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13 things that are free at the library

You'll be amazed to know that so many things you're paying for are now available at no charge at your local branch.

By MSN Money Partner Jun 23, 2011 4:07PM

This post comes fromLinda McMaken at partner site Investopedia.


If it has been a few years or a few decades since you've ventured into your local library, you're going to be very surprised by what you find. No longer are these dusty institutions of quiet corners, musty books and stern librarians. They are home to bestsellers, coffee carts, teen rooms, community, and civic gatherings.


Libraries offer computer classes, baby-sitting workshops, tutoring programs and literacy programs, most of which are free, or are offered at a nominal fee. Not all services mentioned in this article are available at every library, but it's worth finding out if your local library offers a similar option. (For some books that you might be interested in, check out "10 books worth investing in.")  

Books. Libraries are known for books, offering fiction and nonfiction hardbacks, paperbacks and e-books. The e-books can be downloaded into nearly any format to fit your computer, e-reader or other device. The downloaded books will expire at the end of their loan period so no returns necessary. Overdrive is one provider of download services to libraries. Take a look to see how simple it is.

  • If you buy: The cost of an average hardcover book is $18.99, an average children's picture book is $12.99, an average paperback book is $6.99 and an e-book download is between 99 cents and $9.99.

Magazines and newspapers. Magazine titles from Reader's Digest to Vogue to Hot Rod, including back issues, are available for loan. Local newspapers and The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times and others are available for reading in the library.

  • If you buy: The average cost of a magazine (monthly) is $5.99 and the cost of an average newspaper subscription is $60 per year.

Music and audiobooks. Music CDs from classical to rock 'n' roll are waiting. If you need music for a children's party, wedding, anniversary or just listening while relaxing, you can find it here. If you prefer your music downloadable, libraries offer MP3 downloads with a limited loan period. You can also check out audiobooks on every subject for your commute to work, for waiting on your kids at various sports practices or to listen to while you walk.

  • If you buy: The average cost of a music CD is $10.99. The average cost of an audiobook is $21.99.

Periodical searches. If you are a high school or college student, you will be required to cite sources, footnote your thesis, or find some obscure fact for a class. If you find you need an article that appeared in Time magazine on global warming from 2004, the library will have it on a database. The only cost would be for print/copies. Here's a quick look: EBSCO Periodical Search. Post continues after video.

Librarian access 24/7. If you can't find the answers you need, libraries await your question. In Ohio, they have Know it Now (your local libraries will have different names for this feature) which gives 24/7 access to an online research librarian.


Internet and Wi-Fi. You can have free Internet access and Wi-Fi; all you need is a library card. Be aware that most libraries utilize "censoring" programs for juvenile users, and parental consent may be required to use the Internet.

  • If you buy: The averagecost of Internet service is $22 monthly.

Movies and other DVDs. Libraries offer children's movies like "Sponge Bob," "The Magic School Bus" and Disney movies, informational DVDs from National Geographic and the Travel Channel, how-to instructional videos, and major motion pictures.

  • If you buy: The cost of an average movie DVD is $12.99, and $3.99 for a DVD rental.

Foreign language instruction. Traveling abroad on business or vacation? Check out the free foreign language learning databases. Using a service from BYKI, patrons can choose to learn more than 70 languages. Their interactive learning site offers individual learning, flash cards, and words of the day.


Job preparation. Learning Express enables you to study for hundreds of tests including civil service, military entrance exams, SAT, ACT, MSAT, and LSAT. You will find practice tests at all levels. You can practice, save your test, see your results and try again -- all for free.


Find your family history. For family genealogists, libraries offer free access to search programs such as, and These databases usually require you to search in the library, but some libraries will allow you to search from home after logging in with your library card number. Some libraries also have research librarians and genealogists on staff to assist with your search.

  • If you buy: The cost of an online genealogy membership is $25 monthly.

Resources for parents. The library is a significant resource for parents. Where else could your children find a free summer program that encourages reading, allows them to take home armloads of books free and usually gives them prizes for encouragement? As part of many summer programs, authors, wildlife experts and a myriad of others drop by to share their special knowledge.


Auto repair and other databases. For those who don't like to read for recreation, there are free practical databases in auto and truck repair provided by ARRC, reference databases such as Kelley Blue Book, Antiques Weekly and Standard & Poor's.


