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10 Ways To Use The Library (It’s Not Just for Books)

Written by contributor Tiffany Larson

I remember visiting the library regularly until the day I graduated from college and then my feet didn”t go inside one until I carried my little girl in for story time one day.  And now I”m a weekly visitor.

I”ve discovered the library offers so many more opportunities for learning and discovery than just checking out books, and most are them are free.   Here are some of my favorites to share with you:

1.  Movie Rentals

Our library has a healthy selection of adult and child movies for check out and if they don”t currently have the one I want, I just reserve it for the future.  They also have movies you can download to your computer.  I often don”t get to watch a movie the day I pick it up so I love that you can check out videos for a lengthy period of time, one or two weeks.  It”s also helpful if we are going out of town for a few days, we don”t have to worry about returning it late.

2.  Downloadable eBooks, Audio books and Videos

You don”t need a Nook or Kindle to download books to read.  Some of them can be downloaded to your computer or mobile device.  Just like checking out books, you can check out and download the eBooks, audio book or video you want.  If they are already checked out, you can reserve them for the future and you generally have one to three weeks to read them, depending on your library rules.

When I was a preteen, my parents found that putting in a family friendly audio book saved long road trips.  I remember a particularly good one,  The Jungle Book, kept my “hands to myself” for a couple days.

I love reading books, paper in my hand, books.  I take notes, flag pages and often refer back to previous chapters so I”m trying to decide whether getting an ereader is a good option for me. Readers, I would love to hear your input on whether or not to get one and what ereader to get.

Photo by ESwift

3.  Music Exploration

One of the newest ways I”m using the library is to check out music.  Some CDs are those I want to expose my children to, different forms of music genres and eras.  Some are new artists that I want to spend time listening to before I commit to ten dollars for their newest album.

4.  Programs for Kids and Teens

When I was a new mama, I would tote my one little bundle of joy to the library each week for a music and story program for babies.  I”d find other new moms to sympathize with and come home with a few new books.  Books for Babies turned into Toddler Time and as my oldest grows, there are more programs for art exploration, Lego building and mad science experiments.  Many libraries even have a program for children to practice their skills reading to dogs.

Library programs for teens might include college prep workshops, computer skills, clubs for readers or gamers, or weekend movie screenings.  Some libraries offer after school study sessions, SAT prep or free tutoring.

5.  Programs for Adults and Seniors

The library is not just for your kids, they offer workshops and classes for adults and seniors, too. If you”ve always wanted to polish your writing skills, the library has a class for you. If you need computer skills or speak a different language, the library has resources for you.

Free concerts and musicals, author readings, film festivals and other community events, the library is a resource for the entire family.

Photo by Lindsay_NYC

6.  Book Clubs

If you like to read and have never been part of a book club, consider joining one.  Some of my most favorite books were book club choices, many of which I would have never read if I hadn”t been part of a book club.  The library is a great place to find existing book clubs to join or the place to start a new one.  Libraries often host author readings and book signings, another great place to meet like-minded readers.

7.  Materials for Teachers, Homeschoolers and Daycare Providers

Libraries are a great resource for learning materials for the teaching environment.  Whenever my oldest asks about a topic I don”t know much about, we head to the library for a book or video about the subject.  Sometimes we pick up bags (our library calls them Theme Bags) of books, props and teaching resources on specific topics like bugs, the history of St. Patrick”s Day or green living.   They also offer puppets and over sized books for story telling.

8. Free Passes to Local Destinations

One of the neatest programs our library has is the Cultural Pass to Adventure which allows families to go to any of seven different local destinations including our Children”s Museum, Japanese Garden, and Museum of Rocks and Minerals. Passes are only good for one day and cannot be checked out regularly but they give families the opportunity to go to educational destinations, for free.

Photo by Enoch Pratt Free Library

9.  Early Literacy Programs

I think the reading is one of the best gifts we can introduce to our children.  There are many things you can do with your kids during their infant, toddler and preschooler years to prepare them to read.  The library has recommended reading lists for each skill level from early talkers to pre-readers.

The summer reading programs are a great way to introduce your kids (and yourself) to books you”ve never read.  My daughter”s list had ten Caldecott Medal Winners on it that we had never read and we added a few of them to our favorite books list.

