How To Max Out Your Library Prowess

Public libraries, how I love thee!

Always an avid reader, one of the first things I’ve done when moving to a new location is sign up for the local public library.  There was even a point in time when I was a member of three – count them, three – libraries.  To be fair, one was from my hometown and I only used the account for eBooks, the second was my local public library, and the third was the school library for the university at which I worked, which had a kick-ass deal where employees could take out books for 6 months.  Really.  I kid you not.

Anyway, I devour books like most people devour television shows, so I am here humbly stating that I, too, sometimes forget just how amazing libraries are at 1) saving you money, 2) saving the environment by allowing for materials to be shared instead of manufactured new for each use, and 3) building community.

Libraries are more than places to check out physical books.  In addition to providing access to electronic books and audio books, they also house audiobooks, DVDs, and CDs.  So yes, you could go to the movie theater and pay $12+ per person for a single movie, or rent that Redbox movie at $2 for a single flick.  Oooor, you can be the utmost of the fiscally responsible and rent movies through your library!  I just rented two movies for an upcoming girls night; one is a classic from the 1980s and the other is a 2017 Oscar-winning film.  So it goes to show you that there are quite a range of options.  Like I said, I myself am guilty of forgetting about this wonderful feature of libraries, and am somewhat embarrassed to say that of all the years I’ve had library accounts 2018 is the first time I’ve actually rented a movie.  Alas, even I have room for learning!

In addition to entertainment goods, many libraries also provide various avenues for skill building.  Take, for example, my flirtation with learning languages.  The DC library has Pimsleur Language CDs up the wazoo, as well as access to language-learning programs such as Mango Languages.  The library system even hosts special meetings for those looking to learn Spanish, English, or a handful of other languages.  If languages aren’t your thing, class topics range from how to do your taxes to local flora to childhood story time to computer instruction to job searching.

But wait!” you cry.  “You live in a major metropolitan area.  Of course YOUR library has all of these things.  Mine does not!”  Fret not, my friends, for here enters library hack #403 – joining other areas’ libraries!  (What happened to hacks #1 – 402?  Just like children all over the world and their Tootsie Pops, the world may never know.  But I digress.)

For all of Washington, DC’s major metropolitan-ness (yes, I’m making that a word), I had noticed there were a handful of books and movies I was not able to find the DC public library system.  Like any frugal book-lover, I had resigned myself to hoping I would serendipitously come across said books at a used bookstore (it’s happened before) or purchasing them used online.  Then, while perusing the web one day a thought struck me.  After doing a bit of quick research I found another lovely perk of libraries (did I mention they’re free?) – you can join a public library even if you don’t live in the area in question!  If you check out the websites of your surrounding area libraries, you’ll likely find that many offer accounts to individuals in neighboring counties, especially if you happen to work there.  For example, since DC is such a small jurisdiction, I can obtain an account in seven other library systems besides DC’s!  Even if the website doesn’t spell it out, it can’t hurt to call and ask.  Remember those books I couldn’t find in DC’s library system?  I was fortunate to find all of them in a nearby Virginia library system, and have thus saved myself at least $15 in book costs!

So how do you sign up for such a wonderful, free, service?  Check out your local library’s policies on signing up.  You usually need a form of identification, and possibly some secondary source of residence.  You can typically sign up online or in person; the whole process is fairly easy-peasy!

Happy reading!


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