At every Living On The Cheap workshop, I quiz the audience members on the most valuable card in their wallet. Usually someone says their credit card or Social Security card. But we at LOTC know it’s your library card.
Library offerings that might surprise you
These days, libraries go far beyond just housing books and other reading material. Either through library staff or outside organizations, services provided at your local library may include:
- Free computer classes.
- Free tax prep help.
- Free movies.
- Free classes that teach you how to do crafts or play a new game.
- Free wi-fi.
- Tickets for free admission to local attractions including museums, nature centers, and historic sites.
- Free job search help. As one librarian told me, “We get paid to help you find a job.”
- Free technology training. You can learn the secrets of Microsoft Office or editing digital photos.
- Free fitness classes.
- Free help with genealogy research.
- Free lounges for teenagers to hang out.
- Free homework help for K-12 students.
- Book clubs and author talks.
Great ways to use your library card
With September designated “Library Card Sign-Up Month,” I encourage you to sign yourself and your family members up for a library card.The American Library Association has come up with a list of 60 ways to use your library card. Here are some of my favorites.
- Check out an e-book reader for free. Some libraries let patrons check out an e-reader device at no charge. This is a great option for people who prefer not to read e-books on their phones and don’t own a separate e-reading device like a Kindle.
- Get a free movie. You can go old-school and check out a DVD, but you can also check out movies to stream using an app. Here’s a how-to from pcmag.com.
- Learn a new language with language-learning recordings or software.
- Take a cooking class, then check out some cookbooks.
- Download free music or check out CDs.
- Check out videogames.
Don’t stop at just one!
One tip: Check to see if your state allows you to register at more than one library. If so, consider joining more than one. In my state, and as long as you can prove residency, you can join as many library systems as you like. Since each offers different services, I have access to the perks from several.
Kathie Sutin contributed to this report.