. But here are some of the most interesting items I’ve heard you can check out at some local libraries:

  • Museum passes: Some libraries loan passes to local museums, or at least get you a discount when you present your library card.
  • Artwork: Many libraries now offer you the ability to check out artwork. You can refresh your space for a couple of months, and then switch out the piece for something different.
  • Instruments: Think you want to take up guitar, but not sure you’ll stick with it? Before you invest a couple hundred bucks or more, see if your library lends out instruments to try.
  • Tools: Some libraries now offer a rotation of home improvement tools for those who want to DIY it without spending a fortune on a garage full of tools.
  • Tech Devices: You can check out Xboxes, iPads, and more from many local libraries. If you want your kids to try one out before you buy, check with your library.
  • Toys: Some toy libraries, usually focused on specialty toys for kids with special needs, do exist. But mainstream libraries may also offer you the option to check out kids’ toys for a while.
  • Seeds: More libraries are offering seed libraries. You just grab a packet of seeds with the promise to bring some back when you harvest the fruit later in the summer.

Your library could literally lend just about anything you can think of. That’s why it’s so important to check out your library’s website and social media so that you can stay on top of what’s offered. Just using your library for reading and watching material could save you a small fortune. But you might as well make the most of the resources offered, and see just how much money you can save.

Published or updated April 11, 2018.

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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 1 Anonymous

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 2 Anonymous

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 3 Anonymous

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 4 Anonymous

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 5 Anonymous

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 6 Anonymous

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 7 Anonymous

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 8 Anonymous

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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