I recently spoke with a relative who I know is quite an avid reader like me, and I was surprised to hear she has never gone to her local library.

Me: “Doesn’t it get expensive to buy all those books?”

She: “I get them on sale or from the used book store.”

Me: “Still…..” 

One of my favourite pastimes is reading, both fiction – I have several favourite authors – and non-fiction – everything from personal finance to crafts. Going to the library saves me tons of money. Even the $12 fee I paid when we lived in Calgary was more than worthwhile. (It’s free in Kelowna where I live now.)

A Salute to the Library

Libraries have changed quite a bit in the past decade or two. They are not just shelves and shelves of books anymore. What does your library membership get you these days?

On-line access

Sometimes I like to browse the library shelves, but accessing my account on-line gives me all kinds of options. I can see when my books are due and renew any I haven’t finished reading. I can browse the catalogue, check the new arrivals and on-order items, and put in my requests to have them delivered to my local branch.

Related: 35 ways to save money

I can download digital books onto my Kindle or other e-reader, or borrow audio books.

Magazines and newspapers

I can read current copies of local and national newspapers and the most current magazines in the branch, and take home back-issues of many popular publications.

If your favourite magazine is not available, you can just ask your local library to carry it. They like to keep up with popular subscriptions.

If that’s not enough, I can access thousands of newspapers and magazines from around the world in digital format.

CDs and DVDs

It doesn’t take long for movies to go straight to DVD sales. I can borrow even fairly new movies to watch at home as well as popular TV series. Sometimes I’m far down the list for the most popular movies, but that doesn’t bother me because I have lots of other activities to keep me busy.

I’m one season behind on Game of Thrones and some other HBO series, so I have to be careful of “spoilers” in conversations with friends.

Related: A calendar of saving money

On school holidays I see parents load up with stacks of children’s movies to keep their kids entertained.

I can borrow CDs to give them a listen before making the commitment to buy. This saves me money if I don’t care for the CD, or only like one or two songs. It also allows me to try different genres outside of my usual listening choices.

Music streaming is sometimes allowed on a limited monthly basis.

Computer access

If you work or study at home (or don’t have a home computer) working on the library computers gives you a distraction free environment.

Or, catch up on your social media while your pre-schoolers enjoy story time.

Resources and references

There are reference books on every topic from Statistics Canada reports, franchises, genealogy records, career planning, investment information, and more.

Use research databases to access magazine and newspaper archives for specified articles, business directories and other specialized content.

On-line courses and tutorials

You can learn a new language. Students can get homework help and even take school practice tests.

Related: How I turned a blog into a profitable online business

Take courses on many topics from photography to marketing.

Activities and lectures

Most libraries have meeting rooms or carve out some space to hold workshops and lectures that cover a wide variety of interests.

Even in my tiny local branch their recent activities have included a hearing clinic, computer literacy, building with Lego, learning how to knit and crochet, and local resources for seniors.

Final thoughts

There’s no doubt about it. The library is a great place to save money on entertainment. Where else can you get books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs without buying them? And these days our libraries offer even more – a host of activities and services that cost you little to nothing.

Celebrate National Library Week – April 10 – 16, 2016, by checking out your local library.

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