5 Ways the Public Library Can Save You Money

Everyone knows you can save money on books by checking them out at the library instead of buying them, but did you know that libraries can help you save on other things, too? In some locations, you can borrow tools, take free language classes, and even get free tickets to local museums and attractions. The resources that your library has to offer will depend on its size and funding, which comes in part from taxpayer dollars and donor funds. These perks are part of the public library’s mission to serve the needs of the local community. To take advantage of these money-saving benefits, sign up for a library card! Here are 5 surprising ways the public library can help you save money.

1. Before you buy something, see if you can borrow it from the library. Libraries offer all kinds of items on loan, says Threets Akhila Bhat, branch manager at Harris County Public Library in Katy, Texas. “Video games, musical instruments, board games. Some libraries have bakeware collections where you can get baking pans,” she says. Her library system also has a seed library where “patrons can pick up seeds to start a garden and drop off seeds for others to take home and plant.” Meanwhile, libraries like the Providence Public Library in Rhode Island have tools you can check out, including a cordless drill, safety goggles, and a laser level.

2. Reserve free tickets to local museums, attractions, and concerts. In some places, you can get free or discounted tickets to local attractions in your city or town. The Nashville Public Library, for example, offers free passes to the Cheekwood Estate and Gardens (saving patrons $29 in admission fees), the Country Music Hall of Fame (saving about $28) and the National Museum of African American Music (saving about $27). Library card holders in California can gain free entry to over 200 state parks, saving patrons $20 in entry fees per park. You can also save money on live music by checking out what your local branch has to offer. The New York Public Library’s performance art space holds concerts for the public, and people can watch a classical guitarist or a harpist perform at different libraries in Los Angeles County.

3. Print out your documents at a discount. You can use the computers and printers to print out documents like plane tickets, concert tickets, or shipping labels. There’s usually a small fee, but it’s often cheaper than printing at an office supply store or a shipping center, says Threets. For example, it costs 10 cents to print a page in black and white at the Brooklyn Public Library in New York, and 23 cents at Fedex. If you don’t have access to a printer at home or at work, consider your local library before heading elsewhere.

4. Take free fitness, hobby and language classes. Some libraries offer fun, free programming you’d pay money for elsewhere. Queens Public Library in New York offers workout classes ranging from yoga to tai chi to Zumba, saving patrons potentially hundreds of dollars in monthly class fees at a fitness studio. Libraries can also help you find a new hobby–you can join a knitting club, learn photography, or take a class with a naturalist. Some locations will even let patrons borrow the necessary gear. Libraries in Florida and Philadelphia, for example, have “birding backpacks” that come equipped with items for birdwatching, like binoculars and field guides to help identify local birds. Many libraries also grant patrons access to online language learning resources such as Mango Languages, a service that has courses for over 70 languages.

5. Access free social services. In addition to recreation and entertainment, many libraries in the U.S. offer programs to support the community. People who need help finding a job can take computer literacy courses and get assistance with applications and interview prep. Immigrants can take English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and classes to prepare them for their U.S. citizenship exam. Libraries also provide resources for practical matters. Around tax time, check if there are volunteer tax experts available to give you advice and help you file for free. At Threet’s library, patrons can book time with a lawyer if they need legal advice. “We have volunteer lawyers who will meet with people for 15 to 20 minutes at a time on a monthly basis,” she says.

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

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