Free Stuff You Can Find At The Library

When you think of libraries, you think of book shelves. Well, book shelves and creepy dudes on computer terminals. But there is also a whole bunch of publicly-funded free stuff you can use and borrow if you know what to look for.

MSN Money identifies several little-known freebies that libraries tend to offer. Here are some of my favorites:

*Periodical searches. Somehow, things were actually written before the internet existed, and not all of this writing has been digitized and slapped up online. That’s where library periodical searches come in, helping you find newspaper and magazine stories from those ancient times.

*Genealogy database access. The story says libraries commonly allow you to search genealogy programs for free that you might have to pay to access at home.

*Movies. As DVDs become cheaper, libraries’ collections continue to grow. Libraries’ ever-improving movie selections may well have helped drive the stake into the hearts of video rental stores.

What’s your favorite free stuff to cop at libraries?

13 things that are free at the library [MSN Money]


Edit Your Comment

  1. stock2mal says:

    I recently found my library’s graphic novel section hidden back by the newspapers and magazines, it’s awesome! I have Netflix, so I no longer get free movies from the library :(

    • whitecat says:

      I researched the history of my 120-year-old house at the library. They have old city plat maps, phone books, census forms, building permits, property records and newspaper articles on microfiche. I found out that my house once had outbuildings in back (a stable and a shed), how many times it was built onto, which part of the house is oldest, the names and professions of the people who built it and lived in it. Turns out the room I use as a bedroom was once a cobbler’s shop with a big display window and separate door, now bricked in.

  2. Hi_Hello says:

    I have mix feeling about the dvd movies. While I think it’s nice to be able to get free movies from the library. IT use to be a time when the movies were educational…

    You also can get copies of stuff that the library doesn’t have but can get access from. Like a newspaper that a different branch has. And it’s free!! you don’t have to pay for the copies or shipping fee

    • stock2mal says:

      All movies are educational if you think about it. One can learn a lot about making cinema by watching a film. I don’t think DVDs are a big deal considering how much trash the library has in the way of books. Trashy romance novels, anything by Sarah Palin, books are just as bad. I will take my copy of Human Centipede and call it a day.

      • edcrowle says:

        Indeed. Libraries are about public access to media, whether one thinks it’s educational or not.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I agree. If everything had to be educational, we wouldn’t have fiction or graphic novels, either. I think my world would have broadened significantly as a child if I had access to graphic novels and comic books at the library and didn’t have to ask my parents to buy me comic books.

    • 5seconds says:

      Unless you insist on all books being ‘educational’ too, I don’t see the argument. If a library can carry the Harry Potter books, why think that they shouldn’t also carry the Harry Potter movies?

  3. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    I didn’t know that about geneology research. I’ll have to try that at my local library. Thanks, Consumerist!

  4. Blueskylaw says:

    “What’s your favorite free stuff to cop at libraries?”

    Pens, pencils, copy paper I pull from the copy machine, fossils and minerals
    from their featured display and books and videos I hide in lead lined bags

    • Hoss says:

      But pilfering etiquette says don’t take the last roll of toilet paper…

      • Blueskylaw says:

        Not the last roll of course, but the hand paper is fair game.

        My reply was meant as a somewhat sarcastic/humourous response to Phil’s always asking a question at the end of his post.

  5. You Can Call Me Al(isa) says:

    I currently have 3 movies out from the library! It’s better than video rental stores to get old movies.

    My library also has foreign language learning resources. I have yet to try them out.

    • You Can Call Me Al(isa) says:

      I’m glad you posted this article, though. To remind me of that service. I want to go to Russia soon and I forgot all about the library resources!

    • Jevia says:

      Not all libraries have free DVDs. My local library charges $1 for DVD check out, limited to 3 days.

      Yeah, its not a lot, but I tell you, the stress sometimes I have trying to find where my kids have put the DVD (and box) on the day I have to turn it in or be fined $1/day is sometimes not worth it compared to Netflix.

  6. crescentcityblues says:

    Advocacy Time!

    I just want to chime in and say that if you don’t urge your local politicians to stop cutting libraries, you’ll lose all of this. As it is, library budgets are at an all time low. Support your local library!

    • stock2mal says:

      You dumbass, libraries are FREE, they don’t need funding. Just ask Glenn Beck.

