When I first got my library card, it had one job—giving me free access to an endless supply of books—and it did that job beautifully.
I’ve always been a big reader, and libraries seemed magic to me as a kid. My library card still holds a special place in my heart, but nowadays, I rarely visit the library in person. Instead, I use my library card number to download audio books, watch movies online, check out free digital magazines, and lots more. If you’re not already doing this stuff, it’s worth checking what your local library has available.
I bet your library offers something you need, and I bet it’s free!
To get started, go to your local public library’s website. (Don’t know the url? Google it, duh!)
Use your library card for free entertainment.
Overdrive is the digital library tool I use most frequently. It offers tons of downloadable audio books and ebooks, and you’ll also find a selection of movies and magazines. (You may have to wait for popular downloads, but you can put yourself on the “hold” list, and you’ll get an email when they’re ready.) I use Overdrive mostly for audio books. After three weeks, the downloads expire, but if you’re not finished, you can always download them again.
Freegal Music lets you stream albums and music videos, and you can download a few songs a week for keeps, which is pretty special. Variety-wise, it’s no iTunes, but hey… it’s free.
Hoopla offers downloadable audio books, movies, comics, e-books, music, and TV shows. Download a yoga workout video, the soundtrack to La La Land, or a new graphic novel. So far I’ve only used to watch the occasional movie, but if I ever get tired of paying for Netflix and Amazon Prime, it’s nice to know I can see some movies for free (even if the selection is limited).
Zinio lets you download free magazines, including The New Yorker, Teen Vogue, Glamour, Self, and hundreds of others. You “check them out” from Zinio through your library’s website, and read them using the Zinio app. The magazines don’t expire, so keep them as long as you want.
PressReader provides library card holders with access to more than 2000 newspapers from 100 countries. Select the library card option when you sign in, and download the PressReader app to read the papers you’ve selected.
Every library has different deals in place, so yours may offer free movies, instructional videos, books, e-books, audio books, and newspapers through other providers such as InstantFlix, Kanopy, cloudLibrary, Digitalia, Biblioboard, and OneClickDigital. The easiest way to get access is by starting at your library website, and clicking on “e-media” or “online resources” to see what’s available.
Use your library card to take a free class.
Want to develop your video editing skills, learn to code, or try your hand at 3D animation? If your library has access to Lynda.com, you can take all sorts of online training classes for free. If you have your own company, check the marketing section for classes on useful topics like Facebook advertising, SEO keyword strategy, and using Instagram for business. (There’s some fun stuff here, too, like classes in songwriting.) NOTE: Visit your library’s website to get started. The site is only free for users of participating libraries.
These online language lessons are available in 72 different languages, so it doesn’t just stop at Spanish, French, and German. Expand your vocabulary in American Sign Language, Bengali, Croatian, or just about any language you can think of.. including Pirate. Mango uses the microphone on your computer to help you fine-tune your pronunciation.
Use your library card to boost your business.
If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s worth connecting with your local public library branch in person as well as online. Here are the kinds of things you might find:
The New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Business Library offers all sorts of resources for start-ups and established businesses, including free one-on-one business counseling by appointment, and the ability to reserve a small meeting room for free.
Many libraries offer free sales leads through databases like ReferenceUSA. Here’s more info on how ReferenceUSA can be used to create customized mailing lists. (If your library offers sales leads, bring a USB drive when you visit, so you can take your list home.)
And of course, if you want to borrow books, the public library has plenty of those, too. Before you head to the library in person, view the catalog online and place a hold on the books you want.
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