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. These days, libraries go far beyond just housing books and other reading material. They host free workshops and activities such as computer classes, films and art classes. Almost 91% have free wi-fi. Some provide tickets for free admission to local attractions including museums, nature centers, and historic sites. And 92% of all libraries offer some sort of job search service help. As one librarian told me, “We get paid to help you find a job.”
With September designated “Library Card Sign-Up Month,” I encourage you to sign yourself and your family members up for a library card. One tip: Check to see if your state allows you to register at more than one library. If so, consider joining more than one. I live in Colorado 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.
The American Library Association has come up with a list of 60 ways to use your library card. Here are some of my favorites. You can see the entire slide show below.
- Download an e-book for free. More than 75% of libraries offer access to e-books. E-book readers are available for check-out at nearly 40% of libraries.
- Get a free movie. Forget Redbox or Blockbuster. Your library gets DVDs at the same time they are released for sale to the public.
- Learn the secrets of Microsoft Office or editing digital photos. More than 90% of public libraries offer free technology training.
- Launch your future. Get free assistance with job searches, resume writing and interviewing. Then use a library computer to apply for a job online or check out materials to study for a certification exam.
- Learn a new language with books or online language-learning software.
- Take a fitness class.
- Learn how to better manage your money at a free financial planning seminar or search out tips for building your retirement nest egg.
- Take a cooking class, then check out some cookbooks.
Here are more free things you can find at your library (besides books):
- E-books, audio books and videos, which can be directly downloaded to your tablet, phone or other devices.
- Music CDs and down downloads.
- Wii and XBox 360 games.
- Free use of computers and free Internet access.
- Job and career resources and advice.
- Classes on subjects ranging from crafts to specific computer programs.
- Story hour for preschoolers
- Teen lounges where kids can chill and hang
- Homework help for kids in kindergarten through grade 12
- Summer reading programs for kids and adults
- Programs, discussions and speakers including featured authors
- Free continuing education classes, both online and onsite
- Computer classes for those who don’t know how to use them and classes on specific computer programs for advanced students. Always wanted to learn how to make and use a spreadsheet? Check out the classes on Excel at your local library and you might be able to pick up that new skill for free.
- Genealogical research tools.
- Information on local legislation and ordinances.
Kathie Sutin contributed to this report.