7 Ways Your Public Library Can Help You During A Bad Economy

Reader MG is a fan of the site and a public librarian and has written a list of 7 ways that your library can help you during a bad economy. Libraries are an excellent resource and they’re pretty easy to use. Don’t worry if you’re not a big reader, there’s lots more stuff to do at the library besides just checking out books.

  1. You can get pretty much any book at the library: A book habit can be expensive. Even second hand books can add up if you read a lot. Even the smallest library can access inter-library loan, Worldcat, OCLC and other library loan services to get you even the most obscure and out of print material.

  2. Yes, we have movies: Many libraries charge a nominal (1-2 dollar) fee for renting recent or “popular” titles. It’s something of a controversy in the profession, one side arguing all library services should be free, the other saying “We’re not a video store!”. I tend to fall on the side of free for all. In any case, the fee is often far less than what you’d pay for a rental at a chain video store, and the fees to to cover costs of processing and growing the video collection. If you’re looking for a rare film, perhaps older or on an obscure format (Betamax tapes are out there still) libraries can save you a ton compared to buying it on Ebay.

  3. Kids Activities: Any library worth it’s salt offers a summer reading program for kids. Often with prizes, programs and events all summer long. Libraries also offer storytimes, arts and crafts, computer classes, movie nights and reading clubs for kids of all ages.
  4. Save Money and maybe your life!: Libraries offer seminars in home buying, estate planning and even purchasing electronics and other big-ticket items. Libraries also offer free blood pressure screenings, programs about weight loss and exercise.
  5. Make new friends: Library book clubs and book discussion groups are great ways to meet people. Some libraries even offer “mingling” events for single patrons.
  6. Find a new job!: I can’t tell you how many times local employers have come in asking to post job listings or drop off materials about open positions. Many libraries offer resume writing workshops, computer training and even job fairs. College and University library job fairs are often open to the public.
  7. Libraries listen to consumers!: We like to call them patrons, but we really do listen. Do you want a storytime for kids after 5pm? Ask for it! Want more books about home finance or budgeting? Just ask! Libraries often go to great pains to suss out what the community wants, letting us know directly is great. The complaint or suggestion of a patron carries a lot of weight with library directors and boards, so you are being heard.

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. girly says:

    And they have databases where you can find investment info, info about a company you might want to work for, and even databases of car repair information.

  2. acarr260 says:

    You can even get software from some libraries – programs that will help you build a deck, for example.

  3. SwatLax says:

    You forgot one of the best ones! Free computers and internet use! I saved $50 a month for a year by not giving into Comcast and using the internet only at work and, when needed, the library.

    I have since given in, but still use the couple free pages you can print, whenever my home printer is out of ink or paper.

  4. SadSam says:

    Using my local library has been one of my resolutions for 2008 and I can report that its going great. I’ve saved a ton of money by reading books from my library vs. Amazon.com. I use Amazon.com to research and keep track of titles and when I’ve read one of those titles from the library I check the “I own it” so I can get better recommendations. I can search my local library, which is tiny, via the internet and I also get e-mail reminders when books are due and I can renew books over the internet.

  5. bohemian says:

    This needs one big caveat. If you live somewhere that has a big, well funded library system.

    Ours won’t interlibrary loan outside of their own group of library branches. They won’t ILL anything remotely academic.

    Our local library quit buying how to type books in the 70’s. If your looking for some good throwback hippie source material they are great. Forget finding anything remotely new. They do have probably the world’s largest collection of those pink paperback romance novels though! Ugh. The homeless seem to love it though. All of the seats are usually taken up by them napping. So um, yea I kinda gave up on our library system.

    I gotta say though that Hennepin County libraries in Minneapolis rock. You name it they have it.

  6. “Libraries listen to consumers!”

    One of my very best memories from high school was a project we did for English class. We’d been reading literature from the Far East, and a couple kids commented on how most of it wasn’t in the library. So our teacher said, “You know what? Let’s fix that.” She broke us up into groups and assigned us all research tasks. We discovered there was a large and growing Korean immigrant population in the area (well, we knew that, but we did demography about it), some of whom spoke English, but some of whom did not. We researched classics of Korean literature and what the most popular modern authors and magazines were. We researched what English-speaking Koreans and Korean-speaking Koreans would want to see in the library and what they’d find helpful. And then she invited the library board and librarians to our class and we presented our findings to the library …

    AND THEY BOUGHT BASICALLY EVERYTHING WE RECOMMENDED.

    They set up a Korean lit in English section, a Korean language section, and added a lot of resources for recent Korean immigrants; they started getting Korean-language periodicals, even bought Korean films, the whole nine yards. And it was ENORMOUSLY popular with the Korean community in town, who suddenly became massive library patrons and supporters. And then there were all these intercultural programs and Korean-lit reading lists … it was awesome.

    I still feel friggin’ PROUD when I visit my parents and drop by the library and see the Korean-language shelves.

  7. closeupman says:

    You forgot about one GREAT resource: http://www.netlibrary.com

    It allows you to access some books that libraries only have online with netlibrary. You can even print out pages, though you have to do that page by page, and your session will expire if you don’t click to go to the next page of the book every few minutes.

    You usually have to create a ‘free’ account IN the B&M library first. However, after that you can use that account from ANYWHERE!

  8. @bohemian: “Ours won’t interlibrary loan outside of their own group of library branches. They won’t ILL anything remotely academic.”

    If you’re near a state U branch, citizens of the state typically have some form of borrowing privileges from the state U libraries, as you are a taxpayer and own the darn thing. :) Most private colleges have a town-gown arragement, too, where if you live nearby you can borrow from the college.