Other free services. Many libraries have a notary on staff (there may be a fee for notary services), offer tax forms, have dedicated Internet computers to the IRS and Social Security sites, voter registration forms, test proctoring and fax services. Larger metropolitan libraries offer passport processing.


The bottom line
Obtaining a library card is simple. Visit the library, fill out a card application, present identification, and you have instant, free access to a world of information. Check out your local library for some amazing programs and unbeatable bargains this summer.


More on Investopedia and MSN Money:

Libraries are the best deal around. I discovered them when I was about 5 years old...and I am still using them 70 years later!
Jun 23, 2011 10:40PM

***Smile   HAVE YOU CHECKED OUT YOUR LIBRARY LATELY? IT'S NOT LIKE IT WAS WHEN WE WERE KIDS! Libraries are AWESOME! Our family uses the library all the time. Especially right now with money so tight.


We have been to tons of programs at the library. Our library has FREE special activities EVERY DAY for kids ages 5 - 17 when they get out of school at 2:30. Our 2 schools are within walking distance to our library. Our Teen Room is open the same hours as the rest of the library (55 hours/week) & there's many activities for our kids to do this summer: go cart derby / rock concerts / video gaming / chess competition / dance competition / minute-to-win-it type competition / rap concerts / as well as "Help Our Community" days where the teens get together to help the elderly in our town - yard work, housework, spending time reading out loud or playing board games, etc.  


Not only can we get books on ANY subject: Motorcycles, Cookbooks, Gardening, But we can also get DVD's, Museum Passes, VIDEO GAMES, download audio books, read any magazine I want, tons of programs for kids, teens & adults, & we can reserve any item that's not on the shelf! I LOVE that the kids can try out a VIDEO GAME for free & it saves me $60 (especially if they end up not liking it - how many games have you bought your kids that they NEVER play?) My husband listens to music discs we've borrowed & ALSO Books On Disc for his long commute to work every day.


I've recently borrowed some of the workout DVD's trying to get motivated to lose a few pounds before we go on our summer vacation to the beach. I've also gone to the BIG bookstores to find the latest cookbooks, novels, etc & then instead of buying them I BORROW THEM FOR FREE! Smile

Jun 23, 2011 9:59PM

Never had a problem with finding a library.  Even in rural NH, the library in the next town is well worth the under fifty dollar fee.  After all, the library is supported by local tax money.  The library is one of those things - everyone living in the states have available.

I can't imagine a library charging 200 - 500 dollars. 

Jun 24, 2011 9:23AM
I use our library every day except Sunday. If i am out of town i use whatever library is available. Read newspapers, magazines, computers but best of all just relax in a nice comfortable chair. Thank goodness for librarys.. I also never read the many negative posts that appear here as i can listen to those by watching any news show.  
Jun 24, 2011 9:18AM
There was a library next door to the dentist my parents took us 7 kids. I always tried to be the first in to the dentist so I could spend more time at the library later. I remember the librarian telling my mother that she thought we were very well behaved and were always welcome.
Jun 24, 2011 7:30AM
over the years i have saved a lot of money on auto repair.even if i didn't do the work myself .at least i knew what most "jobs" entailed.thus no b s in the quotes.
Jun 23, 2011 9:17PM
I LOVE libraries, but after 50 years or so I just found out if you move into an unincorporated area, your library service will no longer  be free!  It will now cost you between $200 & $500 PER YEAR (depending on the library) for far more limited service. ie. you may not have online access for database perusal or e-book downloads even after paying this exorbitant fee!
Jun 23, 2011 11:00PM
Public libraries are good ONLY if people behave themselves! Librarians are not security guards, nor do they know it ALL! Rude tourists shout at librarians for not letting them access internet if they can't provide id; indigents and others **** on the floors,piss in the stacks; staff egos and gossip are often overheard by customers and shouldn't be; people stink and don't always clean up before using the library and, in some cases, going to work! "If they asked me, I could write a book--" --lol--
Jun 23, 2011 9:58PM

I won't go so far as to take libraries for granted, because libraries can be a safe haven for the homeless and illegal aliens. And, the condition of the material at a library is contingent upon those who use it. Quite simply, "Tragedy of the Commons." Nonetheless, I do recommend using the local library and encourage others to do the same.

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