    • Erika'sPowerMinute says:

      I support my local library by using it! My kids and I are there at least weekly; we check out all kinds of materials (books, books on CD, movies, everything), a volunteer group I’m part of uses the community meeting space, and we show up for craft and story times. The library keeps careful records of how much the community makes use of these various offerings which helps them make their case to the city for continued funding. So far so good; our city library system is fabulous!

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I wish I volunteered more. It’s just really hard when you don’t have a car and where you want to volunteer isn’t exactly public transportation friendly.

        • caradrake says:

          I tried to volunteer at my local library a year ago. I couldn’t volunteer there 20+ hours a week, so they didn’t want me. Sad. :(

          • pecan 3.14159265 says:

            My branch was pretty desperate for a volunteer who could do the things it needed a volunteer to do. Apparently they had a lot of volunteers who could move boxes, catalog books, and sort stuff, but no one could really work the database. I’m really computer savvy so they thought they had a miracle worker, but the few times I called to ask when I could come in to volunteer, they were too understaffed and busy to train me to manage the database. It’s what happens when you fire librarians and rely on volunteers …who need to be trained by librarians…

    • sponica says:

      the morons in my town decided that instead of paying an extra tenth of a percent per thousand dollars of their home valuation they wanted to raid the fund set aside to buy a new building for the library.

      I realize in suburbia the homes are huge and kids have a place in their homes to do homework….but I live in my mom’s teeny condo and wanted a quiet place to prep for my GREs. No such luck at the library. The building is so small it doesn’t have any quiet reading rooms or tables anywhere to do the prep work.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        It depends. I used to live in suburbia and the libraries were packed with people every time I went to pick up books. Lots of kids, parents, people studying, tutoring, etc.

      • whereismyrobot says:

        Many libraries have study rooms. Ask if yours does as well.

        • sponica says:

          when I say teeny, I mean teeny….it’s about twice the size of the Mobil Mart across the street from it.

          I don’t live in the most enlightened town in the world though. someone asked at the town meeting two years ago “why do we need libraries today? isn’t that what the internet is for?”

          • jessjj347 says:

            To be honest, I don’t see anything wrong with that question. Seems like a good discussion topic.

    • evnmorlo says:

      Most libraries are bloated. Sorry, several people getting paid at the master’s degree-level are not needed to help people reboot a computer or checkout a DVD

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Clearly, you have no idea what librarians really do. They don’t just help people check out DVDs. Actually, from my experience volunteering at the library, some of those people at the front desk are volunteers.

        Librarians manage the database of books and work on the efficiency of the system. A large county handles a dozen or more branches and books are constantly being routed from location to location. Librarians have to handle the flow of the books and make sure that they’re scanned, cataloged, and ready for patrons.

        They also have to separate books that are too old or damaged to be put back into circulation, manage the acquisition and budgeting to replace old or damaged books, and plan ahead for new releases.

        It’s quite a balancing act to figure out just the amount of each book you need to handle the amount of patrons and also balance the necessity of meeting patron demand. Just because tons of people want to read Freakonomics doesn’t mean a library system can justify buying more copies of Freakonomics because it’s a nonfiction book that might not be relevant in three years, long before the book itself falls apart or has to be replaced. By then, another edition will be out.

      • stock2mal says:

        You really have no idea how little librarians (with master’s degrees) make yearly. Master’s degree does not = $$$$

      • kristinabeana says:

        I made more money selling fragrance at the mall than I did when I first earned my MLIS. I now operate a medical library and make only a bit more. Public libraries in my area have very few employees that earn a high salary, and those folks usually manage multiple branches spread across a county, are in charge of budgets and collection development. Librarians do not go into it for the money!

    • jesusofcool says:

      I love my municipal library and I intended to make a donation to it this year around the holidays in thanks for being so darn useful and friendly, but right or wrong, I changed my mind because of some gripes I have with the city. I’m a renter in the Boston area, planning on staying through my year lease. I use little public services and pay through the nose in rent because I’m absorbing my landlord’s insane property taxes. Yet between inane parking permit costs and restrictions, crazy high tax on my ancient car and other assorted BS, I feel I’ve paid almost as much as a permanent resident property owner and yet my city treats renters like utter crap. I figure at this point, after all the money sucking the city’s done, I deserve one useful benefit.

