Things You Never Knew You Could Get From Your Library

by Katy on March 10, 2016 · 41 comments

If your notion of what a library lends out is based on your childhood, you’re woefully behind the times. With libraries lending everything from sewing machines to e-materials, cultural passes to pots and pans, these important community institutions provide so much more than books these days. So dust off your library card and check out these amazing and free resources!

E-Books and audiobooks

If you’re a fan of e-books, audiobooks or streaming video, you’re in luck! Free library programs such as Hoopla, “lets you instantly borrow free digital movies, music, eBooks and more, 24/7 with your library card.” Yes, you read that right. It’s like Amazon, Netflix, Audible and Spotify rolled into one! If you’re lucky, (and you likely are) your library system will also provide free access to Overdrive, which also allows access to endless digital audiobooks and eBooks, categorized by genre, availability, language, age level with additional specific featured collections. It’s like a virtual candy store for bibliophiles! Old fashioned with your content? Your library likely has shelves of DVD’s, CD’s and maybe even a video tape or two.

Foreign Language Instruction

Looking to add a second or even third language to your repertoire? Look no further than Mango Connect. This free library program can help you to “Learn over 40 languages, including Arabic, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, French, Italian, Vietnamese, German, Russian, Swahili and many more.”

English as a second language

Have a friend or family member that needs to strengthen their English language skills? Go to your library’s website, or better yet stop at your local branch’s information services desk to ask if your library has English as a second language resources. A quick look at the Atlanta-Fulton library website confirmed this service, and your library system is likely to provide similar opportunities.

College e-Textbooks

College is expensive enough without required textbooks that can run well into the hundreds of dollars. Luckily, your library may provide free access to the eBrary, which allows you to check out or even fully download such fascinating books as Understanding Applied Behavior: An Introduction for Parents, Teachers and Other Professionals. Like its paper counterpoint, you’ll be able to highlight passages and even print up to a certain number of pages.

Cultural passes

Love your city’s museums and galleries, but don’t have the money to explore within your own community? You’re no longer relegated to a dreary home life, as most libraries offer cultural passes that allow for free admission from museums, zoos, literary events, concerts to movies! You’ll likely have to reserve them in advance, but this is a great opportunity to explore your community’s resources without breaking the budget.

Individual one-on-one librarian services

Wish you could sit down and pick a librarian’s brain on a certain subject? It turns out that you can! Many libraries allow you to “Book a Librarian,” who will research a certain subject and then sit down with you for 30 minutes to an hour. Just let them know in advance what subject you need researched, and they’ll come armed with materials and information to discuss your area of interest. Whether you’re a student, toiling over a work related project or simply wanting to expand your knowledge in a certain area, this service holds a world of possibilities.

SAT and ACT prep classes

Have a student who’s approaching the dreaded ACT and SAT tests, yet don’t have an extra grand to drop on prep classes? Look no further than your library system. Many libraries offer test prep, both online or even in person that can help your college and scholarship prospects. This resource is neither expensive nor is it inconvenient.

Resume and job resource assistance

Between jobs, yet are unsure of how to craft the perfect resume? Or maybe you just need to buff up your job search and interviewing skills? Yup, the library can help you with this one as well! Many libraries provide resume services and even have classes to help you optimize your job search and present your best self in person. Either hit up your library’s website, or even better go in person and ask your friendly librarian.

Live homework help in multiple languages

In the middle of your algebra homework and about ready to tear out your hair? pairs with many library systems to provide free live homework help to tackle that never ending schoolwork. Tutors will help with everything from proofreading rough drafts, PSAT and GED prep to help tackling those tough math problems is available. Live from 2 P.M. to 10 P.M., these services are available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese!

Digital Magazines

Whether you’re a reader of Cosmopolitan or Popular Science, your favorite magazine is likely available through the Zinio library program. With over 5500 choices, you can read current or back issues on any of your devices. These digital magazines include all the content found in the paper editions, both editorial and advertising. Give this program a try, it’s free and has the potential to replace your pricey and wasteful magazine habit!


Have a home maintenance project. yet lack the necessary tools? Your local tool library is available to save the day! It’s far from necessary to own a tool you’ll only use once every five years, and tool libraries have cropped up to assist with this dilemma. Some are associated with municipal libraries, although many are independent non-profits run by volunteers. Do an internet search for “tool library” plus the name of your town to borrow instead of buy.

