(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you’ll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)
We all know keeping ourselves occupied in downtime is important. Not only is it stimulating, fun, and gives us something to do, but it can also help keep mental health problems, like depression, at bay. With so many people needing to stick to a budget these days, too, libraries are the perfect haven for entertainment on a dime.
Just a few stats to get us started.
Did you know there are more public libraries in the United States than McDonald’s locations? I didn’t either, but with nearing 17,000 branches nationwide, there are a few thousand more libraries than there are McDonald’s. Over half the American population has a library card, and it’s said that the average American borrows eight books a year.
“Why are libraries so important? They’re dated and going out of fashion anyway.”
This thought is something that many folks have, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Libraries are amazing at keeping up with the times and are always growing and evolving. Almost 90% of public libraries offer free internet access to guests, and over 90% have resources to help people with finding jobs. Everything from resume building to interview tips and more is offered at your local library.
Libraries are also a great place for activities and programs for all ages, but I’ll get more into that later.
Borrowing physical books and more
When you think of a library, the first thing that comes to mind is books, right? Well, me too, and there’s a good reason for that. It is what a library is both known for and began with, right?
But, the catalog doesn’t stop at just books. Many libraries also carry magazines, newspapers, DVDs, CDs, audio books on CDs – and some have even started carrying video games! They truly do know how to keep up.
Virtual books and audio books
While I do love a good book (I am an avid reader after all), I sometimes struggle to find time to actually go to the library. That’s where Overdrive comes in! Overdrive is a phenomenal website and app for smartphones and tablets. I found out about Overdrive back when I was in college, and it has been my best friend ever since.
For all intents and purposes, Overdrive is basically a digital library connected to public libraries. All you need is a library card, and with a large number of public libraries in Canada and the USA connected, you can log in and start borrowing eBooks and audio books right to your phone or computer.
It is incredibly easy to use and works just like a library. Each book can only be checked out to one person at a time, and after the set time (usually three weeks), it is automatically returned, so you don’t even have to worry about late fees. Though it is totally possible to renew them for longer, as well as place a hold on a book that’s already checked out.
Internet and computers
Like I said previously, a majority of public libraries now offer free internet, and many even have computers you can use to browse the internet, check emails, pay bills, and anything you feel like using it for. With this capability, families with tight budgets can access things they may not have had otherwise.
I remember I spent one summer at the library for hours a day, often working on my online course and some projects. That’s hours of free internet and office space I received – and you can too – that only requires walking through a front door to access.
Clubs, events, and activities
Now, some of this is going to vary, with covid being what it is, but most, if not all, public libraries offer programs for people of all ages. Here are just some of the activities your local libraries might be offering;
- Kids arts and crafts programs
- 3D printing
- Programs to help find work
- Book clubs (for all ages!)
- Lego or robot building
- Events with authors (the first time I met my favorite author was at a public library!)
- Writing classes
- Classes or tutoring to help work technology
- Aid with filing taxes
- And many other programs geared towards everyone from toddlers to seniors.
A safe place
And last but certainly not least, public libraries are a safe place. Over the years, libraries have striven to better their communities and be a safe haven for all. When you walk through those doors, it doesn’t matter the color of your skin, your gender, your orientation, or your financial standing. A library will take you where you are at, help you where they can, and give you a peaceful environment where you don’t have to worry about judgment or bills you can’t afford.
There are endless possibilities
With libraries, there are a plethora of options for activities and things to do. They are absolutely fantastic and make an amazing resource and source of entertainment, especially if you’re on a budget. People may downplay libraries, but in my mind, there is nothing better than one of these beauties supporting their local community. Not sure where your closest library is? Go here to find it now!
Do you have a library card? What’s your favorite part about your local library? How do you use the library to save money? Share your thoughts in the comments.
About Chloe Morgan
Chloe Morgan grew up living with a tight budget. In her late teens and early 20’s all the lessons she’d learned started to slip, like it does for many college age students on their own for the first time, and with their first credit card. As she’s gotten older, she’s started to deal with the repercussions and has taken on a frugal way of living, keeping her costs low, as she pays off debt and saves for her future. Chloe lives in Northern Ontario, Canada, with her cute dog, Rhea.
