Public libraries offer A LOT of free things that most people don’t know about. I know because I got my Master’s in Library Science; otherwise, I probably would have never known that you could get much more than books and media at the library.

A public library’s purpose is much more than to provide access to books; their mission is to enrich their communities and improve quality of life for its citizens and they do that by offering technologies, tools and resources to help people succeed.

Because every community has different needs, not every library will offer all of these things, but a majority of these items will be available through at least one library in your local public library system. Borrowing items is especially great if you only need them for a project or two. No need to buy something you are only going to use once or twice. It’s also a good way to try before you buy.

What Can you Borrow at Libraries?

    1. Books – DUH!
    2. Music CDs
    3. Blu-Rays
    4. Video Games – Wii, Xbox, PC Games, Playstation 3, etc.
    5. E-books
    6. Board games
    7. Online databases – database subscriptions are VERY expensive and libraries provide access to hundreds of different databases for free. These databases are EXCELLENT resources for children and students. They provide high quality scholarly and academic articles that are superior to what you would find with a simple Google search. Some examples of databases that libraries give you access to:
      • Junior Reference Collection
      • Kids InfoBits
      • National Geographic Kids
      • Biography in Content (Gale)
      • World Book Kids
      • Reference USA
      • Gale Business Collections
      • Academic OneFile
      • America’s Genealogy Bank
      • Auto Repair Reference Center
      • Health & Wellness Resource Center
      • Science Online
      • Literature Resource Center
      • Live Homework Help
      • Mango Languages
      • Local newspaper archives
      • WorldCat
    8. Digital Collections – Libraries are working on digitizing local historical documents and photographs so that you can learn about your city’s heritage and cultural roots.
    9. Tablets
    10. E-readers
    11. Layaway Launchpads – they are designed just for kids and are pre-loaded with high-quality, ad-free apps that are both fun and educational.
    12. Portable Blu-Ray Player
    13. MP3 Players
    14. DVDs
    15. Laptops
    16. Periodicals
    17. Magazines
    18. Cameras
    19. Tools – This library offers over 200 tools to lend out!
    20. Cooking appliances
    21. Sewing machines
    22. Irons
    23. Home appliances
    24. Musical instruments
    25. Sheet music
    26. Hobby kits such as model kits for planes, ships and buildings.
    27. Discovery kits – They are filled with books, craft ideas, puzzles, dvd’s, games, etc.  for young and old. They are themed like Dinosaur Discovery Kit or Elephant Discovery Kit
    28. Activity kits – Book accompanied by an activity card and simple activity (puppet, stuffed animal, etc.)
    29. Parenting kits like tolieting and bedwetting kits
    30. Cassettes
    31. Scrapbooking kits
    32. Audiobooks
    33. Pedometers – like FitBits
    34. Newspapers
    35. Downloadable Apps – apps that would otherwise cost you money to download
    36. Comics and graphic novels
    37. Virtual reference library
    38. Digital magazines through services like Zinio
    39. Telescopes
    40. Book Kits (10 books and a guide). Good for book clubs.
    41. Digital music services like Freegal that offer over 7million songs to choose from.
    42. Toys and gadgets – like gaming accessories (e.g. controllers)
    43. Seeds
    44. Gardening tools (also gardening classes)
    45. Video production equipment
    46. Sports equipment
    47. Consumer guides / reports to figure out best brands to buy
    48. Science equipment (Microscopes, pH meters, etc.)
    49. Digital Voice Recorders
    50. Phone chargers
    51. Exercise/Workout Videos
    52. Bicycles and bike pumps
    53. Bakeware
    54. Home Energy Evaluation Kits
    55. Headphones
    56. LCD Projector (fee may apply)
    57. Craft supplies
    58. GoPro
    59. Lawn care items like rakes, shovels, etc
    60. Puzzles
    61. Overhead Projector
    62. Dolls (ex. American Girls Dolls)
    63. Winter items like show shoes, sleds, ice skates, snow shovels.
    64. Energy Meters for the home
      Libraries are creating “library of things” like Sacramento Public Library – or

      What Services Do Libraries Provide For Free (Or A Small Fee)?