Summer reading programs for kids and teens

It’s easy to let students spend their summers sleeping and staring into their phones, but signing them up for your library’s summer reading program can help to combat the dreaded summer brain drain. Everyone from babies through teens can earn prizes by reading and completing library related activities. (Okay, maybe babies are more likely to be read to.) Libraries provide game boards, which young patrons fill in and then bring back for fun prizes. Complete the entire board, and your young reader earns a T-shirt! Too old to participate? Worry not, as many libraries have adult summer reading programs as well!

Meeting Space

Have a knitting group or a Chaucer discussion group or even a World of Warcraft debate club and nowhere to meet? Your local branch library often has meeting space that’s free to reserve.  Rules need to be reviewed ahead of time, and likely will include a clause that your meeting needs to be free to all, but you know it’ll be clean, warm, inviting and free!

Computer literacy

You may consider yourself computer-savvy, but perhaps you have a friend or relative who would benefit from this service. Whether it’s how to use Word or even simply how to navigate the internet, these classes are offered in multiple languages at almost all libraries across the nation.

Stuff you never dreamed was available

Libraries across our great planet keep thinking of new and better ways to serve their communities, and it’s not uncommon to run across articles that feature libraries providing everything from prom dresses to sewing machines, kitchenware to humans. Yes, humans. Started in Copenhagen, The Human Library organization promotes diversity in over 50 countries and encourages library patrons to “not judge a book by its cover.” Participants can check out a person for 20-30 minutes, and hopefully “foster understanding between different types of people that would normally not interact with each other.”


Because sometimes you simply want an honest to goodness, made from a tree book.


I’m an active library patron and thought I knew everything the library had to offer, but boy was I wrong! Libraries’ available resources seem to expand with each new day. I hope this article inspires you to run, not walk to your local library and discover the amazing available to you!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Lorraine March 10, 2016 at 10:07 am

Our library also has tax forms and tax assistance, passport applications and photos, and notary service. Also, year round programs and presentations for toddlers through teens. All for FREE. I love my library.


jane March 10, 2016 at 10:31 am

Hi Katy, love your blog, very fun and stylish. I work as a library Page in one of many libraries in Vegas. I too enjoy libraries, but until working in one, I had NO idea how much they have to offer. I was very surprised to see that there are a lot of libraries in sin city, and all very well used. We do offer a huge range of services. I work in the children’s section of Sahara West Library and it’s so fun to see kids get excited to read! There’s a lot of life here outside of the famous Las Vegas strip!


Diane March 10, 2016 at 10:42 am


As an elder living on a stringent budget the library is one of my favorite places. I love picking up brand new books that I have requested as well as magazines from the free shelf. I read at least one novel a week and make frequent trips to my neighborhood branch library.

Let’s hear it for libraries!


Amy S March 10, 2016 at 10:48 am

Our library recently added Zinio for magazines and it is fabulous! Great selection, unlimited access, no expiration dates, and an email when the new issue is available for download. Our library has many of the services you mentioned, but they also offer incredible programming for infants through adults – language instruction, anime clubs, science programs, maker spaces, lectures on cheese-making and beekeeping (we are a small rural town), and most recently, a series on frugal gardening. 🙂


Samantha March 10, 2016 at 10:58 am

I am a big fan of borrowing ebooks from my local library but I had no idea they offered digital magazines! Thank you for the information!


Jill D March 10, 2016 at 11:20 am

Seeds! Many of our libraries here in NM have started seed-sharing programs. And our Master Gardeners give free weekly programs on various issues.


Marilyn March 10, 2016 at 11:21 am

Libraries are the best! I feel I can get any book I need from our library. If a book is not available in our local library, they will search all libraries in the Northwest. If it is not available in the Northwest, they will allow me to request that they order the book for their collection.


Bari March 10, 2016 at 11:33 am

I’ll give a shout-out for our little Belmont Branch of the Portland Public Library System.

About four years ago I learned to crochet at a free class offered at the Belmont Library. That class has resulted in years of crocheting for fun, profit, and charity! Who knew?

My childhood memories include growing-up in a small eastern Oregon town with a Carnegie Library. We often went to the library basement to attend the Saturday morning puppet shows for children.

Since libraries have always been a part of my life’s fabric, I am one who ALWAYS votes in the affirmative when library support initiatives are on the ballot. Support Literacy!


Jennifer March 10, 2016 at 11:47 am

Our library offers wonderful things for kids in the summer. Last year, I took my kids to see a balloon artist and a magician show for free. There is also trick or treating around Halloween with a meal such as hotdogs and nachos. I used to go to the library to use the Internet before I had it at home. They also have a nice play area indoors for kids with computers with kid’s learning games. Such a valuable resource for anyone.