4 thoughts on “The Library: A Frugalite’s Best Friend”
Here are some more related resources for book and knowledge seekers
Google books has an enormous collection of scanned books archived online that have passed the number of years that copyrights require. That way their scans can be legal.
Another feature of present day libraries is the interlibrary loan system. In operation in the US since the late 1800s by using US mail, it’s a usually free (or sometimes dirt cheap) way to access books owned by other libraries than your own. The US rule is that a book (or several other kinds of materials) must be older than six months past the publisher’s release date. There are some exceptions like very rare and valuable books, some reference books, etc. Here is much more detail about interlibrary loans.
A few libraries even have the electronic readers so you can use that interlibrary loan process to access microfilm and microfiche records from across the country so you can locally read and selectively print from materials archived by state historical organizations or genealogical record keepers.
As long as you want to make a record of a book for personal reference only (and not sell that copy to violate copyright laws), there is a global community of DIY book scanner builders and users that feature great resources and how-to knowledge here:
Some of their home-built scanners even show up on YouTube.com
Another resource is this article on how to convert a Kindle Book you might have paid for into a PDF you might want to save on a flash drive, for example:
How to Convert a Kindle Book to a PDF, 5 June 2021
Finally, while the books section on Amazon is frequently useful in locating books they sell on your topic of interest, there are lots of titles that either are politically verboten on Amazon or that are older than they care to feature … or that might be a different edition from what Amazon is willing to carry. Once you know of a book’s title (sometimes even a short title excerpt can work) or its author, you can run either search on this misnamed book search website that appears to be oriented to schoolbooks but in fact is a terrific worldwide search site for sellers of all kinds of books, including some very old and sometimes very valuable titles:
Now you know how to give some greatly expanded and complementary meaning to that seemingly demeaning label of “bookie.”
I have been in love with libraries for 70 years – got my first library card at age 5. When we’ve moved, one of my priorities was a good library within a 20 minute drive. When hubby was stationed in Sicily, back in the 70s before the internet, the base library was a frequent stop.
Since COVID my library was been offering curbside pickup and I always use it – put books on hold – usually 4 fiction and 2 non-fiction. 3 week check out and I’m back. Sometimes DVDs for current & old movies.
Library also offers on-line: Libby over 4000 magazine titles, Hoopla for music, books & movies and Kanopy for movies.
Unless it’s a reference book that I know I would go to very frequently, I never buy books I just use the library.
If you’re in a really tight spot or homeless, if you can at all keep clean and smelling decent, go to your local library. Be polite and respectful, keep things tidy. Offer to help with something, pushing a cart or re-shelving. The staff will have to say no because of their union, but it will leave them with the impression you are a) safe to be around and b) wanting to better your situation.
When my power went out, the librarians let me stay from opening until before closing, only asking me to keep my very large tote bag under the table rather than taking up a chair or the aisle, which was very reasonable. After seeing me there a few days reading and chatting with other patrons about the books, they offered me some leftovers from a potluck and the security guard who held bags for people going into the bathrooms offered me a ride home one rainy night to save me bus fare. When I finally had the heat back on I was sorry to miss seeing them.
I saw some of the reference librarians go out of their way to help people find resources on the computer, make job applications, and even though there was a time limit to just occupying a chair they found ways to move people around and from floor to floor so they could stay inside and warm.
One of the best things about the pandemic finally easing up is the libraries can open again. Most homeless and low income people who choose to hang out all day in the library are actually using it to improve their lives and take whatever free skills classes are offered as well as shelter, which is a fantastic use of our taxpayer dollars. The rest of us have a place to go that’s low cost and fun, and how many recreational activities actually improve your intelligence, right 🙂
Another suggestion would be for anyone who knows someone who is visually or hearing impaired. The Library of Congress works closely with state libraries to mail specialized equipment to play audio materials covering thousandss of books, magazines and newspapers. They include boxes with free postage to send them back. If someone is bedridden, they can also send pillow speakers. This is an amazing, free program especially for nursing home residents. Give it a try!