Libraries are remarkable public spaces that allow you to borrow books and a range of media and give people access to computers, community, and educational opportunities. If you haven’t explored what your local library offers, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by just what they have for you. But a library card also gives you access to all kinds of free stuff.
The best 19 Free things a library card can get you are below, scroll down to read them all.
Table of Contents
- Key Takeaways
What Free Stuff Can a Library Card Get You? A Lot Actually
- 1. Workspace
- 2. Internet Access/WiFi Hotspot
- 3. Paperback books, audiobooks, ebooks
- 4. Magazines and periodicals
- 5. Construction and Hobby Kits
- 6. Board games
- 7. Puzzles
- 8. Console Games
- 9. Music and Podcasts
- 10. Movies
- 11. Musical Instruments
- 12. Sheet Music
- 13. Adult Education
- 14. Streaming and Subscription Websites
- 15. Gardening and Baking Tools
- 16. Seeds
- 17. Laptops, Ipads, cameras
- 18. Museum and art gallery passes
- 19. State Park Passes
- Related Questions
- Signing up for a library card gives you access to all your library’s available items for loan.
- This includes book collections and the use of library computers and the internet but also allows you to use certain apps to stream movies and take out ebooks.
- Libraries function as meeting places and give residents access to a wide range of free facilities usually only available by subscription.
- Many libraries provide their community with access to state parks and educational and cultural spaces.
- Modern libraries often have tools, musical instruments, and games to loan.
What Free Stuff Can a Library Card Get You? A Lot Actually
If it’s been ages since you dusted off your library card and visited your local public library, you could be missing out on free access to some unexpected items. While free reading is fantastic, libraries often function as media collections, with access to more than books and movies. We’ve listed some surprising things you can access free of charge with your library card.
While the items are free to loan, always remember to return them before the end of the loan period, in good condition; otherwise, you may pay a fine or pay to replace the item.
Libraries offer an excellent workspace for getting a job done in peace and quiet. You don’t even need library cards to access the public space, but it’s worth getting a card for all the extras you can get. Libraries are calm places where you can usually find a dedicated space to read a book or magazine or work on a school project.
Library computers will have been set up with the necessary tools for working, such as PDF and Office suits. Most libraries have printing facilities which you can use for a small fee.
Many students or people working from home use coffee shops as study/work areas, but this can quickly add to quite an expensive enterprise. Instead, use your local library as a work or study space. Not only is a library quiet and conducive to studying, but you’ll also have all kinds of reference material on hand, and you won’t need to order a $7 coffee for the privilege.
2. Internet Access/WiFi Hotspot
Internet access and wireless internet access are often freely available via libraries. Libraries have computer stations with internet access for patrons with a library card. This is very helpful if you don’t have a computer and need to work on projects or access websites for job searches and applications.
Some libraries will have access to public WiFi systems, while others offer ‘hotspot’ loans to library cardholders.
3. Paperback books, audiobooks, ebooks
We all know that book costs can add up quickly if you’re a voracious reader! While some people think this justifies ebook piracy, there are far better, legal ways to get free reads. If you have a library card, you will be able to check out books in both paperback, audiobooks, and ebook formats. Many libraries have phone apps that allow you to read books, periodicals, and magazines – and all for nothing.
Most library lending systems will order a book (either from another branch or put in an order) if you request it, which gives you access to a massive variety of books, whether they are new, bestsellers, or classic releases.
For those who prefer to read on their phone or e-reader, you can download an app like Libby, which many libraries use to curate their ebook and e-periodical collections. While top-rated books will usually have a waiting list, many novels, audiobooks, magazines, and non-fiction books are available via your library.
4. Magazines and periodicals
Libraries also keep newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals as part of their stock. While hardcopy newspapers and magazines may have limited loaning, and some will only be available to read free in the library, many libraries have digital magazines available to checkout.
Libraries may have remote passes available for subscription newspapers such as the New York Times or Wall Street Journal.
5. Construction and Hobby Kits
Libraries in some areas have collections of hobby kits that allow kids and teenagers to begin the basics of a new hobby without spending any money. Kits can range from STEM-related sets like coding robots to sewing machines and calligraphy pens.
Check what your library offers, as construction and hobby kits will vary, and in some cases, certain items might be limited to teens.
STEM items like microscopes and expensive AudioVisual equipment are a great way to encourage your budding scientists and filmmakers.
6. Board games
Public libraries stock a surprising array of card and board games. Board games can be costly, and you might want to try out a few games before buying one, or perhaps you want a break from your usual games.
Libraries can provide anything from simple games for younger players like Jenga or Yeti in my Spaghetti. At the same time, adults can loan more advanced games, even lengthy and challenging ones like Terraforming Mars.
Looking to work on some new puzzles – libraries also stock a variety of puzzles. Whether you need something simple to keep your kids entertained or looking for something for yourself, you can check out puzzles free with your library card.
Remember to keep all the pieces safe so others can use them afterward.
Even better, you can access digital puzzles without worrying about losing pieces!
8. Console Games
Yes, libraries offer not only traditional board games, but many also loan out video games for Playstation, Xbox, and Switch.
Games are not cheap, and there’s nothing quite like spending money on a game only to finish it in a day or find out it wasn’t what you wanted. And if you go through a lot of games, those costs add up. Look if your local library has console games in stock for you to loan for a period of time.