Jen@FrugalSteppingStones March 10, 2016 at 12:10 pm

I love, love, love our library! Every week I read free magazines online and and my kids and I read books through our digital library collection. We have family movie night with free library movies every week as well.


Rebecca March 10, 2016 at 12:50 pm

You left out music! Many use Freegal now where you can download and keep 5 songs a week. I think it’s a waste of money for the library but if yours is enrolled, might as well get your free music. It’s all Sony artists.


JD March 10, 2016 at 1:23 pm

Our library offers summer programs for kids and some adult programs such as an evening of watercolor painting, etc., which is good, for this very small town library. They offer tax help, DVD’s, books on tape, online book requests and meeting rooms — about the only thing they don’t really have is books! Their book collection is housed in a too-small building and is added to very, very slowly. I thought it was just me being critical, because I grew up in a different small town with a Carnegie library that I loved, until I overheard other people complaining that my current town’s library has so little to read, and that they seem to get hardly anything new. But if you’d like a 1975 copy of Auto Mechanics for Home Handymen, I can get it for you at my library!


Linda in Mass March 11, 2016 at 5:55 am

Our library is small also. They have a policy of one in one out. Any new book in needs to result in another book that needs to be discarded/donated.


Sarah C March 10, 2016 at 1:33 pm

Mine even has novelty cake pans to check out! It’s great because my kid gets the fun of a shamrock- or whatever-shaped cake and I don’t have to either buy one or store it!


Katy March 10, 2016 at 2:05 pm

So cool!


Jennifer March 11, 2016 at 6:46 am

Wow! I love that!


Nancy March 10, 2016 at 2:13 pm

I am a family historian and our local library has remote access to old newspapers and Heritage Quest just by logging onto their website and plugging in my card number. In addition, if I go into the library I can use their computers to access which is a subscription website that saves me $$$!


Betty Winslow March 10, 2016 at 2:15 pm

There are also libraries in places you might not expect. When my son’s art class assigned him an obscure and reclusive artist to research and write a report about (including two photos of the artist), we got our info from the library at our local art museum! An arboretum we visited had a gardening library; a history museum had a rare books section where you could do on-site research….. you never know until you ask!


Rb March 10, 2016 at 2:15 pm

Ours has various Ereaders for checkout. They come preloaded with hundreds of titles and let u try out various readers before u buy to see what u like! Our library also has a grownup summer reading program.


Linda M March 10, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Ours has computers to use, copier and fax services, book discussion group, summer reading program for all ages….interesting speakers and programs on various subjects. Even has a coupon exchange. Mighty fine place!


RD March 10, 2016 at 3:03 pm

I love our Library!!! Our library was a lifesaver when I was a new Mom in a new town and on a budget. They have many programs for babies all the way up to teens. My hubby and I sometimes bring a “travel mug” with special coffee we made at home and hit the library for a “low key” date night. I agree whole heartedly with you Katy!!


Jenne March 10, 2016 at 3:06 pm

And art! My library has large-format art prints that you can check out and hang on your wall temporarily. I also used them when I was teaching art at my daughter’s school.


Bee March 10, 2016 at 4:57 pm

I come from a long line of librarians. My grandfather was a librarian at the Library of Congress and wrote books on library science. He met my grandmother, also a librarian, while visiting one. They were fond of saying that you could find whatever you needed for a rich and wonderful at the library — including love.


Katy March 10, 2016 at 7:33 pm

Aww . . . that’s so sweet!


Jean March 10, 2016 at 6:12 pm

I am also a regular library patron, and amazed at the services they offer for everyone–you can check out learning toys for babies and toddlers, they have a seed exchange for gardeners, passport services, computer instruction, movies, music, audio books, and ours does have an amazing selection of books. I love being able to reserve books on line and get an email when they are available for pickup. And Orion has totally changed how much I use my Nook!
In addition to always voting in the affirmative on library initiatives, I would encourage everyone who loves their library to join their local Friends of the Library organization–in my community these hard working people put on a semi-annual book sale that is so successful it has purchased a new Bookmobile for our library system, and made a major financial commitment to help finance remodeling and expanding one of our older branches. And all from taking in books no longer wanted and putting them in the hands of people who do want them, at bargain prices!