    Sometimes there’s a fee, and typically the borrowing periods are relatively short for non-students, but it’s a good way to get your hands on things.

  9. RandomHookup says:

    My library is part of a regional network and I can order videos online and have them delivered to any library in the network. (I call it “Netflix for Free.”) And I can return books and videos to any library in the network, so I don’t have to make an extra trip.

  10. trioxinaddict says:

    “If you’re looking for a rare film, perhaps older or on an obscure format (Betamax tapes are out there still) libraries can save you a ton compared to buying it on Ebay.”

    Just wanted to say that many libraries also have an inter-library loan program. If you’re willing to ask a librarian for help you can probably track down what you need no matter how obscure it is.

    Also, seconding that libraries are awesome for job hunts. Wanted ads on bulletin boards, every classified ad available in your area, and a computer for Craigslist all in one location. Plus, it’s a free place to read a good book and kill some time while you wait for a potential employer to call back. What more can you ask?

  11. BytheSea says:

    Libraryelf.com can help you keep track of what you borrow and request, and give you email reminders so you don’t rack up fines.

  12. Most of the Cleveland-area libraries let you check out movies, kid’s toys (puppets and the like), and CDs for free; I’ve always wondered why the RIAA was so up in arms about filesharing when anyone with a library card and a little patience could do the same thing for free at their library.

  13. Walrii says:

    My local library also lets you “check out” videos and movies online (through participation with various websites, almost all of which require special software and Microsoft Windows. Ugh).

    The selection isn’t super great, but there are some gems.

  14. Also if one does not have a computer or broadband access – the libraries can be a great way to job hunt online.

    They also provide and escape from the humid, hot weather of July and August for those without air conditioning

  15. HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak says:

    @bohemian: Amen to that. Moving from an area served by the Los Angeles City Library system to one served by the Los Angeles County Library system was a jarring experience.

    • elisa says:

      @HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak: I have both cards (I live near County, go to school near City) and I find county to be better. What, in particular, makes county worse than city, for you?
      FYI, the county system recently changed. Now it’s 50 items instead of $500, and the computer system is a LOT better (the catalog used to be down all the time).

      Some comparisons:
      DVDs: County 7 days & renewable, city 2 days

      Both have free wireless

      county has a huge system w tons of branches, and easy reserving online (from another library to be delivered to your local branch)

      county usually has better parking

      new bks: county depends, city sometimes better b/c they have the weekly nonrenewable shelf

      cds def better thru county b/c you can get it from another branch, whereas city refuses to do that, you have to go in person

      you might also want to try local city libraries: eg Long Beach, Irwindale, Monterey Park, and Arcadia all have their own library systems, just to name a few

      New item limit: 50 now

  16. ElizabethD says:

    Much love for the public libraries. I resolved a year ago to stop buying (even second-hand) books and start borrowing. It’s awesome. Our entire state is on ILL, so I can get just about anything I want/need. You can renew online or by phone, which basically gives you six weeks to read a book if you need that long (except for the newest books which are limited to two or three weeks).

    It’s a good way to download music free, too, if your library loans CDs. (Most do.)

    One of the first thing we did when each of our kids could walk was take them to the library branch and get a library card. And, man, those cards were well used!

  17. ElizabethD says:

    Oh– and many public libraries have free day passes to local attractions such as zoos, aquariums, museums, etc. I haven’t paid to get into the Boston Museum of Science in years. You can reserve the passes ahead of time.

  18. BlondeGrlz says:

    @SwatLax: I used my public library for all my internet needs during my very poor college years. It was actually closer than the campus library and much less crowded, plus I saved a TON of money. I’ve been meaning to get a library card here in my new town, this was just the post I needed to remind me.

  19. thelushie says:

    @bohemian: Same here. I hate the public libraries. Computers are always in use by homeless checking Adultfriendfinder and the books are not up to date (which is ok if you are looking for general lit). If you have an academic library, they will usually let you check out if you pay a fee. My old grad school’s library has improved by leaps and bounds in the way of academic and general interest books.

  20. thelushie says:

    Oh and Worldcat is not a lending system. If you are looking for a specific book, it can help you find it in your general and surrounding areas.

  21. chemman says:

    I’m an avid reader so the library has saved me thousands of dollars over the years. One thing I don’t see on this list that I have been a huge fan of for the last few years (maybe not many libraries are offering it) is my library allows me to download audio books in windows media format. It’s kind of a pain since they are DRM’d and won’t play on your CPU after 10 days (the check out period), but if you transfer it to your MP3 player or burn it to CD (both of which are allowed by the DRM), the 10 day license no longer applies and you can keep it and listen for as long as you like. I do a lot of extended driving and find these audio books a great way to pass the time without having to spend the $30 to $40 most places charge to buy new release audio books.

  22. TangDrinker says:

    @thelushie: World cat is the interface used to search the OCLC catalog – if you’re a librarian, you CAN use it to request books directly from another library. I don’t think the general public has access to the lending tools, though.

    And just remember, please be nice to your public librarians and library assistants. They’re not there to babysit your kids, but they’ll be glad to help you find child care resources if needed.

    Also -if you’re in NC, you can access (via your public or academic library’s library card) a collection of databases (including audio books) at NClive.org. For free.

  23. chemman says:

    @TangDrinker: Thanks for the info, I’ll have to check out NClive.org since I recently relocated to NC, I’ve still been using my old MI library card to access the online audio books (since I still own my home there and can’t sell it)
    Which brings up a good question, do library cards expire? Can I continue to use my MI library card online or will I need to re-verify my address at some point?

