Do you have a library card? If not, you're missing out. While libraries are known to offer free reading to the community, they offer a host of services to their patrons. Many libraries have lost state funding in the past years which may have caused them to stop some of these services, but there are still many benefits found through those doors. If you don't already have one, get a library card, use it, and save.
Don't overlook the obvious. Public libraries offer books which can meet every interest. Available are the latest magazines (which can cost anywhere from $5-$10 per issue), the bestsellers, the self-help books everyone's talking about, and anything printed on paper and put between a cover. What many don't realize is that if your library is small and doesn't carry the book you're interested in, it can get the book for you. Inter-library loan services allow libraries to borrow books from other libraries. The book arrives in a few days for you to check-out and then return to your library it is then shipped back to its original home. Some charge a fee for this service, especially if the book is coming from somewhere odd. Another option is to visit the neighboring library. In some states, library cards are transferrable to different libraries. See your librarian for specifics.
The goal of the library is to share knowledge. Reference librarians are skilled at finding information. Need help locating a book about your topic? Remember the plot but not the title? Ask the librarians for help; they're there to help you. While libraries today rely heavily on the computer to catalog their inventories, you may not feel so comfortable with it. The librarian is there to help you.
Another source of information is the reference desk itself. Look for flyers for workshops being held at your library. There are computing workshops offered, writing workshops, and tax preparation seminars. I've seen a beginners pottery class set up in our library's conference room. Most are there to promote one book or another, but free knowledge is free knowledge.
Looking for something to do as a family? Always wanted to network with other moms? Are you the only reader in your family? There are discussion groups and activities planned at many libraries. Singles groups meet to discuss books, parenting groups meet while their children have story time, and artist groups sketch together. There are family movie nights or summer book clubs that can be loads of free fun. By attending these activities you are supporting your library with your attendance.
Don't overlook the other services libraries provide beside book loans. Libraries rent videos and CDs to their members for free. They also provide free internet use and cheap copying fees.
One of the greatest resources a library provides is access to thousands of dollars worth of databases. Articles and primary resources are housed in databases such as ERIC or Proquest which cost upwards of $5,000 a year in subscriptions. With a library card you have free access to these materials, and some libraries provide home access through their websites as well.
The value of the community library is often overlooked. It offers a place to sit quietly for a few moments. It offers incomprehensible amounts of knowledge. It offers community togetherness and an opportunity to become involved. And it offers it all for free.
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