cathy March 10, 2016 at 10:03 pm

In addition to all the things mentioned that the “regular” public library provides, the Salt Lake City Public Library has a summer concert series at two different branches (different nights, different bands), has a waterwise demonstration garden at one branch, offers adult classes that range from basic computer literacy to advanced research to grantwriting workshops to nutrition classes for parents and backyard gardening. There is a manga club and a D&D group. The Main Library downtown has its own beehives and they are sited so you can see the bees at work. They offer art exhibits, lectures, movie series (like “Reel” Science and a Seniors Movie series). Summer reading programs for kids, one for teens, and one for adults. The kids/teens were able to win things like amazon gift cards and enter to win an iPod. There are special programs for all sorts of holidays and events that usually feature activities for all different age groups, and the Main partners with other organizations for events like the annual Live Green Festival and the Makers Faire. LOVE the library!!


Ann March 11, 2016 at 3:25 am

My library also offers an huge collection of Wilton baking pans… in all different shapes and configurations.

And this year, they started a winter reading program too.


Marie-Josée March 11, 2016 at 4:36 am

Wow, what an informative post! I just checked and my library offers Zinio, a platform I was not aware of – I’m really excited. I borrowed an Overdrive e-book last summer to learn some basic Italian and I loved it. I downloaded the book to my smartphone and felt so technologically hip.


dusty March 11, 2016 at 4:44 am

Let’s not forget DVDs of movies and TV shows. I got to watch the entire Mad Men series on DVD thanks to my local library. My landlord doesn’t have cable so he goes to the library every other day and checks out movies and TV shows. Also, my local library offered wii classes when it first came out. It was great, you could try out boxing, golfing, etc. Support your local library!!!


Bellen March 11, 2016 at 5:31 am

As an almost 70 yr old senior on a limited budget, I simply could not live without my library. Every 3 three weeks, the length of time I can have a book, I put 8 books on hold, the limit, so I can go in, drop off those that are due and check out the new ones. These books come from the 4 libraries in the county saving much time and gas.

Besides all the above mentioned library offerings this month ours is offering:
Dr. Who Club; Writer’s groups for support and help; Philo Club a discussion group for the ‘larger questions’ of life; Spring break programs for middle and high schoolers; chess club; local authors speaking about their newest books and answering questions; local chefs this month offering cooking for 2 as we have a very large senior population; an Historic Cemetery Tour; a pictorial display of the WWII USO’s in the area as fighter pilots were trained at the local airport. I counted over 40 groups/meetings remaining this month to do at the libraries.

Weekly one of the librarians has an article in our To Do section of the paper highlighting a program or offering at the library. It was because an article I found out about Zinnio and I use it often. Sent an e-mail thank you and received a nice comment in return – the library needs feedback on everything they do. Attendance at programs, regular use and written or e-mail comments are the only way they know if the libraries are meeting the needs of the community.


Linda in Mass March 11, 2016 at 5:51 am

Words cannot describe how much I love our little town library. I love it so much, I have been the Chair of our library Friends group for years. We are the fund raising arm of the library. We are the people who organize events to raise money for all our children’s programs, museum passes, and any extra programs that cannot come out of our little library’s operations budget.

If you love your library and use it, please consider donating some time and/or money to help your Friends Group. They really do a lot for all these programs.


Sue March 11, 2016 at 8:03 am

I also could not live without my library! Twenty three years ago, when we sold our starter house and moved out of the Big City, a library of merit was near the top of the list of communities to move to for me. It is one of the highest circulating libraries in the country and never disappointed.

That said, remember that not everywhere in the USA are the libraries as good as all proclaim on this post. Libraries are supported by taxes in your communities, and not all counties have the funds through taxes or make it a priority. Where I am, the highest taxed and the highest per capita income in my state, and libraries a priority. That also goes along often with higher educated and social economics of living in a county with high income and tax base. It is not so everywhere and over the years I have heard from people all over the country what dismal library services they have. I think many of us with means become complacent, and assume that everywhere in the USA, has the same services for a library that we do! Not so. OR I find it interesting that people do not realize, that you can not get a card to a library unless you live there. Sometimes you can pay a yearly fee to have card /borrowing privileges at a library system , where you do not live. Here I believe it is 75 dollars a year to get a card.. and yes, I know there are many tricks to cheat the system, using a friends address. I really hate it on thrifty blogs when people justify that kind of behavior

SO keep in mind that this blog is very regional, and that Portland is offering these services that Katy nicely listed. Your library has to subscribe and pay for many of the services, for example Hoopla, and you need a library card from a library that uses that or any other service. I by no means dishing the library or what Katy wrote, but many people do not have access to such library great deals. That said, please support your libraries, explore them and donate or volunteer if you can. They are much more than a place to borrow books!


