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

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Originally appeared in The Consumerist on July 22, 2008

By MG Farrelly

MG Farrelly is a public librarian and has written a list of seven 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 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 its salt offers a summer reading program for kids. Often with prizes, programs, and events all summer long. Libraries also offer story times, 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 and 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 story time 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.