    65. Electric car charging – this one is very new. So far there is only one library in my state offering this service, but more libraries are working on getting these installed.
    66. Research help – Librarians are expert researchers and you can enlist their help.
    67. Bookmobiles – This is a up and coming service in my area. They are mobile libraries that come to you! Especially helpful if you lack transportation to get to the library. Here, they primarily visit senior living/retirement or low income communities for people that can’t drive or don’t have transportation.
    68. Career help – libraries give patrons access to resources, websites, and databases to help people look for jobs. An example of my local libraries Career page is here.
    69. Book sales – you can buy books for thrift store prices! ($0.50 to $1)
    70. 3D Printing – 3D printers are thousands of dollars, but many libraries are buying them to let patrons use for FREE (or sometimes a small fee). There are over 250 libraries in the US that offer 3D printers to patrons! Some examples of the cool things people have made at libraries are: printed phone cases, toy characters, playing pieces for board games, replacement parts for electric razors, cookie cutters, artificial limbs for amputees, tools, jewelry and more!
    71. Free passes to local educational or cultural institutions – ex: museums, sports games, zoos or aquariums
    72. Room reservations – you can reserve a conference room.
    73. Homework help
    74. Free wi-fi
    75. Computers
    76. Copy
    77. Print
    78. Fax
    79. Scan
    80. Ellison Die Machine
    81. Book vending machines – like Redbox but for books!
    82. Laminating
    83. Ask a Librarian – is a live virtual reference service (chat, email, texting) that offers online reference assistance. Questions are answered in real time by librarians with subject expertise in a wide range of disciplines. You can ask questions about library services, information resources, and conducting research.
    84. Internet access
    85. Computer usage
    86. Research guides/finding aids on many subjects
    87. ADA Services (ex. large print and braille materials)
    88. Readers’ Advisory Services – Recommending books based on reading interests
    89. Inter Library Loans
    90. Forms – libraries provides legal, government and tax forms for residents
    91. Special Collections
    92. Delivery Service for people who are homebound
    93.  Mobile library app that gives you 24/7 access to the libraries online books, resources and databases
    94. Consumer health information and resources
    95. Government Assistance
    96. Request Materials
    97. Genealogy Services
    98. Access to library materials 7 days a week!

      What Can You Do at Libraries? Programs – Events, Classes, Clubs and more!
      There are thousands of different programs at libraries (New York Public Library offers more than 80,000 programs annually), so I couldn’t cover them all, but I will list some of the more popular ones (for kids, teens and adults)


    99. Genealogy classes
    100. Career development classes – to help with resume and gives free career related resources and advise
    101. Money Matters / Financial Programs
    102. Computer classes (Internet Basics, Microsoft Office 101, etc). I have taught many of these computer classes at my local library. It’s an excellent resource for senior citizens.
    103. Learn a language classes – In my state, many libraries have Spanish classes.
    104. Author talks – meet your favorite author!
    105. Bingo night
    106. Movie night
    107. Book clubs
    108. Book discussion groups
    109. Technology classes – ipad basics, mobile device help, etc.
    110. ZUMBA
    111. Yoga
    112. Art gallery / exhibits
    113. Writing club
    114. Job counseling
    115. Adult coloring
    116. Quilters & crafters
    117. Cooking programs
    118. Speed Dating
    119. Aerobics / Exercise classes – Great place to find a running buddy
    120. Adult pottery class
    121. Open mic night
    122. Wine tasting (yes, really)
    123. Special lecture or creative workshops
    124. Volunteering – A library is a fun place to volunteer and they could really use the extra help!

      Kids and Teens

    125. Computer coding – teaching kids programming
    126. Pokemon club
    127. Minecraft club
    128. Story time
    129. Comic Cons – My local library has one of these every year and they are REALLY popular – thousands show up for it.
    130. Block Party / Lego League
    131. Game Zone
    132. Teen Time
    133. Puppet shows
    134. Teen crafts
    135. Family game night
    136. Anime club
    137. Battle of the Books
    138. Origami
    139. Robotics club
    140. Poetry slam
    141. Writer’s group
    142. Dance party / dance studio
    143. Summer Reading Program
    144. Makerspaces / Hackerspaces – This is a trending topic in the library field and was what I did my thesis paper on. If you aren’t familiar with the terminology it simply means a space where people gather to make, create, and share supplies, skills, and ideas. Some examples of makerspace equipment:  Espresso Book Machine (print and bind your own book!), Digital Creation Stations, 3D Printer, Laser Cutter/Engraver, Vinyl Printer/Cutter
    145. Nursery Rhyme Time
    146. STEM programs
    147. Guitar Lessons
    148. Manga Mania
    149. Harry Potter Parties
    150. CreateIT and iTNation programs give teens experience using various digital media software and allow them to teach introductory digital media classes to others.

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