How often do you visit your local library? If you haven’t been in a while, you may be missing out on several major benefits of the library. These are benefits that you and your fellow citizens pay for with your tax dollars.
As a full-time library worker, I’ll walk you through how to use your library system to improve your finances. While reading, keep in mind that your library system may not offer everything mentioned in this article.
In order to find out, I challenge you to visit or call your local library for more information. With that being said, let’s start our digital library tour!
7 Benefits of the Library That Can Improve Your Finances
In order to take advantage of the benefits of the library, you’ll have to sign up for a library card. Registration usually takes place at a library’s circulation desk. At my job, signing up takes about five minutes, and patrons must have their license and proof of address (mail, online bill, etc.) if their current address isn’t on it.
1) Checking Out Ebooks and Physical Books
“Financial knowledge is only potential power; it only becomes power when you apply it to your financial life.”
To me, the most powerful benefit of having a library card is being able to check out books. Reading books helps you acquire more knowledge, which can help you earn more in the future.
You can read books on a variety of subjects – personal finance, how to write a resume, website design, behavioral economics, investing, etc. Out of those subjects, my favorites are personal finance and investing.
I have checked out these popular personal finance books from the library:
- The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins
- The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason
- The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach
- The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley
- The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover, normally has a waiting period for both the online and physical copies. If you are looking to get out of debt, I’d highly recommend reading it.
Ebooks vs. Physical Books
Speaking of online and physical books, you have a choice between the two.
- If you like holding a physical book in your hand, you can grab one from the stacks and check it out at the circulation desk.
- And if you prefer Ebooks, you can check it out via Overdrive – most libraries use this online lending platform.
What happens if you don’t see what you are looking for in the library’s catalog? Depending on how soon you need the item, one way to resolve the issue is to submit a purchase request.
Submitting Purchase Requests for Books in All Formats
To submit a purchase request for a book, you will likely need the following information: author’s name, title, ISBN (if available), and the name of the publisher. Once this information is submitted, your library’s collection development department will review your request.
For Overdrive books, the process is much simpler.
- Once you search for a title and it doesn’t appear…
- you just click the recommend tab and then hit recommend on the next page (if the title is available).
I’ve recommended both physical books and eBooks before, and 67% of my recommendations have been purchased.
For example, last year I recommended that my library purchase Grant Sabatier’s Financial Freedom book. The collection development team approved the request, and the book took two weeks to be placed in the system.
My most recent purchase request was for a physical copy of the new personal finance book Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. It was approved by the collection team, but I am not sure how long it will take the system to process the purchase.
2) Free Access to Online Learning Platforms
Another major benefit of having a library card is potentially having access to online learning platforms such as:
With these online learning platforms, you can take the following courses to gain in-demand skills:
- SEO Foundations (LinkedIn Learning)
- Photoshop CC 2019 One-on-One: Fundamentals (LinkedIn Learning)
- Learning to Write for the Web (LinkedIn Learning)
- Introduction to HTML & CSS (Treehouse)
- Python Basics (Treehouse)
These learning platforms normally cost $25 a month. You can potentially save $600 a month by gaining access to them (for free!) through your local library system.
If you are able to master the in-demand skills the courses teach, this could allow you transition into a new career or pickup a high paying side hustle.
When signing up for these platforms, just remember to stay active. My Treehouse account was cancelled due to inactivity…
3) Study Rooms/Areas
Are you having trouble concentrating while studying at home? The library offers study rooms to patrons. At my library, we allow patrons to check out a group study room for two hours at a time.
In addition, they are free to study in the quiet room. These rooms are usually used by patrons who are studying for the bar or another tough exam. If one of the study rooms are booked, members can use open study areas throughout the library.
Even though I work at the library, I sometimes use these study areas to get my freelance work done if I become distracted while working at home.
4) Free WiFi/Computer Use
Free WiFi and computer use is one benefit of the library most patrons take advantage of. Patrons have access to the WiFi until we close, and we shut down patron computers 15 minutes before closing.
This public service is really helpful for those in the community who cannot afford to purchase a computer of their own.
As long as individuals abide by our internet rules, they are free to use the computers for as long as they want. (Most patrons come to the library to complete homework assignments or fill out job applications.)
5) Career Center
Where I currently work, we’re not allowed to help patrons create their resumes, but we do refer them to the career center located at our main branch.
There we offer the following services:
- One-on-one career coaching
- Interview Prep
- Career Seminars
- Help with completion of job applications
The primary goal of the career center is to help those who have just graduated find employment, and to help those who have been let go find new jobs.
6) Free Classes
Are you looking to join a like-minded group of people? Your local library system should offer group events that are open to the public.
Some of the popular classes in my library system are:
- The Master Gardener Program
- Writing Clubs
- Various art clubs
If you are looking to network with like-minded individuals, I’d suggest joining a class at your local library.
7) Free Family Entertainment
At your local library, you should be able to find plenty of free entertainment for your family.
For example, instead of checking out movies from Redbox for movie night, you could borrow some from the library instead. Where I work, we get new movies about a month after they are released on DVD.
If you don’t mind waiting, you could save a bundle. In addition, there are library programs for all ages.
Here are some recent ones I have seen in my local library system:
- Wii Night for Teenagers
- Makers Fair for creatives
- Oculus Party for 20 Somethings
Although I didn’t get to attend these events, I did get a chance to play around with the new Oculus and Wii game systems. They were a ton of fun to try, so I know the patrons were happy!
Miscellaneous Benefits of the Library
Other potential benefits of the library that I didn’t include above are:
- Free printing (My library gives patrons a credit of $2.00 each day)
- Free Tax prep through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program
- Meeting rooms are free for the public use with your library card
Visit your local library today to see if they offer these benefits!
When was the last time you used your library system? What benefits of the library do you believe will help you improve your finances the most? Does your library system offer a benefit I did not include above?
AUTHOR Jerry Brown
Jerry Brown is an adventurous bibliophile who loves personal finance. He is the mastermind behind the blog Peerless Money Mentor. When he is not reading thought-provoking books or studying finance, he is spending time with family, biking, or taking a random adventure somewhere.