  24. EyeHeartPie says:

    @BytheSea:
    My library system does this as well through their online system automatically. You just have to sign up online, link an email address to your card number, and you’re golden.

  25. kala_way says:

    I use my local libraries all the time–books, audio books, DVD’s, all sorts. I’ve rarely discovered a book I wanted that none of the libraries in my area own.
    I haven’t taken advantage of the seminars and clubs they offer, but probably will when I’m older.

  26. Legal_Eagle_In_Training says:

    Great post! I am still getting used to the minuscule-by-comparison public library by my house, but it does the job. Although, I do miss the huge, modern 3-story public library I had back in high school in suburban Chicago.

  27. andyfvp says:

    Glad they listen…that’s what I my taxes go towards. Now the government listening. That’s another matter altogether.

  28. The New York Public Library system is so impressive that I feel bad for the rest of the country.

    For those of you who don’t live near a major city, Eyebrows McGee nailed it. Check your nearest public university or community college. I grew up in a small town with a crappy library, but I was a short drive to two excellent college libraries that would lend to anyone with a driver’s license.

  29. Heresy Of Truth says:

    The vast majority of my needs are met by the library, but I often read unusual subjects, which means I have to buy the books because they are not available at my local library. I really only read books once, so I have been looking into donating the odd books I have to buy to the local library. That way, if someone else ends up interested in 19th century female explorers, they can have access right there at the library.

    I love the library.

  30. happysquid says:

    I <3 the library–even though it usually COSTS me to rent things there. Kinda like Netflix. Maybe they know I’ll pay the late fees and won’t ask questions… I wish they still stamped books with their due dates instead of having to rely on a pile o’ receipts! But LA library, I will always rent books from you (*even if you’re not as good as Milwaukee’s library system).

  31. catskyfire says:

    I would point out that the size of the town may not matter. It may be more a matter of library policies which can change. (Consult your library board and your city/town/village councils.) They may be open to doing more with a fee attached. (Ie, interlibrary loan an unusual book for a 2 fee. Which is cheaper than getting it online if it’s rare. (I once ILLed a book that retails for about 500.)

    Remember, the more people that ask for a service, the more it may happen.

  32. DePaulBlueDemon says:

    I’m a librarian and this article made me very happy. :)

  33. acidspit says:

    any library worth ITS salt. GREAT article. bad grammar.

  34. anyanka323 says:

    It depends a lot on how libraries are funded in your state and where you live. During college, I lived in a town that had a couple great library plus ILL. Now, I’m in an area where the local libraries are not that great by my standards. Neither of the ones closest to me actively buy popular CDs and charge for DVD rental.

    One factor that irritates me is their collection development policy. One local one simply refuses to buy popular CDs and buys a lot of inspirational Christian fiction, something I have complained about to the director of that library. I feel that they buy for one demographic at the expense of another.

    Plus, they take longer to get popular newer fiction in the system. As a result, I’ve been buying a lot more books than I used to.

  35. consumersaur says:

    Libraries are worthless to anyone that’s not a hobo.

  36. mekju says:

    I love public libraries! Never understand why I needed to buy a book that I would only read once when I can just check it out at the library.

    Orlando’s library is great. They have a wide selection of movies, including foreign films, that are all free. Plus they offer a system where they will mail you any book, cd, dvd you request through the internet directly to your house. It’s a public version of Netflix/Amazon!

  37. krom says:

    They also have lots of CDs, and sometimes you can be surprised at what they might have re popular music. These are great for ripping to your iPod.

  38. MissPeacock says:

    @SadSam: Heh. I do the exact same thing with my Amazon list. BIG SHOUT OUT to using the library; I’ve been going around two times a month for the past two years. I check out books, DVDs, CDs, audio books, you name it. And everyone is so helpful and willing to answer any questions you might have. I can’t imagine how much money I’ve saved on not buying books. Now, I only buy the nice, coffee-table type of books that I know I will thumb through a lot. After all, what percentage of your personal library do you actually read over and over and over again? For me, it’s a very small percentage.

  39. Sasha_Pie says:

    I love my small local library! It has a huge selection of all the newest DVDs and rents them for 3 days for free. Not many people rent from them, so there’s almost no competition for the popular titles. Except for late fees, I haven’t paid for a movie in two years… I love the idea of walking away from the counter with an armful of free books and movies and getting thanked for it.

  40. onesix18 says:

    @consumersaur: You have to be kidding me. Libraries are wonderful–they let me read books first, decide if I like them, and then, if I feel the book is worthy, I buy a copy of it to place in my home library. Buy a book before reading it? A fool and his money are soon parted.

  41. cerbie says:

    1. Yeah, after you read the whole series, the library gets them. Or, they don’t. No library within 50 miles (that I can search, anyway) carries my last foray into the book store. The sad part when it comes to cheapness? All but maybe 30 pages of well over 600 can be accessed free on the ‘net…it’s not the same thing, though…

    2. I have yet to see a public library with more than a handful of documentary videos. A library with a real video collection would rock. Especially if they carried stuff that wasn’t popular (FI, I recently bought my first full retail priced new in the plastic movie of 2008: Metropolis—would that be library fodder or what?).

    3. Mmm-hhmmm.

    4. Really? All I knew of was SSA and voter stuff. I’ve never asked or looked at bulletins or anything, so chances are some around here do most of that stuff…

    5. Hope for us lost geeks?

    6. Huh, never heard of that, either.

    7. Yeah, but I can only wait so long before I just go to the book store. Wouldn’t the local public library be like the perfect place for the new Penguin Lovecraft books, which account for most every bit of fiction he wrote?

