When people think of libraries, in my experience, they mostly think about books. Indeed, books are the backbone of a library’s collection: pleasure reading, research, finding that old classic, etc. However, most libraries have collections and provide services that extend far past the books on the shelves, and when times are tight, as they are currently, people should know about them and be able to take advantage of them.
Library media holdings have become exceedingly popular over the course of the last decade, with most library collections increasing exponentially in size. In fact, according to a recent study by library co-operative nonprofit and research organization OCLC, libraries circulate approximately 2.1 million DVDs every day, nearly equal with Netflix (2.2 million) and nearly twice as many as Redbox (1.1 million). So, If you like media, and are trying to cut back on “fun” spending, you should check your local library for these:
New Release Movies: It may take several months for it to be your turn to watch them, and they might not actually end up on the shelf for a few months beyond that, but most libraries nowadays do order new release movies. If you ask your local librarian about an upcoming title that you’re interested in, they also might actually be able to give you a time frame for when it should be ordered and hints about when you should check back to get on the hold list – meaning that you might get it within a few days or weeks of its release rather than later than that.
TV Show seasons: TV show sets are expensive, and with the increasing tendency of the studios to split their shows into half seasons for a DVD release, the price to get the same content is only increasing. So, if you don’t feel like spending 30-50 dollars for a season (or a half season) set? Check your local library. Most libraries will have hundreds of titles, ranging from new and popular releases, to old classics, to cult favorites. Librarians should also be happy to look up any TV show you don’t see in their system, to check if it’s been released, or if there’s been any talk of it being released.
Educational DVDs: If you want to learn a language, or try out a new exercise regime, or need help with math or physics or chemistry, or want to learn more about any number of subjects, libraries carry a wide range of educational DVDs that you can’t find on the shelves of any of the major book retailers, and sometimes not on the virtual shelves of the major online retailers either.
Children’s movies: Your library should have everything: from the latest Nickelodeon, PBS, and Disney titles, to the educational DVDs. Maybe your child only wants to watch it once, or maybe you’ll decide it’s worth purchasing after previewing it, but you can always test them out from us first.
CDs: You’d be amazed at the CD collections that libraries have – new stuff, random stuff, that piece that you heard once five years ago and want to track down right now. Plus, if you know just one line of the song – or possibly just a description of the cover – your local librarian would be happy to try to figure out who sang it/the title/etc.
Audio Books: Libraries have them – on CD, on Playaway, and occasionally still on tape. Plus, many libraries are moving into the downloadables market, so that would be worth asking your local library about.
Video Games: Not all libraries carry these, but it’s worth asking in case they do.
As I mentioned earlier, everyone knows that the library has books, but there are a few sub-segments that deserve to mention:
New Books: If you don’t want to pay for the hardcover copy of that new release from your favorite author? Put a hold on it. Again, you may not get it the day it comes out, but with shortened check out times, the list moves pretty quickly, and it could save you $20-$30 on something you might only read once.
Comics/Manga/Graphic Novels: This is another collection that is only increasing in popularity. Libraries may not carry everything, but if you don’t see the item your looking for, or you can’t find your favorite series, request that your library purchase it. Libraries do like to know what people want, because chances are, you aren’t the only one who wants it.
Libraries offer a wide variety of programs and assistance to the public, which is aimed at enriching community life. A few examples of these services are:
Directory Assistance: If you’re looking for a phone number and don’t want to call 411 or can’t find it online, try calling your library. They have resources (phone books from all over the country; Reference USA) to help you find it.
Programs: Libraries offer programs covering a wide range of topics: computer classes (from learning how to work with the mouse, to writing resumes, to using the internet), special speakers, film programs, craft classes, book clubs, story times, puppet shows, etc. Libraries put together some really good programs and best of all, they’re all free.
Internet access: Libraries have public computers, with free access to the Internet, which can be used for writing resumes, searching and applying for jobs, doing homework, or checking up on your friends via social networking sites.
Used Bookstores: A lot of libraries have a used bookstore associated with them, where you can get used books, CDs, movies, magazines, and library discards for less than at other used bookstores. Best of all, the money made at the library bookstore usually goes to benefit the library.
Inter-Library Loans (ILLs): Not all libraries participate in this program, but most should. If your library doesn’t have a title that you’re looking for, they will be happy to try to bring it in from outside of the city/state. There may be charges associated with this, but you will be able to say how much you’re willing to pay up to. This is especially useful for acquiring items that are out of print/rare/you want to take a look at before spending a lot of money on them.
Requests: If your library doesn’t have an item that you’re looking for, and you don’t want to make an ILL order, don’t give up! Libraries also take requests. They may not be able to purchase everything, but they always want to know what people want.