You might think of your local library as just a destination for books, but it's so much more than that. In fact, if you don't yet have a library card, you're missing out — libraries have a slew of resources and offerings. The best part? You don't even have to pull out your wallet to take advantage (unless, of course, you need to get out that new library card).
Exactly what your library has on offer "will depend on its size and funding, which comes in part from taxpayer dollars and donor funds," according to NPR. But in some locations, per NPR, you can do everything from taking a language class to getting complimentary tickets to a local museum to borrowing tools in lieu of a trip to the hardware store.
1. Access to magazines, newspapers and comic books
Books aren't the only item that libraries have on their shelves. You can also eliminate your subscriptions to magazines or newspapers or your comic book habit by relying on your library's no-cost offerings.
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While you can commonly find hard copies at your local branch, you don't even necessarily have to go into the library to take advantage. Digital periodicals "can often be accessed through the PressReader and Flipster apps" that libraries provide access to, The Wall Street Journal highlighted. Meanwhile, "Hoopla, which is owned by library media distributor Midwest Tape, offers more than 25,000 comic books, including the Marvel and DC franchises," and it's working on adding manga titles, too.
2. Streaming services
The library can also be a way to stream TV shows, movies, music, and more, all for free. Just keep in mind that "you may not get Netflix or Disney+ with a library card, but you can access other streaming services for free," noted AARP. For instance, one commonly offered video streaming service is Kanopy, where "you can find everything from Criterion Collection classics to modern movies, and the service is well-known for its documentaries," according to The Ascent, a Motley Fool service.
3. Tutoring and homework help
"Your library card may grant you access to free online help from expert tutors or Tutor.com, which offers live one-on-one homework help for students in K-12 and higher education," reported NPR. You may even be able to access resources to prepare for standardized tests, ranging from the SAT and ACT to the GRE, LSAT, MCAT, and MAT.
4. Museum and state park passes
Want to visit a museum or state park but don't feel like covering the cost of entrance? Once again, your local library could come in handy, as some provide passes that let you get in for free. "The places covered vary by library, but art, history and children’s museums are often on the list," said AARP. When it comes to state park access, you can often "check out the daily park passes like a book, and once you’ve enjoyed your day sightseeing, hiking or simply taking in nature, you return the passes to the library."
5. 'Out-of-the-box' borrowing
In the advice of NPR, "before you buy something, see if you can borrow it from the library." "Video games, musical instruments, board games. Some libraries have bakeware collections where you can get baking pans," Mychal Threets, the supervising librarian at the Fairfield Civic Center Library in Fairfield, Calif., told NPR.
Other possible findings at the library can include "power tools," "stargazing gadgets," "sewing machines," and "bocce ball sets," reported AARP.
6. Social services
Your library can also be a resource when it comes to your career, your taxes, and money, among many other areas. According to the Journal, "libraries provide many other free services, such as providing legal forms, tax advice, and individual financial coaching," and some may even "let you research your heritage using Ancestry, or provide access to investment research." Other possible resources your library may offer include computer literacy courses, help with job applications and preparation for interviews, and U.S. citizenship exam prep, per NPR.
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