    IoW, YMMV.

  42. Kishi says:

    @consumersaur: Dreadfully wrong.

    Over my lifetime, I’ve read thousands of dollars worth of books from the library- probably easily over $20k. I love the library.

  43. dweebster says:

    These socialist library institutions must die!!! We killed off the Savings and Loans, are working hard on Social Security and putting a lot of energy into resisting single payer healthcare – why allow Reagan’s Cadillac-wielding welfare queen have FREE reading material for her 82 children? Godless!

    Purchase, read once, then throw out. Repeat. Do it for the economy.

    Let the free market $ell us any information we need – companies like Borders Books and TV news should be the sole sources of information materials. Remember: if there’s no meter attached to it, it has no value and the “economy” suffers.

    Sharing freely with your neighbor via a library only kills innocent kittens. Before you visit a library, PLEASE think of the innocent children that will be harmed if they can’t peruse the “books by price” shelf at a local Borders.

  44. infmom says:

    @consumersaur: Yeah, a lot of losers think that way.

    There’s a saying that goes “Libraries will get you through times of no money far better than money will get you through times of no libraries.”

    Just be grateful with all your heart that the public library was invented before the RIAA came along.

  45. infmom says:

    @HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak: Agreed. I could get an LA County library card to go with my LA City, Glendale/Pasadena, and Burbank cards… but it’s not worth it.

    • elisa says:

      @infmom: totally worth it for me…but I’m a library junkie. I do use county & city a lot.

      I replied to heartburnkid’s comment in detail over there though.

  46. ElizabethD says:

    @cerbie:

    Are you kidding? Even our smaller city/town libraries in Rhode Island have extensive collections of current and some esoteric DVDs for loan. East Providence’s main library is terrific in this regard; also Barrington, Warwick, the main Providence library, and even the smaller Rochambeau branch of PPL.

    Those must be some retrograde libraries you’ve visited!

  47. plasticredtophat says:

    My library in Manchester, NH has framed pictures and computer games to rent out, plus all the stuff mentioned above. Its great for my kids, and I have became a better cook, Thank you Library!

  48. jglessner says:

    Unfortunately we only have one decent library in this city and it’s a good 25 minute drive for me into a rather bad area of town to get to it (although the police station is literally right across the parking lot, so there is that).

    It’s kinda sad considering Fresno has around 1 million people (probably more than that they just don’t report on the census). I remember our libraries when I was a kid being WAY better than they are now (and more of them too), thought that may just be the fog of age talking.

  49. xaqdesign says:

    I am banned from my public library for “interfering in a security matter” when my friend was falsely accused of using the Women’s Room instead of the Men’s and also falsely accused of exposing himself to a woman while in there.

    The woman happened to be the head of the library’s fiancee.

    We were both falsely detained, had the police called and were threatened with arrest and banned from the library system in Lancaster, PA County for life because “library Authorities” didn’t/couldn’t get their Sh*t straight.

    The kicker here? It was a homless man who really did it because my friend saw him while he was in the bathroom.
    Jerks. I’ll get my information online.

  50. libbybee says:

    @happysquid: Milwaukee’s library system rocked up until the city of Milwaukee libraries stop letting people put holds on popular music CDs and fiction DVDs. The suburban libraries in the system still let you do so, but you lose out on the Central branch’s awesome media collection and actually have to drive there to get something you want (and no guarantees it won’t be gone by the time you get there).

    I’m currently in the process of getting my masters degree in library and information science (yes, we do need a Masters to get a job as a librarian, and we do more than just look stuff up on Google for you) and I’ve worked in libraries on and off for the last eight years, so I have (almost) nothing but love for libraries in general.

  51. rolla says:

    Queen County library system in NYC is one of the best. Almost always has that book that youre looking for. plus, if its not at the library near you, you can request it thru their online system and they’ll ship the book to that branch near you free of charge. plus, you can renew online. Saved hundreds of dollars in buying books by just checking them out at the library.

  52. Canino says:

    It’s also a great place to meet hot single moms…

    …or to…um…read…yeah that’s it…read!

  53. azntg says:

    @rolla:
    “Queens (Borough) library system in NYC is one of the best. Almost always has that book that youre looking for. plus, if its not at the library near you, you can request it thru their online system and they’ll ship the book to that branch near you free of charge. plus, you can renew online. Saved hundreds of dollars in buying books by just checking them out at the library.”

    Quoted for truth.

    Even the smaller branches (including the one-room Court Square branch, which I believe is the smallest after the Queensbridge branch was replaced by the LIC branch) there are good at acquiring newly released books, CDs and DVDs. They also don’t charge to borrow DVDs.

    Not surprisingly, I believe they were also the #1 in circulation among all the library systems in the United States.

  54. Edinboron says:

    My local library has a good web site where I can search for books and have them sent to my local branch. When the book comes in the branch calls and I pick it up. They also have an electronic resources section on their web site. For a while they had a licensing agreement with Rosetta Stone. I could access the language instruction software from home without having to buy the expensive program.

  55. HogwartsAlum says:

    Man, I love the library. I was reading at a 12th-grade level in 2nd grade, so it was my favorite place as a kid. Thank God my parents never punished me by grounding me from the library; it would have killed me.

    The library where I live now has these cool little card things that go on your keychain, kind of like shopper card tags. I don’t have to drag my purse in there; just have to have my keychain so they can scan it.

    Another thing lots of libraries do that no one mentioned is have book sales. You can score all kinds of used library discard books for amazingly low prices.

