Many libraries offer free or discounted passes to local attractions and cultural destinations, so before paying to visit nearby museums, zoos or other places, see what your library has available. Some libraries have physical passes you must pick up and return, while others provide access to tickets online through programs like Discover & Go in California. Getting free and low-cost admission tickets through your library is an affordable way to explore your area’s attractions.
Audiobooks, e-books and digital magazines
Go beyond the books on your library’s shelves. Many branches provide free access to e-books, audiobooks, digital magazines and newspapers through apps like Hoopla, Libby, Flipster and PressReader. You’ll find an almost limitless selection.
TV, music and movie streaming
If you subscribe to one or more streaming services, you may want to see what your library offers. Many libraries provide access to online services such as Kanopy, Hoopla and Freegal for free music, TV and movie streaming. The options may not be as up-to-date as some paid-for services, but you’ll find quality content.
Study rooms and meeting spaces
Need a change of scenery from your work-from-home setup, a quiet space for your book club or a conference room to hold a meeting? Many libraries allow patrons and community groups to reserve study rooms and meeting spaces for free, so you can skip the day rate at the pricey coworking space in town. Some libraries may even equip their rooms with video conferencing equipment, interactive whiteboards and other items.
Career training and small business resources
With job search platforms, career coaching, interview training, and test-prep and resume-writing help, many libraries offer free career and business resources in person or through online platforms like Learning Express and LinkedIn Learning. The Broward County Main Library in Florida has a complete Small Business Incubator and Hub, including a coworking space, tech equipment and other career and business resources.
Before paying to get important documents notarized, see if your library offers notary services. Many branches provide it free or for a small fee or suggested donation.
Electronics and tech support
Your library may have a variety of electronic devices you can borrow. For example, at Scranton Library in Madison, Connecticut, patrons can borrow laptops, iPads, Kindles, digital cameras, video cameras, podcasting equipment and more. And 3D printing is available at many libraries — for a small fee, in some cases. These offerings provide an affordable way to explore new technology or test a device before buying. And if you need help with new devices or ones you already own, many libraries also have tech support.
Many libraries loan out instruments such as the guitar, ukulele, keyboard and more. Head to YouTube for music lessons; boom, you can learn how to play an instrument for free!
Household items and appliances
Many library branches have a Library of Things — a collection of household and recreational items. For example, the Center Moriches Free Public Library in New York has a microscope, a telescope, a Cricut Joy Machine, an inflatable outdoor movie screen and a sewing machine in its collection. Richland Library in South Carolina has nearly 200 items in its Library of Things, including a metal detector, a bird-watching kit, gardening tools, a tent, and folding chairs and tables. Your branch may have various useful items you can borrow instead of buying.
Workshops, classes and groups
Your library may have classes and workshops for multiple interests in person and online, from self-defense and yoga classes, walking and crafting groups, writing workshops and discussion series. Be sure to browse your library’s events calendar to discover its offerings.
If you want to pick up a new language or brush up on one, your library is an excellent place to start. Some branches have language classes — for example, the Free Library of Philadelphia offers Arabic, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish. But in addition to classes, many libraries provide free access to online language platforms such as Mango, Rosetta Stone and Transparent Language, which offers over 100 languages.
Summer meals for kids
Many children lose access to free or affordable meals when school’s out. Thankfully, many libraries run food initiatives through the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program and local partnerships. For example, Richland Library offers free lunch to children ages 18 and under through its Summer Break Café. And the Miami-Dade Public Library System in Florida provides seven breakfasts and lunches to kids weekly in the summer.
Puzzles, games and toys
You may be able to borrow board games, puzzles, toys and other similar items from your library. For instance, Scranton Library loans out chess sets, beach toys and backyard games. Many libraries also create themed toy kits — perfect for kids or grandkids.
Trivia night, movie showings, concerts and more. You’ll find a range of entertainment and cultural events at your local library. And for kids and grandkids, libraries often have playgroups, story time, craft projects and other offerings.