Public libraries are underutilized resources in many communities. In 2015, nearly a decade ago, about half of Americans reportedly used the library within that past year. Through casual conversation, I’ve found that many of our peers haven’t had an active library card in years. It’s not difficult to recognize why some people haven’t explored the value of a library card lately, especially given the current state of information access.
A library card provides access to more than just information, though. In addition to free books and other media, it unlocks so much more to explore.
The Value of a Library Card
A public library benefits the community through connection, education, and accessibility. In-person or digital library visits offer great value for all ages. The value of a library card extends well beyond leisure reading or research; it also provides opportunities for at-home learning, hands-on projects, and on-the-road adventures.
These are some of the awesome perks and tools available through the library:
Wi-Fi hotspots are a game-changer! This useful palm-sized device provides internet on the go without having to purchase a data plan or service from an internet provider. It can support up to 15 Wi-Fi-enabled devices for easy convenience.
Brian and I take full advantage of our free access to Wi-Fi hotspots. Our library allows a member to check out one hotspot at a time for up to 3 weeks. We have used hotspots all over the United States. They come in handy during road trips, unexpected internet outages, and even while exploring city streets.
Chromebooks are laptops that run on Chrome OS, a Google-based operating system. They are a simplified version of traditional laptops. Designed to be used while connected to the internet, a Chromebook is most useful when logged into a Google account. It’s optimized for internet surfing and is ideal for those who require only basic tasks, such as streaming videos, checking e-mail, and word processing.
E-books and Audiobooks
Brian and I briefly looked into Audible years ago but decided it wasn’t for us. As our road trips and long travel days became more frequent, I figured we needed more entertainment than my collection of mixed CDs from middle school to college.
Luckily, I discovered that our library card gave us access to Libby! Libby is a free app that allows a library member to borrow e-books and audiobooks directly from their library collection. We’ve streamed and downloaded several books that we’ve since enjoyed on the road.
Video Streaming Platforms
Free video streaming is another great bonus for library cardholders. Rather than spend money on a paid streaming service, library patrons can access all kinds of digital content straight from their own devices.
Hoopla offers instant access to ad-free movies, TV shows, music, comic books, e-books, and audiobooks. Kanopy is another streaming service that provides on-demand access to thousands of feature and independent films, documentaries, foreign films, and television shows.
Book Club Kits
Of course, a library card can score you free books. But did you know that it can also set you up with a book club take-out kit? If you’ve considered starting a book club, visit your local library to see if they have book club kits available.
Our local library provides this community-friendly benefit, which can be checked out for a period of eight weeks. Each kit features 10-12 copies of the selected book and a discussion guide, which includes tips for leading discussions, discussion questions, and more.
Museum and Park Passes
Library members can save money on admission fees to various local cultural institutions. Libraries offer family passes to museums, state parks, historic sites, zoos, and other experiences. Utilizing your library to tour your city is one of the most economical and fun ways to explore your community.
One-on-One Librarian Services
Some libraries even allow members to reserve a librarian for a one-on-one session. Within these sessions, a member can request technical help, such as creating an e-mail account or learning to use the library’s catalog. Librarians can also provide personalized assistance in researching a specific topic or project.
Homework Help and Online Tutoring
Brainfuse HelpNow provides online academic tutoring services for students in grades 3–12 and college students in a wide variety of subjects. Live tutors are available to help guide students through homework assignments, research strategies, and test preparation. In addition to independent self-study guides, students also have access to a writing lab for expert writing assistance, standardized practice tests, and collaborative tools for group learning and discussion.
This incredible e-learning resource also features an adult learning center, which offers access to high school equivalency prep, US Citizenship test prep, Microsoft Office support, and career guidance.
Test Preparation with Practice Exams
Another library-supported resource for online test prep is LearningExpress Library. Featuring nearly 1,000 interactive tutorials, practice exams, and e-books, this dynamic platform provides a vast collection of tools for academic and career success.
From college and graduate school admission exams to occupational certification exam prep for military service, law enforcement, nursing, and more, LearningExpress Library is an enriching resource for the community.
Investment Information Platforms
Financial education can certainly add to the value of a library card! As a library patron, you can access subscription-based investment research platforms online for free.
- Morningstar Investor: $249 Regular Annual Subscription
- Value Line Investment Survey (3500+ stocks): $795 Regular Annual Subscription
Both platforms offer comprehensive research on companies, industries, and markets. They include unbiased reports and ratings, analytical summaries, and guided selections. In-depth data, along with forecasts and other included tools, can help you build and manage your investment portfolio.
Mango Language Learning
Mango Language Learning ordinarily costs $7.99 per month for one language or $17.99 per month for all languages. With a library card, however, unlimited access to more than 70 languages is free!
This language learning app presents lessons through a conversation-based approach. It combines an engaging mix of reading and listening exercises that incorporate memory-building techniques, culture notes, understood and literal meanings, and voice comparison.
Discover expert-led courses that can help you develop business, technology, and creative skills through LinkedIn Learning. This online educational platform features more than 16,000 beginner-to-advanced courses designed to help you achieve personal and professional goals.
Explore programming languages, digital marketing strategies, project management principles, and more.
Free or Low-Cost Classes
A variety of classes and activities often take place at the library and through library partnerships. These are great opportunities to connect with others and have some affordable fun! Check your local library’s events page to browse upcoming classes. From dancing and yoga to career workshops and personal finance, there are a number of topics to dive into.
If you’re not the type to stock board games at home, you can visit your library to see what they have available. Some libraries loan board games, card games, puzzles, and more.
Sports and Recreation Equipment
One of the coolest library benefits I’ve seen is the ability to check out bikes, fishing poles, baseball kits, flag football sets, musical instruments, and more. Check your local library to see if your community offers any equipment rentals.
Where Do You Find Value?
A library card is a free investment in yourself. It’s one of the most effective tools for enriching the mind and engaging the community.
I appreciate how it eliminates the need to spend money or accumulate extra “stuff”. There’s much more to a library than free books. We find value in its wide range of entertainment, information, and convenience. Thanks to our local library, we’ve stayed connected on the road with Wi-Fi hotspots, tuned into newly discovered mystery thrillers, explored historic sites, and more.
Have you found value in your library card?