  56. cerbie says:

    @ElizabethD: drive about 1100 miles south…

    Aside from occasional building work, I don’t think the library system here has done much over the years outside of the kids sections.

    Nothing against libraries. They just aren’t like DMVs or Post Offices, where every one has about the same stuff.

  57. MrEvil says:

    [sarcasm]Lbraries need to be closed, why should tax-payers have to provide free books for everyone when the free market is more than capable of providing all the books anyone will ever need?

    Crazy liberals and their thinking that knowledge should be free.[/sarcasm]

    At least that’s the tone I get from alot of conservatives these days.

    Personally, I LOOOOOVE the library. There’s lots of information in old books that hasn’t been transferred to the internet and many volumes of knowledge are out of print. So you either have to find someone willing to sell a rare work on eBay or you go to the library.

    If I ever get a trip to imbecile hill, my first stop will be the library of Congress….in fact, I better take a month of vacation because I’ll no doubt want to spend 3 weeks in the LoC.

  58. Anonymous says:

    Previously mentioned, but most libraries spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on databases. These are amazing resources. The Maricopa public library network (Arizona) spends $1.5 million a year across it’s various member libraries. The average instate investment a year is $75,000 but one spends near $500,000.

    I’m currently exploring the development of software that would allow libraries to increase their virtual offerings and put together a piece outlining the project and exploring the offerings that the Maricopa libraries offer (yours probably has something similar) – for example they offer over 30,000 virtual downloads in the form of music, ebooks etc.

    See the post: [citadel-of-light.com]

  59. 108Reliant says:

    When it comes time for a job interview, the local library also has valuable information in the Business section. In there you can generally find any information on the business you are applying for. Inevitably, the question always comes up, “What do you know about our company?” I researched one of my companies before an interview, and absolutely wowed the interviewer. Needless to say, I got the job.

  60. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, resources like hoovers, reference USA, etc. are amazing tools for pulling company information and also for looking up lists of targets to pursue when applying.

  61. PierreAntiphus says:

    As a library director I welcome help in improving the
    library where I work.
    What a joy it would be to have the kind of help described by
    Eyebrows
    McGee above. If your library is lacking in materials or
    services, make an appointment to talk with
    the director about the problems you see. Arrive with some
    possible solutions.
    Here is one for improving DVD collections:
    Have a bake sale. Buying the most popular DVD released each
    month would cost no more than $500 a year.
    Maybe a local business or individual would match whatever is
    raised. Perhaps the library
    has a Friends of the Library organization that would help.
    If you have a big box or membership store nearby,
    see if the store can offer a discount to the library. Do
    the footwork for the library..after you’ve talked with
    the director. Be aware that the library might have a policy
    of not competing with a local video store. Maybe
    the library collection could concentrate on classic films
    that aren’t profitable for the video store. That’s
    how our video collection started. Then the local video
    store went out of business and donated their shelving
    to the library. Now new releases are a part of the library
    budget.

    MHO

  62. @brownie: Depends of where you are in New York City. My neighborhood’s library is so underfunded you’d only find computer books from the Windows 95 era. One a good note, they have videogame nights and I think you can check out videogames.

  63. mamacat49 says:

    Our library system (NC) is great. I can download audio books(I have over 20 on my MP3 player), put stuff on hold online (and see my queue position), renew online–just about everything except actually pick up something or return something. I just schedule a trip when I need to. And I use Library Elf to keep track of it all.
    [www.libraryelf.com]

  64. Quill2006 says:

    For those people who are disappointed in their library’s offerings, please remember that your library is funded by your community; if your community is generally wealthy but your library is poor, there’s something wrong with the library’s funding! You may need to convince your elected officials to support your library in the future. Also, you might try volunteering at the library.

    If your community is generally poor, it’s likely that your library won’t be well funded, because (at least in my area) the library is funded by tax revenue. Once again, though, there are things that can be done to improve the library. Many foundations offer grants for libraries, as do some state governments.

    I can understand that it’s not easy to change something like that on your own, but see if there’s a group working to change the library, or a “friends of the library” group. Or start one of your own! When community officials see that their constituents support the library they feel obligated to give the library more funding; if the library has plenty of funding but lazy staff, complain to the library board of directors. They’re in charge!

    And please don’t let a bad experience at one library affect your willingness to visit others. The quality of a library’s services varies WILDLY from place to place, just like public schools and other public services.

    Also, WorldCat is an online catalog, as has been mentioned before. In some libraries patrons have the ability to request an interlibrary loan through it; in others, the patron has to put a request in to the ILL department instead of doing it directly. Some libraries charge for ILL, others do not.

  65. I have to agree with this. I didn’t use the library for about 15 years and paid an ungodly amount of money for overpriced bookstore books that I would read once and then never read again. Now, I almost exclusively use the library, and it has worked out very well. I have so many books I want to read that I just request them all to be put on hold and there are always some coming available at any given time.

    I do still buy books, usually used, if there is something I really want NOW or if it is something I will use a lot or if it is a collectible kind of thing, but libraries rock.

  66. OgerpJr says:

    a great reason to visit nypl – [www.nypl.org]

    play wii, ps3 and 360! who would of thought.

  67. Michael@ Awareness * Connection says:

    We’ve been tightening the belt a bit, and getting many of my books at the library is one of the first places to cut out some major dough. The movies and music are ones that we’ve been good at using for a long time. Amazing how much one can save with little effort when the times call for it. It’s all the better in a small, very walkable neighborhood like ours. Nice reminder. Nice frugality post.

