Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Your local library: Better than you think

About a week ago I went into vague detail about how someone with debt issues can manage their free time, have fun and do it on the cheap while they're at it. I briefly touched upon the subject of how much of a wealth local libraries can be, but I don't think I did the subject nearly enough justice.

As such local libraries will be getting their own special post, as they rightly deserve.

In today's fast paced, mile a minute world a lot of people simply don't have time for their local library. This is an absolute shame. Besides all the generic, G.I. Joe tinged "Knowledge is power!" junk, a library is really an extraordinary resource for a number of subjects, not just stuffy, ancient books.

It's almost crucial for someone who is experiencing money issues. It provides a wide variety of free entertainment, crucial knowledge one can use to escape the clutches of debt and hey, if you're lonely, it's better than sitting at home trolling through for a sugar daddy/momma.

Meaning you're not going to find an attractive, single millionaire who won't mind paying off your liberal arts student loans. Sorry.

I will try to touch on as many points as I can, but I could very well be missing out on something really cool that I've yet to experience. The only way to be sure? Call your library and ask. Or go visit. It's probably even within walking distance.

Afraid your local library is too small to accommodate your needs? You're going to be welcome at any library, so long as you either work or attend school in the town or city in question. Simply bring a pay stub of a report card with you and you're all set.

Without further ado:

  1. Read books: Sure. It's generic. I've mentioned it a thousand times in this blog. But it is obviously the most important service any library can offer. It is after all the whole point as to why they were all constructed in the first place. But were you aware you can likely find any book through your librarian? Including weird, specialized texts concerning say, ancient dentistry. Or turn of the century under garment care.

    Libraries ship books between branches all the time and your local staff would love to help you. The best part about it? They typically ship through services like FedEx and UPS, so it's going to arrive in tact and fairly quickly. Oh, and since they're already funded by your tax dollars, it's free. If they don't have it in a nearby branch (which is doubtful), chances are they'd be willing to buy it. Again, the tax payer thing.

    Not into fiction, cookbooks, or biographies? Well, there are a ton of financial help books out there. Get a little research done. Maybe you'll learn something I can't teach you.

    Concerned about late fees? Don't be. Many libraries offer automated email and phone alerts to remind you of your nearly over due material.

  2. Read magazines: I know, I know. I'll get away from the reading stuff in a moment. But it's worth mention that you can very likely get your hands on the latest release of any weekly, monthly, bi monthly, yearly, etcetera publication. If your library does not currently have a subscription, chances are they will get one, just for little ole' you.

  3. Audio books and CDs: Audio books are not just for the blind and lazy. They are offered just like any print book or publication, for free should you choose to check them out. This is a great way to way to spend your commute to work, instead of listening to Shock Jocks and tampon commercials.

    And sure, they likely won't keep Marilyn Manson's latest album, but chances are you can borrow a huge range of music CDs for personal use.

  4. Borrow DVDs: DVDs are small, easy to store and a rather excellent way to catalog data. I touched on this in my earlier post, but it deserves repeating. You'd be amazed at how few people know this. Libraries around the country keep very respectable DVD collections alongside every other publication open for check out. This is not limited to documentaries, but includes newer movies you could find just down the street at Blockbuster for ten bucks a night. This is for free.

    And guess what? They can likely get it for you if you don't have it.

  5. Browse the internet: It's a certainty that your local library is going to have public use computers with broadband connections. So if you had to cut the DSL connection in favor of rent, this is an excellent way to do everything from checking your web mail, to reading this blog.

    Have a laptop with a WiFi card? Unlike a lot of coffee shops, hotels and bookstores, many libraries have completely free, open WiFi networks. There's nothing else better than curling up in a nice warm corner, putting on some headphones and playing Age of Mythology behind the nonfiction category.

  6. Visit a museum: Here's another gem you probably didn't know. Many historical sites, museums, art galleries and planetariums offer free tickets to patrons of local libraries. Sure, the tickets are likely not infinite (i.e. you probably can't bring the whole extended family), but they're completely free.

  7. Join a club: It's a public place, paid for by tax payer dollars, with heat, air conditioning and a lot of reference material. Libraries are practically designed to encourage clubs. Whether you enjoy Dungeons and Dragons, knitting, auto repair, or environmental activism you can probably find a club to suit your interests. Can't find one that suits you? Pfft. Make one. No one is going to charge you a dime.

  8. Attend a lecture, workshop or open meeting: Here's a small list of what my local library is offering for the next two weeks: Featured film night, teen thanksgiving party, stand up comedy, knitting circle, book discussions, professional gift wrapping lessons and a Christmas swap.

    Don't want to get committed to a club? That's cool. You'll likely be able to find one shot things to enjoy scheduled weeks in advance, whether it be a lecture on evolutionary progress, or a local stand up comic trying out his newest material.

  9. Attend a family activity: Have kids? You poor, poor bastard. Depending on their age you can likely find an activity that will either distract the younguns' while you find some peace and quiet for yourself. Many libraries offer daily story time, art activities and get togethers.

  10. Attend a bake sale/community yard sale: If your library is big enough it'll likely throw some sort of fund raiser (typically in the early to mid fall.) A lot of people don't realize that left over space is often cheaply sold to families who'd like to sell off some of their junk or bake a couple of cookies for community consumption. Here's one that you can actually turn a profit off of!

  11. Display/Sell your art: A lot of libraries have a lot of bare walls and they'd be glad to accept works of art to liven up the atmosphere. Sometimes they'll even allow a small price tag and contact information to be placed alongside, should anyone develop a fancy to your portrait of Elvis made entirely out of used bubble gum wrappers.

  12. Utilize the internet at home to further your library experience: Need to keep that copy of "Ouch! That Hurts!: Your guide to enslaving your spouse" for another week? It's very likely your library offers online renewal. Many also offer free eBook and audio book downloads off of their respective websites. How cool is that, being able to check something out without having to even put on some pants?
Of course I'm likely missing a couple of important subjects. But your eyes are likely sore as it is. Did I miss something? Say so in the comments and I'll link back to your blog in my next post!


Mommy Cracked said...

As a former librarian, I absolutely agree that libraries are an awesome and economical way to enjoy reading and so much more. Great post!


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