Everyone seems to have a general idea that the library offers free stuff, and that the public library thus is supposed to be the great equalizer in society. But perhaps the library achieves its greatest importance to people in times of economic duress. As concerns about the economy grow, consider below some of the ways that people could benefit from its services.
Subscription services are often one of the first costs financial advice columns will suggest individuals drop if they wish to save money. As inflation in the U. S. continues and people struggle economically, it seems likely that more people will follow this advice. That does not mean you have to go without TV shows and movies, though! If you do not wish to travel to the library to pick up a DVD to watch, you can visit your library’s website to check out what streaming services they offer. Hoopla and Kanopy are the major names usually carried by U. S. libraries. Because they are pay-per-view (for the library, not the patron), libraries usually give each cardholder a limited number of credits to be used towards checkouts on these platforms each month. Kanopy is known for its selection of documentaries, indie films, and children’s shows, while Hoopla has an eclectic assortment of content (as well as e-books, audiobooks, music, and a large graphic novel collection).
Also read: 10 Digital Resources from the Public Library You Should Know
Most U.S. libraries now allow cardholders to check out WiFi hotspots so they can access the internet at home. In the interest of full transparency, I will announce here that I do not pay for internet service; I access the internet at home through a library hotspot. While some of the older models used to drop service periodically (just as any internet service will), I have found the new models to be more reliable than the internet services that my friends pay for. These hotspots sometimes have different lending terms than books, but the general idea is the same. Your library card allows you to check one out for a set amount of time. You can return it on the due date and check out another one, or place yourself on a waitlist.
Just make sure you know if the model you are checking out has unlimited data–some libraries offer this and some cap the data. Also be aware that if you keep the hotspot past the due date, the library will disconnect the data entirely so you can no longer access the internet, and you may accrue late fines. In general, though, if you need internet and cannot afford it, it’s worth looking into a WiFi hotspot! Alternatively, you ask your local librarian for help finding any broadband assistance currently being offered in your community.
Also read: 12 Things You Didn’t Know the Library Could Assist You With
Has the economy convinced you that it is time to find a new job? The public library can help! Libraries typically offer online resources that will help you write and improve your resume and cover letter. They may also offer online resources (LearningExpress Library, Peterson’s Career and Test Prep, etc.) that will allow you to study for career tests and even take practice tests. If you need some help in person, you can ask to see if they offer one-on-one computer help or any job search programs. And, if you just want to build on your skills, check their digital resources page to look for databases such as LinkedIn Learning (Lynda) or Universal Courses (which also offers classes on hobbies such as calligraphy or soap making!).
Want to start a garden, but can’t afford it? Check to see if your local library carries a seed library! Seed libraries provide seeds from the community that you can grow at home. Seasoned gardeners are then asked to save some of their seeds and donate them back to the seed library. Programming or information may also be available if you are new to gardening and are looking for some tips.
Museum and Park Passes
Why not get your entertainment free, courtesy of your local library? Many public libraries now offer free passes for families to attend local museums or other sites of cultural interest. Check to see what yours offers–or maybe suggest that they start such a program.
Digital Library Cards
U.S. libraries were expanding access even before the pandemic by offering digital library cards that individuals could apply for at home. Typically these cards allow access to the library’s online resources for a limited amount of time. Patrons must go into the library to obtain a physical card and extend the card’s usage period. Digital cards have become even more common since 2020, though, so, if you cannot leave home or just want to save gas, check your library’s website for more information.
It is also worth noting that you may be eligible for a state library card, which can expand the digital resources you have access to–anything from e-books to databases for things like researching family history or preparing for standardized tests. The way this typically works is that every resident of the state can apply for an online card and get access to digital materials (or physical, if you live close enough).
Free Stuff! (Craft Materials, Classes, Prizes, and More)
Yes, the public library offers books, movies, music, games, and more to be checked out free of cost. However, they offer so much more! Check to see if your library is offering take-and-make crafts and activities–these could be anything from simple paper crafts to help young children learn fine motor skills or more complex kits like terrariums for teens and adults. The idea is that you simply pick it up at the library and then make it at home when you have time. Or sign up for a program that takes place at the library. Craft programs will provide all the materials you need so you can be creative without spending a dime. Or maybe you can take a free fitness or dance class, attend a free concert, or win prizes at Bingo night. Visit your library’s website and check out their events calendar to see just what they offer. Then invite your significant other or a friend, so you can have a free date night or friends’ night out!
Also read: 10 Ways Book Bloggers Can Benefit from Using the Public Library
The public library offers much more than books these days, but not everyone is aware of just how much they have access to. Or, if they are vaguely aware of some services, they may not be entirely aware of how those services work or how could they benefit them. However, as people begin to worry about being able to afford the necessities of life, the public library may prove more of a lifeline than ever. Familiarize yourself with your library’s website and their offerings. You may just be surprised!
17 thoughts on “Benefiting from the Public Library During Economically Tough Times”
My library doesn’t even give half of the things. But I love this post and to know in other countries libraries help people in more ways.
My library doesn’t have all these things, either. Budget constraints and so forth. But it’s always fun to see how libraries try to meet the needs of the community!
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I wistfully glance at this post and wish that my local (Canadian) library system had all of these things on offer. It’s so nice to hear that there are libraries out there killing it, and I only hope that ours is seeing these libraries as a model they should be trying to emulate.
A lot of my local library’s problems are due to funding issues, but I think the bigger problem is that they aren’t great at modernizing or meeting the needs of the majority of residents with the funding it does have
My library doesn’t offer all of these things, either, just a few–probably because of budget constraints and maybe lack of staffing (related to budget problems). But I have been able to get my public library to start offering some services when I’ve offered suggestions! Most libraries have some sort of comment form for the public to use.
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I had no idea that libraries were so diversified. I’m in the UK, I shall investigate my local library at some point to see if it can match yours.
Sometimes it’s worthwhile to fill out a comment form and suggest a new service!
I don’t think that UK libraries offer as many services as yours seems to but they can certainly help with some things. I know someone who visits the library every day to read the newspaper as they have copies there. My parents are jokingly talking about spending a lot more time in the library next winter if they can’t afford their heating bills. They’re joking (I hope) but libraries are a safe warm space where people can spend time.
Okay, but I have also considered whether I should start spending more time at the library if heating costs continue to go up. I mean…why not? It has free computers and WiFi and books. I could stay there for a few hours!
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Definitely. And all those books!!!!!
I know! I just need them to offer me free cookies and hot chocolate and I’d never leave.
I recently discovered I have a public library near my home. It has come in handy whenever my wifi fails or I need some of their services.
I have been known to camp out in the library parking lot trying to get WiFi, lol.
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Great post! I work for a library in the UK and while we don’t offer all of the things you have listed be do have some such as Wifi, public access computers, digital library and also lots of free events for parents and babies like Rhyme Time groups 🙂
Sounds like a good time to me! 😀
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If only my libraries were as equipped. In fact, I don’t think we even have a library in my area. So sad to see these relics of the past fade away. And that gardening thing is a new thing for me too. You have me curious now. Perhaps I should look up all the libraries in my country and give one a visit.
Sometimes if there is not a branch immediately in the area, libraries will have bookmobile stops or book vending machines available. It’s worth taking a look!
I didn’t know about seed libraries, that is so cool! I have the blackest of thumbs so I might have to visit my local library to see if I can get some help in that regard. Great post!