  68. SuzieBee20 says:

    The San Diego COUNTY library system is great. You can access the database online, request that they deliver books from other county branches to yours at no cost. They get the newest movies in all the time and you can request those as well. Right now there’s no charge to borrow a movie for a week. You can renew stuff online (provided there’s not a hold on it because someone else requested it) and they recently started carrying a small collection of Wii, 360, and PS3 games.

  69. oldheathen says:

    Honestly, one of the reasons I moved away from San Diego was a constituency which happily chose to finance the construction of sports arena after sports arena (handing sweetheart deals to millionaire team owners in the process) yet one which could never quite manage to finance a desperately needed Main Library.

    That dichotomy alone suggests an astonishing lack of vision and culture in “America’s Finest City”.

  70. Rusted says:

    Very good libraries here in NC. What makes a good public library is the public, that’s us.

  71. SinisterMatt says:

    Here in Arlington, TX the Central Public Library is right across the street from the University (UT-Arlington). I’ve always wondered if I request a book from the Public Library at UTA’s library if they would deliver it to the University or if they would make me go get it.

    But yeah, the Public Library is great. They don’t have a lot of the more current stuff (though they do have some stuff), but they do have quite an extensive collection of videos (including a large collection of Star Trek episodes). They have fairly new books as well. They also have this snazzy self-checkout system which rocks. Now if only I can convince the University to come up with something like that…

    Cheers!

  72. JonathanB says:

    Other people mentioned internet access… but don’t forget WiFi. Most libraries offer free wireless access. If you’re traveling and looking for a good hotspot, look for a library.

  73. Kin says:

    Ok, i <3 my local library. I don’t go there so much now I go to my school library (it’s sort of far away) but it was great when I was younger.

    Not just the books, but the librarians were great, and they DO take into consideration (especially for kids) what books to buy. I suggested, they usually got!

  74. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    i lived all over central florida most of my life. i found out that most of the separate systems there would extend privileges to patrons of nearby systems. so i had active cards for seminole county, kissimmee, orlando, polk county and lake county at the same time. orlando and kissimmee extend privileges to people who WORK there but live in other regions as well, just take a driver’s license and a pay stub with your employer’s address to get a card valid for one year. since some of the systems have a limited selection [kissimmee!] it makes a huge difference if you don’t want to wait the two weeks for the ILL

    oh! and the librarians at the kissimmee library had the best idea ever… when books got ‘banned’ by the public school system they would showcase the books in a locked glass display case in the lobby with a sign telling kids that they had to get their parents to check this book out. they told me they had at least one irate parent a week saying they were going to complain to the school board about their kid being told they couldn’t read the ‘little house on the prairie’ series in school [banned for derogatory references to native americans]

  75. jrghoull says:

    8. Watch Pornography In a Public Area I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had people leave with a frown on their face after finding out we dont have the latest issue of Sodomy Today.

    Thanks to the increases made in technology and the and ever falling costs, your local library can serve as a terrific place to watch high quality adult entertainment. While you may be shamed, remember that most libraries stand behind the constitution and as such, will not kick you out due to your sick deviant ways.

    Odd are you are not the only one who is there for that purpose either. So while taking a break, be sure to look over at your fellow perverts screen to see what type of sick twisted sh** they’re into. you may wind up picking up a few useful links, and maybe even, a friend.

    (snickers)

    i go to the public library almost every day and have seen guys checking out porn plenty of time. the computers are stationed right in the room, but it never seems to slow em down.

    oh yeah, fyi, two pieces of very useful information that has helped my family take full advantage of the library. ONE: and this is the most important, make friends with your librarians. The friendlier you are with them, the more leniency you have, and the more they let you get away with. TWO: and this goes with one, be sure to register every single family member for a card. you do that and you’ll be able check things out while you are still looking for that book/movie/cd that you misplaced. note though…you cant do number two, without number one.

  76. girly says:

    A few years ago I tried to figure out if card catalogs (I assume they had them) from the library of congress would be available for purchase from the govt. Never could find anything but I thought they could make cool furniture & probably were phased out…

  77. cheesebubble says:

    The few naysayers who’ve popped up in these comments are sadly misguided. I have nothing but high praise for libraries. They provide a wealth of information that everyone can access. Yes, the internet can be an impressive resource but nothing beats the tangible experience that a library provides. I’m even content to pay an overdue fine, viewing it as a small but helpful financial contribution – to an institution that offers the public huge dividends in resources.

  78. 2cheap2leap says:

    I join those of you who applaud libraries for the invaluable resources and services they provide. For me, the library is a home away from home, a place where I can go just about anywhere without leaving the building.

    I encourage you, if you haven’t already done so, to join your library’s Friends of the Library group. Friends groups exist to help fulfill the needs of the library by raising funds, purchasing collections, helping with reading programs, etc. Plus, it’s a great way to meet others who share your devotion to one of civilization’s great institutions.

    C’mon… share the love.

  79. 2cheap2leap says:

    Hi. I join w/ those of you who applaud the wealth of resources and services offered by our libraries. They are repositories of civilization’s accumulated knowledge and a virtual launching pad for our informed advancement into the future.

    When I’m in the library, w/ no particular endeavor in mind, I relish the feeling that virtually every aspect of our existence and the universe can be explored without ever leaving the building.

    For those of you who can’t get enough of your library, I strongly recommend you become active in your local Friends of the Library group. “Friends” groups provide a valuable service by closing the gap between library needs and available resources. They raise funds to replenish collections, they assist with children’s reading programs, they advertise the many services library’s offer. Friends groups also allow you to work toward a common noble goal w/ others who share your enthusiasm and passion for your library.

    Sure, we support libraries w/ our taxes, but c’mon, we’ve got a lot more love to share.