    • Darkneuro says:

      I do support my local library. As a matter of fact, my loverly little town is getting ready to do a $6.5 to 7mil expansion :)

  7. crescentcityblues says:

    And also, give your local library your old books and movies! Trust me, they’ll take anything…

    • You Can Call Me Al(isa) says:

      I donate all of my used books to the library! Some of them were brand new. I saw a few of the used ones at their most recent “Friends of the Library” sale.

      • haggis for the soul says:

        I’ve donated hundreds of books to my local library over the years. I love going to their sales, reading the books and then recycling them back into the next season’s sale.

  8. Montaigne says:

    Our library carries garden/yard tools that you may check out for a week. It is really nice since I rent, but have a garden where I then don’t have to spend extra money on things I only use once in a while.

  9. MonkeyMonk says:

    My old library had huge collections of Xbox 360 and PS3 games that you could borrow for a week at a time. It was awesome. This was one of the biggest things I missed when we moved last year.

    • Hoss says:

      In an age when the schools supply pair minimum – meaning a seat and a teacher — public libraries are buying games? Sounds like an odd priority…

      • Nobody can say "Teehee" with a straight face says:

        I’d say it’s more likely they were donated, and Libraries would love to get anything in there that draws more people inside to see their other services. Especially kids.

        • MonkeyMonk says:

          I thought that at first too but they used to get 1-2 copies of all the new releases within a week of release. I can’t imagine what the budget for them was.

          The library was in Lisle, IL (near Naperville) and was incredibly fancy. They also had a DVD selection that rivaled most video stores and you could even rent framed artwork to hang on your walls for special occasions.

  10. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    My library system offers discussion groups, book clubs, ESL training, and author events. All of this is extremely helpful with such a diverse population (Northern VA). Lots of immigrants don’t really have a connection to the community outside their ethnic or social group and as a result, are less integrated with the public services that are beneficial to them, like ESL classes. Many of them didn’t even know that counties in the area list on their library homepages what languages are spoken at that branch and what books are available in different languages.

    I definitely support the library because it was my second home when I was a kid. I think a lot of kids nowadays would stay out of trouble more often if they read more and went to the library instead of the mall.

    • Alter_ego says:

      As someone who works in a mall, I support this opinion

    • Jevia says:

      I wish my local library was open enough for my kids to hang out there. Three days a week, M-W its open till 9, but Thursday only to 6, Friday to 5. Saturday has four hours 10-2 and its closed on Sundays. Thanks budget cuts and refusal to raise taxes on the businesses and rich people.

  11. sponica says:

    museum passes! our libraries have annual passes to the area museums.

    • ScarletsWalk says:

      This is my favorite part. I wouldn’t be able to afford the things we get to do if we didn’t get free/discount passes.

  12. citking says:

    I use my library’s online databases to read Consumer Reports. I used to subscribe but even for a non ad-funded periodical it was just too danged expensive. When I found out that I could read Consumer Reports online through our library for free that sealed the deal.

    I do still participate in the car raffle though so I don’t feel too bad!

  13. RedOryx says:

    I’m a librarian so this warms my little bookworm heart. Consumerist, you rock.

    • kristinabeana says:

      Me too! And my state offers access to users both in the library and through the internet (once you have gone in person to sign up for an account to: ebrary, NetLibrary, access to databases such as ERIC and CINAHL, Wall Street Journal Online, NovelList, and more. Pretty sweet!

      • stranger than fiction says:

        Thanks for the tip. I finally clicked that teeny “online databases” link on my library portal. Genealogy, PubMed, car repair(!)… who knew?

  14. Portlandia says:

    Also many library’s have extensive CD collections. When I lived in Naperville, IL they had one of the best library systems in the nation (won national awards) I borrowed a couple hundred over the years and expanded my music collection.

  15. Mike says:

    My library is more like a homeless shelter with books.

  16. haggis for the soul says:

    Books, movies, music, our library has it all. We can also download books straight from the online catalog.

  17. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    I just picked up a Spanish lesson disc/book combo (will probably get another of them soon), and they also have a hookup to an online language course vendor called “Mango.”

    I’m going to a wedding is Spain in September and I’d like to be able to say more than “cerveza por favor” and “no habla Espanol” when I get there…

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Make sure you find a book or something that differentiates between Spanish in Spain and Spanish in Mexico. There are some slight differences that might help you understand when someone is speaking to you.

  18. haggis for the soul says:

    I also love my local library’s archive section, all the local newspapers from the early 20th century. They also provide display space for locals to show off collections/historical artifacts. It’s a great community center.