Our library has several computers with reading and math skills games and they give access to an for kid”s to read and listen to at home.   My four-year old loves to choose a book and have the computer read it to her while she follows along, looking at the illustrations and seeing each word highlighted as it is spoken.  It”s a great pre-reading activity while I”m busy with her brother or household tasks.

10.  Magazine Check Out

Any other magazine junkies out there?  I”m a really visual person so magazines fulfill my need for lots of pictures.  I have a few too many subscriptions so instead of subscribing to any more, I pick up copies at the library, flip through them and give them back a few days later.   I often do this right before an airplane or road trip, loading up on the latest issues and scanning them while traveling.   I love the cost savings and reusing resources.

If you haven”t already, subscribe to your local library newsletter or read their blog.  You will be surprised at the wonderful opportunities for your entire family, and often at no cost.

Do you find the library to be a hidden gem, like me?   How do you use the library?   Do you have an ereader – is it a must have?

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Heather

    I love my nook color. It is a great little gadget. I am completely with you though on loving to hold an actual book in my hands, but I am fully enjoying downloading a lot of new books on the nook. It is actually slightly dangerous because it is so easy to just get a new book. I also like that you can download previews of all the books, and it is great for the kids too 🙂

  2. Kara

    Great post. I love the library. I was given a Kindle as a gift last Christmas and I don’t think I would have bought it on my own. Pros: easy to read, lightweight, nice for travel, convenient for getting a new book, many ‘classics’ available for free download. Cons: the text has more mistakes – especially ‘rn’ turning into ‘m’, most e-books are about the same price as a mass-market paperback, too easy to spend money on a download – when you could go to the library, have to remember to charge it, you can’t hold it like a book – it feels like a gadget.

  3. Colleen @ A Misplaced Trust

    Hi Nicole! Great post! I have been a lover of the library since I was a little girl. As a mom, I love taking my son to the library. We utilize many of the options you have listed in your post and it has helped us to be more “green”. No more magazine subscriptions, borrowing books is better for the environment and I love that we can borrow music and movies!

    Like you, I have always loved the “feel” of a book in my hands and resisted getting an ereader for a long time. But I have to tell you, now that I have one I would never give it back! I often read several books at one time and it’s so nice to have one device that holds them all. I love to travel and always take a stack of books when I do and having an ereader allows me to have as many books at my disposal as I could possibly read. I am thrilled that libraries now offer the option to borrow books to ereaders. My husband originally bought me the Sony reader and after a year or so I upgraded to a Nook (not color). I adore it, it goes everywhere with me! And Nook has a neat feature that allows you to “share” books between Nook owners. Cool, huh? I am a big “buyer” of free and under $5.00 books. It has introduced me to some authors that I would never have known otherwise.

    BTW, when I get the itch to feel the weight of a hardback in my hands, a quick trip to the library is the fix!

  4. Kelsey

    Our library has online language courses available online. They’re not comprehensive, but a great beginning!

    I was given an e-reader by a friend who was moving and didn’t want his anymore. I used it for about a week, but felt that it encouraged me to make impulsive book purchases. (One-click ordering can be dangerous!) I think it made me less likely to use the library, so I passed it on to my dad who travels frequently for work.

  5. Julia

    No e-reader for us yet. We love the printed page, and the library is one of my kids’ favorite destinations. Since we don’t watch regular TV (no cable, no antenna in our house), they enjoy picking out fresh DVDs to borrow as well. We love the story times too!

    Now I’m off to pay some fines so we can check out some more materials… That’s our Achilles’ heel when it comes to the library.

    • Tiffany

      Julia, I get fines too often, too. My husband asks me if we need its own budget category!

      • Julia

        Ha ha. My husband wondered if we could count our payments as a tax-deductible donations. =)

        • Tiffany

          haha, that’s a good one!

  6. Alissa

    I have a Kindle, but if I were doing it over again, I would probably choose the Nook – simply because our library allows you to download ebooks that are nook compatible, but not for Kindle yet. That being said, Amazon is one of my most frequently visited websites, so I like the ease of downloading directly from them.

    And, I have re-affirmed my love with the library since having kids. As a child, I vividly remember our weekly trips and the rule of “only choose 8” books. We many not go as frequently, but we are fully embracing the movies, music, and books galore. I need a sturdier library tote!