  80. nsv says:

    @JonathanB: My local library kept me in touch with everybody when I moved. I was having problems with my cell phone and it took a while to get a phone and DSL installed. So for a couple of weeks I took my laptop and parked in the parking lot of the library, sending everyone email to let them know how the move was going.

    It did get me a lot of funny looks, as people walked by my car and tried to see what was on my screen. Sorry, nothing illegal… see here where it says “Dear mom”?

    It worked all night, too. They never shut it down.

  81. cloud-on-a-bike says:

    @jrghoull: As a librarian I just want to let you know that um, yeah, looking at porn at public libraries is illegal, and also, you are disgusting if you really do that, it is a family environment. If you are joking, it was lost on me.

    Also, most libraries now have it set up so that family member’s cards are linked together. I know at my library in particular if a child of a patron has fines over a certain amount, the parents can’t check out either until they have it all paid off. Also, we think it’s hilarious when patrons are told they have a $20 fine and then ask to open a card up for one of their kids all of a sudden. Legally we can’t say no of course, but it’s only a matter of time before that card is racked up with fines too because generally they have no desire to take responsibility for themselves.

    The only thing you said that I’ll agree with is to be friendly to us librarians. We put up with a lot of shit. We have to figure out the book you want when all you know is one word in the title and that it has a dog on the cover. We stand there and take it while you bitch at us about fines and about how you can’t be expected to remember the due date when you lost your receipt. We don’t roll our eyes when you hold up the line making 20 million requests because you say you are “too lazy to do it at home online”. If you are a decent human being to me, I’ll definitely be nice to you back and may even bend some rules once in a while, extend your due dates so you don’t have to renew them on vaccation, etc. If you make me feel like shit I’m gonna make sure you don’t get away with it.

    Sorry if I sound bitter, but all is well because I’m quitting next week. Please just remember to treat your local libraians with a lot of respect, we work really hard for you. Hurrah!

  82. hnkelley says:

    There are so many comments here that I want to respond directly to, but it would be a waste to click on and directly respond to each and every one.

    I work for a public library system in a large metro area. I love my library! I pretty much grew up here and was introduced to the library at a young age. Like another commenter, I was reading at the 12th grade level around grade 2 or 3 (long time ago, not sure exactly), so books have always been key for me. I’m damn proud of my library here and what we provide. Like mentioned in the article, we have so many databases it’s amazing. Go to your local (or even near-by since some systems share directly, not just through ILL) library’s website and see if they have a link for e-resources. Our selection is huge, as is that of many libraries: Biography, genealogy, business, news papers, maps, stats, social sciences, law… the list of e-resources goes on.

    We provide free Internet access with on a number of PCs at each of our branches. Yes, some characters do surf some tasteless sites. If the information is legal, they have access to it. The only caveat is that if a patron or staffer finds the material objectionable, we can ask them not to view it at this time. And, of course, if a child is anywhere near that PC, don’t even think about it! The sessions are reserved (usually in advance, but you can request one on the spot) for one hour each day to try and give each person wanting access their time. (We’re expanding our PC count to make it better still.)

    We provide free WiFi. Like reserving a PC, you just need your library card. For our out-of-town visitors, we can provide a temporary ID. In this way, even visitors can reserve a PC or use the WiFi.

    We also have Express terminals, used for a quick look up of some info, printing out a map, checking your email, or what have you.

    Our collection is ever-changing. We have staff dedicated to selecting books and materials for providing the best value to our patrons. As another person commented, we listen to our patrons’ needs and requests. This collection now includes e-books and downloadable audio books and music!

    We have story time for the kids, movie time for anybody interested, workshops on all kinds of matters, and literacy training for those in need. One of my favorite children educational tools is a homework help system that provides, via the Internet, a live tutor chat session with an interactive whiteboard. It covers all grades up to 1st year college and almost all subjects.

    Most libraries provide some research services via their reference librarians. This can even be accessed via the web by a service called Ask A Librarian. We are looking at possible options for expanding how we communicate with and provide research answers to our patrons even beyond that service. Your local library might have some great options in that regard as well.

    Can you tell I’m proud yet? :) When visiting Budapest a few years ago, I was asked by a cabbie where I work. I told him where, including the name of the library. He had heard of my library and asked if it is as great as he’d been told! Obviously I said yes!

    To some commenters’ complaints:

    Some have complained that their libraries don’t have much, or anything they’re interested in. Tell them what you want to see in your library! I know funding can be an issue. If you want your library to improve, get involved. Not enough money? Try to find a way to get it. Maybe the community cannot afford to raise money the way mine did. Develop a ‘wish list’ and try to get the books and materials donated either from community members who have them and no longer need them, or from outside the community. Long ago, the state of New Mexico had a program (that might still exist) that mailed library books to the ranchers FOR FREE! (I loved that service!) If your library needs help, help it. Find a way.

    Yes, we have a lot of homeless people visiting, along with some people who are not quite right. They’re harmless. The ones who prove not to be are either taught to be better, or taught to not return. My nose is quite sensitive, so I have to really work to not let the lack of bathing that comes with being homeless bother me, but if that’s the worst of it, no worries, I guess.

    Running a modern library does cost. Years ago, we had a crisis. We were forced to cut back hard on open hours. The community responded! A small property tax was passed by popular vote, which has been renewed twice now, to bring our funding back up to the level needed for us to provide our community with the level of service they want from us.

    In short (oops… too late for that), this article is great. It also only scratches the surface of what is available. So, if you haven’t already, check out your local library. Get your library card renewed and get your kids signed up so they can take full advantage of programs like story time, homework help, literacy, and kids book clubs. They WILL thank you for it (it might take a while, but they will).

