Free stuff at the Library (Maybe you can even make money)
Lets take just a moment to appreciate what a great concept the library is. It’s a building located in almost every city in America whose job is to give out more entertainment than you could possibly consume in a lifetime all for free. The library is surely one of the best deals on the planet, and you should make sure you take advantage of it.
Everybody knows that the library is where to go for free books, but if you haven’t been to a library in a while you might not realize they are giving away a bunch of other free stuff there as well. So for those who have forgotten, here is my list of favorite free stuff from the library.
I am sure you know you can go find the Consumer Reports magazine inside your library building, but did you know that nowadays you don’t even have to go to your library? My local library, like many others around the country, provides free access to consumerreports.org, which is a value of $30/ year. It is easy to do. Instructions can be found at your local library, but all I have to do is go to my library’s website, enter my library card number, and click on the consumer reports link. Consumer reports online is even better than the magazine since you have access to the entire archive.
Consumer Reports is a great source of unbiased reviews on almost every product you can imagine. I use consumer reports to research whatever purchase I am making that I may not know a lot about. Regular ABC readers won’t be surprised to learn that I frequently read through a Consumer Reports article or two when I am researching one of the articles you find on this site.
When I was younger, we used to have something called “video stores” where you could go to rent movies. They had a huge selection of movies so if for some reason you felt like watching a movie that was a couple years old you could find it, and take it home to watch. The fall of video stores has left a large gap in consumers ability to find the movies they want. Sure redbox is a great deal on new movies, but the selection is relatively small, with only brand new movies available. Streaming services like Netflix have older movies, but their selection is still small. There are no commercial options for finding a large selection of older movies now.
Luckily, the library has moved in to fill that gap. Most libraries now have a large selection of DVDs available to borrow. They may not have the new releases that redbox has, but If you are looking for movies that have been out a year or two, you have a good chance of finding what you want at the library. See the final section of this article to learn how the library gets these movies.
Just like movies, libraries also have a large selection of music CDs available to borrow. At my library, the music tends to be a lot of classical music and CDs of children’s music but there is also a smattering of every genre and age of music available. Why not check out the CD section to get an album or two for an upcoming road trip, or to fill in the gaps of whatever favorite songs of yours can’t be found on Amazon Prime music? See the final section of this article to learn how the library gets these CDs.
Why do libraries have video games? I have no idea. But they do! My library has a couple hundred games available to borrow for a variety of different consoles. Just like DVDs, you won’t find the newest most popular games, but if you don’t mind playing games that are a couple years old you can find all the entertainment you want.
I think it is a good idea to try a game out for a week for free before buying one so my kids are sure they will like the game as much as they think they will. I also make a point to let my kids pick out a game when we are facing a long rainy weekend that will involve a lot of inside time. See the final section of this article to learn how the library gets these CDs.
Scanning and Computer services
You may know that many libraries have free wifi and computers available to check your email or do some research, but there may be other computing services available as well. Your library may have scanners available if you want to convert some of your old photographs into a digital format. There are probably also photo copiers available that may not be free, but will certainly make copies for a low price.
Sure you can go to the library to read your favorite magazines, but did you know you could may not even have to go to the library to read a bunch of magazines for free? Yup. An app called Zinio lets you read magazines on your iPhone, iPad, Android device, or computer. Many libraries offer free access to these magazines through Zinio. Visit your library or your libraries website to see how to do it.
Keeping your kids entertained
All of that is great stuff, but free entertainment for my kids is by far my favorite free thing at the library. When my kids were small I would take them to storytime. Now that they are older I take them to things like chess club, science demonstrations, or free movie screenings.
Now I’m not normally in the parenting advice business, but I will tell you that I have found it is really easy to trick people into thinking I am a good father just by taking my kids to stuff that is free or cheap. I don’t really know what I am doing when it comes to being a dad, but I find if you just do the easy stuff I seem to get by OK. All I do is take my kids to the park for a couple hours, then I sit on a bench and read. My kids have a great time all morning long and then they think I was really nice to them for taking them to the park all day. The library is the same way. I just take my kids to the library, go find something else to do, and everybody things I’m a good dad.
Everybody knows you can get a bunch of stuff for free at the library, but there is another potential financial advantage as well. Did you know you could get free tax breaks at the library to get yourself a bigger tax refund? If you itemize deductions on your tax return, here is how you can get a little money back:
Do you know where the movies, CDs, and video games discussed above came from? Somebody donated that stuff, that’s where. If you would like to get a little extra tax refund from the IRS, go through your old stuff and see what books, movies, music, or video games you don’t want anymore. Then give it to the library and be sure to ask for a receipt for your gift. Keep that receipt with your tax records and when tax time comes around list the value of that stuff as charitable donation. More tips on doing this can be found at the IRS’s website. If you itemize the deductions on your tax return you will not only get a larger refund, you will also be helping out all the other library users in your community by letting them use your old stuff for free. Now that is a great deal.
Photo by Samantha Marx