I am a library junkie. I love the books, the organization, the librarians (long gone are the humorless shushers), and the care given to re-shelving returned books. Having a library card is more than just a key to books, though. How valuable is that library card? As Matt Damon says in Good Will Hunting, “you dropped 150 grand on a(n)…education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library!” Even if reading isn’t your favorite pastime, there are still plenty of reasons to dig your library card out of the drawer and put it to use.
You might be surprised at these 10 freebies available with your card.
1. Museum Adventure Pass. Show your library card at the circulation desk for free passes to various museums and attractions around your area. Some may be familiar (Brookfield Zoo, Catigny Park, or Chicago Botanic Garden), others are smaller- less crowded- attractions to discover. Some passes are buy one get one free offers, others admit up to four people free. To see which attractions participate in your area, visit museumadventure.org or your library’s website.
2. Learn a Language. Sure, you could pay a couple hundred dollars for Rosetta Stone, or you can register for Mángo through your library. This app gives you access to nearly one hundred languages: from French & Spanish to Sign Language and Thai.
You can keep track of time spent “studying” and progress throughout conversational courses in one language or all of them. Lessons are presented for kids and adults. Perfect for anyone looking to learn a new language, brush up on a forgotten one, or prepare for a trip overseas.
3. Update Your Resume. Ready to change careers? Need a little help updating your resume? Between certified job advisers, network meetings, mobile workforce center, and Small Business resources, there are plenty of options for job assistance.
4. Feed Your Hobby. Interested in gardening? Eager to learn a new recipe? Want to meet your favorite author? Always wanted to learn how to crochet? There are endless opportunities to support your hobbies, or to find a new one. Most events don’t require more commitment than a couple of hours and you can find both demonstration and hands-on classes.
5. Enjoy an Hour To Yourself. Toddlers and young kids love their independence. And parents love a little alone time. Find a class that sparks their interest: story-time, art, music, theatre, building. Although you may be required to stay in the building during their class- it’s a free hour for you to curl up in a cozy chair with a book, catch up on emails, or enjoy a cup of coffee in silence (if you’re lucky enough to have a cafe in your library!).
6. Exercise. Ok, maybe it’s not the latest cross-fit craze, but it’s a great way to try a yoga, ballet, or gentle stretching class. Some are all ages, including “mommy and me,” while others are directed to only adults.
Most of the classes, however, are taught by instructors from local studios and gyms. While you generally have to register for the class, they’re usually free. It’s a great chance to try a new class without a big gym membership.
7. Kids & Teen Classes. Between sports, vacations, and lazy days at the pool, it’s difficult to make a full week (or longer!) commitment to camp. Kids classes are often drop-in (though more popular ones will require early registratio) which allows for flexible schedules. Keep their brains active with a variety of topics: theatre, robotics, crafts, creative writing, animation, gaming tournaments, coding, filmmaking, and so much more!
8. Brush Up on Computer Skills. Technology not your strong suit? That’s ok. You can find help on the basics, intro to Windows, social media, Excel, and PowerPoint. Many libraries have their own 3-d printer (there is a fee to use it, though) and plenty of computers to use for research, homework, or just surfing the web.
Drop-in times are also often available for specific questions for your devices.
9. Movie Marathon. Let’s face it, going to the movies is no longer cheap entertainment. Yes, you can rent movies (free from the library!), but it’s also nice to have a theatre setting without emptying your wallet. Check your library’s schedule for movie showings for kids, teens, and adults.
Snacks or popcorn are also generally provided during the free viewing! During the summer they may even show them in remote locations: under the stars or at the pool.
10. Find Your Past. Ready to discover your roots? Whether you’re just beginning your trip into the past, or you’re stuck on a genealogy trail, the library can help. Their shelves are full of historical resources (maps, obituaries, photos, periodicals)- you just need to know where to look.
Good news, though, the librarians are available to help when you have no idea where to look! You may need to schedule their time, but they’ll love the thrill of the hunt & discovery as much as you do.
11. Music, Books, Ebooks. Yes- I added a bonus one! Of course you’re aware that you can borrow books from the library. But, did you know that if they don’t have the one you want they can bring it in from a different library? They’ll even let you know when it’s available. Even better- it can usually be done online & save you a trip.
In addition to books & movies, music and ebooks are also available for downloads. Kindle/Nook still sitting in the box because you can’t figure out how to use it? Guess who can help!
If “free” makes you happy, try your library’s summer/winter reading programs. You’ll have the chance to win/earn gift cards, totes, blankets, and sometimes bigger items like an iPod or Kindle just for reading or listening to books!