    The library is like any muscle: use it or lose it. Reading is the greatest way to expand your vocabulary, your mind, your opportunities, and your experiences. The library provides this free!

  83. Angryrider says:

    I L O V E TEH Library. It basically has every bit of entertainment I can’t get off the internets. It’s much better than paying for cable or “renting.”
    If I’m going to spend $5 on a video I’d better be able to keep it!

  84. HaroldBroadway says:

    Agree it’s a great article…except the last item. Not all libraries are so
    friendly or helpful. I’ve had more than one library be all those things
    except the customer service. My current library rarely answers emails, is
    opinionated on what you’re checking out (got more than an earful about
    borrowing Hitchen’s GOD IS NOT GREAT, e.g.), and at times is just hard to
    deal with. I know this is atypical, but all libraries are not created (nor
    staffed) equally. Complaints disappear with a “we’ll look into it” and
    nothing else is heard. Despite that, amazing resource and one of the better
    values for the tax dollar around.

  85. If your library doesn’t have a book you want and you’re willing to wait, you can always request it. :)

  86. carlogesualdo says:

    okay 1) I don’t know any libraries that charge rental fees for anything. Late charges for overdue items maybe… We don’t rent, we loan. and 2) Everyone here on the Consumerist site ought to be really interested in the business sites like Hoovers and Ref USA. I LOVE Ref USA. You can look up the name of the company principals (CEO, president, VP, secretary, treasurer, etc.) and headquarters address. It’s a great way to threaten someone into getting what you want when you’re not getting good customer service. And if your library subscribes to them online (and most of these sources are online these days), chances are good you can access them from home. You just need a password. Call your library.

  87. orlo says:

    Libraries collectively are great, but the downside of inter- library loan is that my library hardly buys anything anymore except 20 copies of the latest Harry Potter book. They also require a library card or ID to use their computers, which no doubt is required by the FBI. Also, wft is with reference librarians? They’d could buy 100s of computers for patrons to search Google with and still save money.

  88. hnkelley says:

    @orlo: It’s funny you mention the Feds as a requirement for using a computer. In a failed effort to cut back on my comment, I took out something very important to your issue.

    The only thing we use the library card (or ID for visitors) for in regards to the computers is to get (and claim/use) a reservation. We have our PCs setup such that when a user logs out, the profile is refreshed completely. No tracks are kept at all. And the reservation system wipes the log of who used the computer nightly. Not only do we do this to protect users from ID theft, we don’t want to be in the business of being police. Period. For that matter, even if we wanted to, it would require a massive investment in time, money, and hardware to keep all that data. For most of us (and the philosophy of my library as I understand it), you have the free right to get what ever information you wish that is legally out there, and we’re not in a position to determine what is or is not legal (with certain obvious exceptions such as nasty stuff with children, and I do have a way of preserving that if I need to and if I find out before the user logs out). We don’t keep a log of who used our WiFi, let alone what they did with it.

    Hell, our database for the books and patrons doesn’t keep any track other than who has what NOW and who was the last to use an item just in case it needs repairs (paid for by the person damaging it). That is it. Nada mas. As I understand it, we forgo certain Fed moneys due to our ‘recalcitrance’ to track more info and keep this data longer. I get this from good sources and should be true, but I can’t swear by it. I do swear by our not keeping track more than the minimum for doing business.

    For this comment, and my previous one, keep in mind that the opinions expressed are my own and not indicative of those held by others at my library, nor the library itself. The statements I made here are true to the best of my knowledge. (I only add this to cover my work-ass should somebody there see my comments and decide I might be slightly incorrect about something.)

  89. MorrisseyTheCat says:

    We have a GREAT library. After watching the “Independent Spirit Awards,” I was interested in seeing several films, so I signed right on to the library’s site. Every film (but one) was either in stock and on order, and I put myself on the request list. Whenever one came in, I got an email & picked it up. I was 500 in line for a couple of them…one I somehow got quickly anyway (I think they ordered a slew more copies), and the other I just happened upon on the shelf. Unbelievably great “free” service (though here we DO more than pay for it in taxes).

  90. MorrisseyTheCat says:

    I just read in the paper that our local library is having a “sleepover” for young girls. How cool would that have been as a kid? I remember staying overnight at a Revolutionary War Fort, and will never forget it… And what child of the 80s hasn’t wished they could stay at the mall overnight? Never even thought about the library. I always wanted to be a librarian like Parker Posey in “Party Girl” but in real life they seem pretty keen on that MLS degree….

  91. whereismyrobot says:

    As a future Librarian, this makes me happy.

    If you want to know how much you save each year, this library calculator is an excellent resource:
    [maine.gov]

    Thank you to all the people who posted about libraryelf. I have books checked out from ALL three libraries in this city, so this will help a lot.

  92. 23221 says:

    Yeah, and let’s not forget if you’re homeless public libraries are a great place to surf for porn, sleep, and urinate on yourself in the chairs.

  93. gina227 says:

    @ElizabethD:

    You’re in RI, right? Which branch of the library has passes for the Boston Museum of Science? As far as I knew, they only have passes for RI attractions, all of which we’ve been to 50 million times. Passes for Boston would be phenomenal.

  94. P_Smith says:

    Don’t forget that libraries also are great historial references, whether it be for work, personal or academic use.

    And as for finding jobs, the poster suggests finding jobs within a library – wrong! Libraries often have a wide array of newspapers from other cities, letting to see jobs that may not be listed at job banks or elsewhere because employers only list them in papers.