Ecoteri November 29, 2022 at 10:30 pm

@sue, such an interesting take on the haves and have-nots in the world of libraries. I live on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. We have the Vancouver Island Regional library, that serves a lot of small and medium sized communities on the main island and most smaller islands – but not the big cities of Victoria or Vancouver, which have their own large regional district libraries. The VIRL system lets me order books from all over the place in the system, they are delivered to my library and I am notified when they arrive.
I have just found out that if I go to the Victoria library with my VIRL card I can get a special sticker so that I can borrow from any Victoria branch, which was the exciting result of research I was doing for my daughter …
Just recently I followed suggestions (from either here or the Frugal Girl) to get the Libby App – for reading books online, and I am having a wonderful time devouring or discarding books at a rapid pace.
One of the things I discovered in my own library system is that I can request books and then put a freeze on my request – so I can manage when I get my requests rather than feast or famine. when a request is frozen, but there is a waiting list, I continue down the list until I am next in line where I will sit until I unfreeze, so I don’t lose my place even if I am not quite ready to take the book out. I use this system when I am doing other reading and come across an interesting read, I will request a whole bunch of books. Sometimes I forget to freeze but there is a huge wait, and then when I am notified that my book is in I am often mystified about why or how I ordered that book. Although I am almost always happy to read it!


Katy December 2, 2022 at 9:51 am

I love how there is always more to discover with library resources!


Lisa March 11, 2016 at 10:54 am

Our public library system partners with Freegal – and you get 5 free music downloads a week (to keep on up to 3 devices permanently). You can also stream your music choice for 3 hours a day for free, too. It’s awesome.


Isabelle March 11, 2016 at 11:56 am

Wow, you guys have great libraries!!

Ours pretty much loan books, a couple of e-books, and thats about it. They also have the museum passes but it can take up to a year to get one.

For the rest, we have to pay : dvds, cd’s, classes for the kids where they do craft and stuff, conferences, computer courses.

I still love libraries because I love to read!


Nancy from mass March 11, 2016 at 4:12 pm

I love our library! Its right down the street and has all sorts of free things, freegal, magazines, lots of new books and free museum, zoo and park passes. If you owe a fine, you can ‘donate’ your fine to the friends of library and they can use the money instead of the state.


Karen March 11, 2016 at 5:01 pm

Yes I am so impressed with everyones libraries. Ours loan books, audio books (recently) and now ebooks .

Several years ago during the recession they said if the bond did not pass library hours would be cut. Well it was the recession, so the bond did not pass. Immediately they said hours would be cut. People got so upset that the library had to back off of this or look bad.

If a new book comes out you want to read there usually is a waiting list of six months minimum. Sigh! But I guess it is good thing so many people use the library.

But the crowning blow was our branch got a new gentleman manger. I was in a book group there for years. He was there about 3 months and announced that the 3 adult books books would be no more. We complained to the authorities above him and they backed him. The good news is our group continues meeting at homes but he is long since gone. Not even a librarian anymore. But it did leave a bad feeling about that particular library. I now go to another branch.

All this said I do love to read so I will always go to a library and am glad someone thought to start this concept.


Vickie March 13, 2016 at 11:16 am

I love my library, it’s my window to the world!
I took my daughter to get her card early in life and she’s done the same with my grandkids. My love of books and learning will never cease. It’s the one constant in my world. I’m thankful to my parents for encouraging and supporting my love of books and learning.


Rosa March 13, 2016 at 7:08 pm

Don’t forget air conditioning, company, and local knowledge. Several times we’ve been bike touring through tiny towns and stopped in to read, drink water, and enjoy the air conditioning. Sometimes in places where the public library is just one or two rooms. I try to drop a few dollars in the donation jar if i’m at an out of town library.

Our public libraries all have computers and photocopiers. The big downtown library has a room with a piano. And for many years the Friends of the Library ran a children’s film series that was just delightful – a mix of old and new short films, free snacks, and an art activity on Saturday mornings once a month in winter.

And library e-books are a wonder. We’ve downloaded books from our home library when we were out of state and ran out of things to read.


Jen March 15, 2016 at 10:55 am

A library here loans cake pans. Like your kid wants a star birthday cake and they have those.

Our library also has a winter reading program for adults. Cabin fever readers.


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