  19. corkdork says:

    Electronic books; many libraries offer books via ePub for loan to patrons.

  20. brinks says:

    I keep forgetting that the library even exists. I would have loved to go rent a movie when my Netflix discs were still in transit over the last long weekend, or had some CDs for the last long drive to visit relatives. I know you can pay for this stuff, but I’m usually close to broke.

  21. DePaulBlueDemon says:

    I’m a librarian. Free stuff at the library: reference help, reader’s advisory, music, video games, databases (including Consumer Reports: wink, wink), computer classes, ESL classes, live music, live performances of all kinds, computer access, WiFi, museum passes, coupons/t-shirts for completing Summer Reading programs, directory assistance.

  22. tralfaz says:

    The library closest to my work gives away free pets.

    (as in lice, due to the place being filled with homeless people)

  23. JulesNoctambule says:

    No movies available at ours; we moved from a place with a rich selection of films and tv shows plus more CDs than the average Borders, but here the staff looked at me like I was crazy when I asked. Given that the libraries can barely afford to buy new books or even stay open after deep financial cuts, I can understand the lack.

  24. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    my local library doesn’t have dvds but they do have park and museum passes you can check out.
    i use the hardcopy books, the ebooks, the interlibrary loan service to get books they don’t have in the system here [sometimes those books even turn out to be from the next state over!] and i use the WorldCat database – the online database i can use from home with my login for the library. it includes historical documents, science publications, the user manual for my friend’s car [my car seems to be too new] and so much stuff i haven’t even begun to look at

  25. kethryvis says:

    One tip about the movies; my (former) local library system’s DVDs were often pretty scratched, especially the ones from the children’s part of the library. However, they all had very nifty industrial-strength DVD cleaners. So if you get one that’s scratched, don’t just return it and not say anything. Take it to the counter and tell one of the folks working there so they can clean it.

    Also, PLEASE support your local libraries. The County system here in my area is now charging any patron who isn’t a resident of an unincorporated area, or a resident of any of their nine service areas, $80 a year to utilize the County system, in response to budget cuts at the state level. The County system is vastly superior to my City system, so I’ve been patronizing it since working in the system last year. But $80 to use the library i’m already funding with my tax dollars seems a bit much (and while i’m not exactly a starving grad student anymore, $80 for public library usage seems a little much to me). It’s bad enough that the only reason that system has hours on Mondays is because of donations from the public. Our libraries are at a huge crossroads right now, and i fear it’s not long before we don’t have them anymore.

  26. mmwm says:

    99% of the books I read come from the public library — the books they don’t have in my local library come to me through interlibrary loan — and about 90% of the dvds I watch are from either the public library or the excellent college library nearby. Why pay for these things unless you plan to watch or read them more than once or twice?

  27. jbandsma says:

    Our main library also allows you to borrow art work…prints, paintings, lithographs, etc

  28. pixiegirl says:

    My library is awesome I even have friends in neighboring towns who come to my towns library after taking them there. We have the usually dvd’s, cd’s, newspapers, magzines, video games, and tons of computers hat everyone likes to use. They also have tons of classes held there every month. The kids section you can actually barrow toys, yes toys! It also has a outdoor playground and tons of stuff for them to play with indoors, tons of kids programs as well. They also have Ebooks and you can DL music online for free too. Tons of private study rooms/conference rooms. A awesome reading room with tons of sofas and a fireplace.

  29. Annoyed says:

    I have no idea where a library is. I used to go to my college library all the time to study but not for many of their resources, thats why there is internet. I dont remember ever going to a public library. I think thats weird.

  30. meaniepants says:

    Our public library system in St. Louis offers a number of free computer classes. I just took two Microsoft Excel refresher classes. There are classes for internet job searching, Microsoft programs, clip art, etc. There’s also a weekly film series for senior citizens, exercise classes, and a concert series. Our library is awesome!

  31. DeathByCuriosity says:

    My favorite library exploit? Reading newspaper archives for free. I can do historical research without having to pay the hefty archive subscription fee to the local newspaper conglomerate. I can also do this from the comfort of my own home without having to go to a physical archive with a toddler in tow.

    The other thing I love to do is use interlibrary loan to have books and microfilm from archives across the country brought right to me. I requested some microfilm from an archive in Washington DC and looked through it at my local library.