    Our library also does an annual “What if Everyone Read the Same Book” series. They announce the book about 6 months before and then schedule a month with all sorts of events surrounding that book, including the author speaking at several venues around town. For “The Help” they had classes on southern cooking and cocktails, lectures about the civil rights movement, etc.

  7. Esther L.

    We love the library too! I have a Nook and although I like it, I kind of prefer holding an actual book in my hands. I’m looking into getting a Nook Color simply because my kids love books and it would be so convenient to download library books to the Nook Color. Carrying a small gadget in the diaper bag sure beats lugging a bunch of books around.

  8. Rebecca

    Thank you for posting this. I need to take advantage of our local library and take my son more often.

  9. Successful Woman's Resource Center

    I used the library religiously when I homeschooled my 3 kids, but now that they are grown, I haven’t been in several years! I should drop by and see what all they have to offer now!

  10. Rea

    I love libraries. When I was a kid going to the library was the best, most awesome thing in the world. I went through a spell after college where I didn’t go as much, but now I’m at the library at least once a week because we have an awesome library system. I’ve probably used most of the services you list except for book groups/programs because they don’t offer a lot of those.

    My favorite thing about the library the past few years has been the ability to reserve books online and then just run in and pick them up. That was pure gold in the years my boys were young enough to where I didn’t have time to browse for MY books with them along.

    • Tiffany

      Rea, I have a long list of reserved books for the same reason!!

  11. Kelly

    We love the library! My son turns 6 in 3 weeks and that’s the age for getting a library card here, so he’s very excited to have his own card. No eReader yet, but seriously considering the Nook Color since it can do more than hold digital books. I love to get away from the screen and curl up on the couch to read, so hadn’t been interested in a reader until I saw what the Nook Color can do. My birthday is next week, maybe then?! 🙂

    • Tiffany

      I don’t know anything about the Nook Color but it sounds like I need to look into it! My birthday is in October so maybe I will be adding one to my list.

      • Kelly

        It has wi-fi and can do email and web, plus the color factor enables interactive media in kids’ books. Those 3 things are what made me start taking a closer look. Before I buy I want to verify that it does music and pictures too, but I’m fairly sure it does.

        • Heather

          You can put pictures and mp3’s on the nook color…it also has a pandora app as well.

  12. Jorinde

    I love the library, and I loved this article so much that I shared it as a ‘Worth Every Minute’ article on my blog (I put the link up). You can check it out at

    I have a Kindle DX that I use almost daily. I still read ordinary books, but I bring the Kindle with me whenever I travel. I have mostly classics on there and have only bough two books so far that I couldn’t find in print where I live. I like how easy it is to hold with one hand, when lying in bed for example, and that I can have a ton of books on there so I can read whatever I’m in the mood for.

    For traveling it’s really great! I keep some music on there too, and can use it for emergency Internet (research) every now and then. It also holds my lesson plans and papers I may need (maps of the area I travel to, ideas on restaurants, etc.)

    I’ve found it really useful! Hope that helped 🙂

  13. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    I wish our library had the local passes that some cities have! But we get soooo much out of our library, it’s hard to complain.

    I thought I was a library whiz kid and was really humbled earlier this year when the reference librarian pointed out to me that circulation was only 15-20% of what the library had to offer. She taught me how to access the “hidden web” using the online databases. I’ve had fun reading articles on “subscription only” websites for free since then!

  14. Jeni

    I love the library! I just started going there regularly last year. I was telling my boyfriend I discovered a free place to get tons of books, and he couldn’t figure out where I was talking about;) I like the fact you can request books and they send you an email when they’re ready and you just go in and grab them. And my library has the online feature where you can download 3 free MP3s a week. Yay!

  15. Mandy

    Hey that’s my library in the first picture! (I’m a reference librarian). Thank you so much for posting this—it is true that libraries have so much to offer to the community. Another thing I will add is meeting space. Libraries often have rooms ranging from small tutoring rooms to large classrooms that can be booked by the public for free. We have a lot of small groups that depend on these rooms for a place to study, hold book clubs, etc.

    BTW, @Alissa (and other Kindle owners), most libraries that offer ebooks do so using Overdrive. Overdrive and Amazon are hashing out the details of Kindle compatibility right now, and free ebooks will be compatible with the Kindle *very* soon. We don’t have an exact date yet, but have been told it will happen by the end of the year (with rumors of it happening much sooner)

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