This is a guest post written by my good friend and author Nancy Parode. Nancy writes for many websites, as well as Military Spouse Magazine. Nancy has been a Navy wife for over 20 years and is one of the best resources I know for all things military and frugal. She was gracious enough to write this article for my site about your local library.
Anyone who talks with me for more than five minutes quickly learns three important things about me. I homeschool my children. I love to read. The public library is my best friend, after my husband.
My love affair with the library goes way, way back. When I was in grade school, I rode my bike to the library at least once a week. (Our school library was tiny, and I read through most of the interesting books there by the end of fourth grade.) One memorable day, I came home with a huge load of books in my Schwinn’s Bicycles book bag. My mom had a fit. (She was tired of mending my ever-ripping book bag straps, I think.) She told me never to bring that many books home again…so I never did. I had 13 books in my bag that day, and from then on, I checked out 12 at a time. Every week, for the next five years.
Back then, and, really, until fairly recently, libraries were about books. I’m grateful for my library’s ever-growing collection, because I certainly can’t afford to purchase every book I read. I save hundreds of dollars a year by borrowing library books.
Today, though, your library offers so much more than free books. For example:
You can save big bucks on magazine subscriptions. Even the tiniest rural libraries subscribe to popular magazines. Large libraries have dozens of active subscriptions, ranging from cooking magazines to homeschooling journals. If you live near a university, you might have access to thousands of magazines – when I worked at a large university library 25 years ago, we subscribed to 11,000 periodicals!
Your library probably offers database access. This translates to genealogy software (savings: $129 per year and up), language learning software you can use at home (savings: $200 per language), newspaper archives – perfect for current events research and local/state history projects, homework help and online encyclopedias.
You can get free Internet access at your local library if you have a library card. Some library systems offer free wi-fi, too.
Most libraries offer summer reading programs and special events throughout the year. One memorable day, my daughter and I went to a local library branch to meet Valerie Tripp, author of many of the American Girl books, including my daughter’s favorite, Very Funny, Elizabeth! Ms. Tripp was a humorous, accessible, down-to-earth speaker, and she enchanted every girl there by talking about the writing process and explaining how she got the ideas for her books. Ms. Tripp signed books and listened carefully to every girl’s comments and questions. Cost: $0. Memories: Beyond the VISA commercial’s idea of “priceless.”
There’s more to a public library than meets the eye. In all likelihood, your library provides meeting space your homeschool co-op or Scout troop can sign up to use. Your older relatives can learn to use the Internet at free classes offered at your local branch. You might be able to print a few pages for free (my library gives you five free pages) or borrow Ken Burns’ The War DVD series for yourself or your high school history student. Many library systems lend out educational DVDs, such as the Standard Deviants’ writing, chemistry and algebra programs or performances of Shakespearean drama. You can even borrow books from other library systems via the Interlibrary Loan (ILL) process.
Don’t forget to visit the children’s section. You’ll find wonderful picture books by Tomie dePaola, Cynthia Rylant, Jane Yolen, Jan Brett and other amazing authors. Young children really appreciate good stories with beautiful illustrations. Your library system purchases many, many lovely picture books – real, living books, not twaddle – and you can borrow them for free. As your children grow, you can introduce them to the Pevensie children, the Ingalls girls, Anne Shirley, Alvin Fernald, Betsy, Tacy, Tib and many other friends.
Today’s libraries transcend Benjamin Franklin’s vision of a free library. Yes, you can still borrow books. You can do so much more at your public library, though, and I hope you’ll take the time to visit a branch near your home very soon.