9. Music and Podcasts
In some places, libraries still have a range of CDs available to loan. Still, many people access music and podcasts via their library card, which gives them access to their community library’s music subscriptions.
Libraries may allow access to sites like Freegal, Biblioboard, and Hoopla and podcasts via Aloud.
Like the music streaming above, a library card will get you free access to streaming sites like Kanopy, allowing you to watch classic movies, documentaries, and foreign-language films.
You’ll be able to stream 1000s of films at no charge without doing anything illegal.
It’s also worth checking what archives your library has access to, as not all libraries are signed up to video streaming services as they can stretch a library budget considerably.
11. Musical Instruments
Some libraries have teamed up with musical instrument collections to provide patrons with access to a pretty varied library of musical instruments.
While libraries will usually keep more popular instruments such as acoustic guitars available, instruments can range from banjos to ukuleles and bongos to violins.
This is a pretty good option if you’re interested in taking up lessons in a new instrument but are not certain you’re ready to buy your own.
12. Sheet Music
It’s also worth seeing if your library has sheet music and scores available for loan, as many will offer this alongside the instrument loan.
Libraries will stock paper and digital collections of sheet music and often have books aimed at beginners learning a new instrument, with simple sheet music for early stages. Check your library catalog, ask a librarian about taking out sheet music books with your library card, or get new sheet music ordered via inter-library loan.
13. Adult Education
A library card can get you a free education! Public libraries also proved not only an opportunity for independent learning, but many have Adult Literacy classes in place and internet connection with Adult Education services accessible free of charge. From language courses to access to sites like UniversalClass, a library card offers you the chance to learn anything from business courses to health and medicine.
Libraries will look at their local community to determine what needs they should be meeting. Because libraries are unique spaces in the community, they are constantly striving to offer their patrons things that will help them, such as courses on using gray water or knitting classes.
14. Streaming and Subscription Websites
Depending on your library’s services, you could have free access via their computer system to subscription websites. Many libraries have accounts like Ancestry.com bundled into their web portals.
Research papers that require a subscription could also be part of the library offering. Check with your local library as to what services they have on offer.
Libraries can offer free subscriptions to Rocket Languages, allowing you to begin learning a new language, including American Sign Language. See if your library provides access to Linked In learning courses.
15. Gardening and Baking Tools
Some libraries support their community by offering tools as part of their catalog – anything from garden tools to devices like thermal cameras. Looking to bake something that requires the one-time use of an expensive mold – before buying, first see if your library has any utensils in stock.
Not only do many libraries have a Library of things collection where you can loan gardening tools, libraries often have a ‘seed collection.’ Seeds for checkout at your local library is a relatively new idea for education, seed sharing, and improving the community.
With just a library card, you might be able to check out packets of seeds. Community seed sharing is just one of the many ways that libraries fulfill a need in the community and improve the world a little bit at a time.
While this is still a relatively new concept, seed libraries for public use have been growing in popularity, and it might not be long before your library offers seeds, if they aren’t already.
17. Laptops, Ipads, cameras
If you’re in an emergency– perhaps your laptop or computer has died just when you need to finish writing a paper – you might have the option to loan a laptop from your library with your library card. This is especially useful if you cannot replace your computer immediately due to funding.
In larger cities, libraries may have more options available, such as loaning Chromebooks with the necessary cable extensions for two weeks.
Other libraries stock media equipment like cameras, camcorders, and GoPros.
18. Museum and art gallery passes
Use your library card to visit museums and galleries and enjoy art and performance with a Community Experience pass. These passes can range from visiting art galleries, museums, zoos, botanical centers, and orchestras.
Libraries in large centers often have discovery programs where you can sign up to reserve free admission to local museums, while others allow you to check out actual passes – including family passes!
Passes to museums and other galleries may be free or offer a discount. Ask at the front desk of your library, or check their website for what passes they offer.
19. State Park Passes
Libraries in California allow you to use your library card to take out day passes to more than two hundred state parks. This is part of an effort to allow greater access to outdoor places for California residents. Other libraries may soon follow in their footsteps, so check your local library to see what passes they offer.
Why not Download or Torrent Books?
Torrenting or downloading books, movies, games, and music from pirate sites and other similar places is illegal. While it can net you a hefty fine if caught, it also denies creatives a wage. If they don’t earn money, they can no longer make music or write books, and the world will be deprived of their creative input.
Libraries buy special library editions or pay library subscriptions to enable you to check out books and films or access subscription-only sites, so the creators still get paid, even though you use the items free on your library card.
Can I Loan Too Much From The Library?
Library cards will typically limit how many items you can borrow and for how long. Usually, there will be stricter limits on more expensive items such as instruments and laptops. Most items have a loan period of between 3 days and 4 weeks, but it will depend on each library, so always check your loan periods. Some items can be renewed, while others are trendy, so only have a single loan period.
Borrowing from the library is a good thing as the more you borrow, the more the library can claim in funding, as the loans prove that they should carry those items.
Are There Hidden Costs When Loaning Free Library Items?
When using your library card to loan items, remember that lending periods will vary depending on the item and its popularity, and a late return could net you a hefty fine the longer you delay.
If you lose or severely damage an item, you will be fined to replace it. With these two facts in mind, make sure always to return your loaned items in time, or if necessary and viable, renew your loan before it ends. Take good care of any items borrowed, whether books, instruments, games, or tools.
By returning them in good condition, you avoid paying extra and allow other people to continue to enjoy using library items.