    Also, as an aside, reserve lists are awesome. Anytime I find a book that I’d like to read, I add it to my online reserve cart. When I’m ready to read it, I can just request it. I also used this to get on the waiting list for The Hunger Games trilogy. I would have NEVER been able to get those books without getting on the list, and being able to make those arrangements from home with their online system (rather than making extra trips to the library to place requests) was a HUGE timesaver.

    I honestly do not know why some people don’t use library services more often. It’s awesome!

  32. delicatedisarray says:

    I work in an academic library. We have a lot of stuff for check out that people don’t realize we have. Yes, we have books. We also have a massive graphic novel section. We check out cds, dvds, blueray, iPods, cameras, different types of recording devices, kindles and more. We also have pod cast stations, graphic design stations, green screen rooms, and things of that sort. Tack onto that our multitude of databases and other online/digital resources. The historical library has an incredible collection- 2nd portfolio Shakespeare, the only complete first edition of Don Quixote in America, a science fiction collection that is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world. It is really quite amazing what we offer, we’ve been running a large “campaign” on campus to get out the word of all the spiffy stuff we have available to the community. It has been bringing people in and it is really great to see people in the library for reasons other than sleeping on our super comfy couches.

  33. Mossie says:

    My local library also gives out prescription discount cards.

  34. alilz says:

    My local library has
    1. museum passes to check out. It usually for 1 person but some are for a family to local museums and a few parks.

    2. Travel bags – bags for regional destinations that include maps, travel guides, and other information about the various locations

    3. Learn a language on their website. It’s free with a library card and I think there are 20 different langagues.

    4. Lego club! Twice a month people of all ages can go and make things with Legos.

  35. majortom1981 says:

    I am an it guy at a library. You can take out blu-rays,dvds, play aways (audio books that come on their own devices to listen to), and even video games.

    We do have access to the geneology websites that you would normally have to pay for. Most local libraries also have really old books that you cannot find. I work at a library from the 17 and 1800’s and we have a whole section of local ny state history and other local books that cannot be found.

    We have free esl and computer learning classes. Even how to cook classes.

    Also FREE WIFI

  36. CorvetteJoe says:

    Our favorite freebie (well not really free, your county/etc taxes pay for it, so why not use it?) is the free delivery to your door. The only time we goto the library is to return a stack of read books. Everything else we do is online, then they just deliver them throughout the week as they become available. We also request books they don’t even have, which they then purchase and ship straight to us as the first readers of that book :)

  37. Yorick says:

    I regularly borrow, from my local branch and thru inter-library, books, graphic novels, CDs, DVDs, audiobooks, and magazines. This library also has free wifi, numerous work areas, conference rooms, a historical archive, movies once a week (of the type that the chain theater at the mall would never carry), music events, children’s programs, and you have various librarians to ask research questions of, and most of them are friendly.

    One thing I don’t like is when they do fund-raising miniature golf in the library. I’m sure it’s fun for the participants but it’s rather difficult to get a book that’s in the middle of the third fairway.

  38. bmused says:

    If you check out fiction and a chapter or two into the book you decide it’s not for you, you can return it, so there isn’t that feeling of “well, I paid for this book, maybe I’ll continue even though I don’t like it.” When I travel (especially by air, I like to have a non-battery/non electricity dependent reading option.
    ALSO many libraries provide repositories of local history.

  39. Hands says:

    I’m an avid audiobook listener, always during a workout or a bike ride, which is typically 75 to 90 minutes. My local libraries {fairly big city; at least 6 branches within reasonable driving distance} have a large collection of books on CD, which I rip to mp3s and keep on the computer until I’m ready for them. There’s also free access to Netlibrary and Overdrive for downloadable books.

  40. unimus says:

    Video games – PS3, 360, Wii, you name it. The waiting list is pretty long for most games, but the games are actually pretty up-to-date. I’m not going bother due to the wait, but I was utterly impressed when I saw it at my local library.

  41. MacGyver says:

    The Ottawa Public Library lends out Kill-A-Watt meters.

  42. qwill says:

    My library has homeless people, teenagers(it is directly across the street from a middle school), vanloads of developmentally disabled adults and surly librarians (you can’t really blame them). But I still love the library. I request books every week and DVDs ocassionally. Takes about a year to get a recent release and don’t bother with the kids dvd’s, they are all scratched and trashed. But I would never wish to actually spend time there. It is noisy, stinky and generally unpleasant.

  43. BytheSea says:

    Free family passes to museums, the zoo, and other stuff to do.