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The Library is a Magical Place and You Should Fucking Go There

The Library Is a Magical Place and You Should Fucking Go There

Back when I lived in a hippie commune with approximately nine humans and 37 dogs, I biked to the library on a regular basis. It was an easy way to keep myself in reading material without spending all of my meager paycheck on books.

As I was leaving one day, I asked one roommate if she wanted me to pick up anything at the library for her. Her response: “Is it free?”

Is it free? Is it free?

Let’s pretend for a minute that it’s not completely weird and unbelievable that an adult human being could grow up in the United States without ever having learned the first thing (literally, the very first thing) about the public library. Let’s also set aside the fact that this particular person was an English major! I’ll just state, definitively and for the record:

The library is fucking free, you fool. So why the hell wouldn’t you use it? Especially if you’re on a tight budget and trying to save money?

Are libraries actually free?

Libraries are a godsend to poor and frugal people everywhere. They offer a truly staggering number of amazingly useful services. So I guess we forgive anyone who thinks they must cost money. Capitalism has trained thee well!

There are some rare exceptions, like private or school libraries that might require memberships. But in general, public libraries in the United States are completely free. They’re just one of the many awesome social services you get for the cost of paying your taxes—like fire departments, municipal animal shelters, and calendars of sexy firefighters holding adoptable animals. Wow, who knew membership in civilized society came with such amazing perks?!

And you don’t even really have to pay taxes to participate in all the library has to offer! Children, homeless people, and temporary residents on work or student visas can all get library cards. Neat, right?

And yet there are people like my old roommate who live their lives completely oblivious to the magical properties of the public library. I am here to set those precious, oblivious little babes in the woods straight. Consider this a PSA on the magical money-saving properties of the American public library.

Libraries are so free that many of them are eliminating fines altogether to make sure money is never a barrier for anyone.

You can save so much money on books by using the library

I religiously update my Goodreads account so I know exactly how many books I read in a given year. Last year, 37 of the 53 books I read came from the library.

The average cost of an adult trade paperback is about $15. So I saved $550 in one year, just by visiting the library. That’s a lot of money! So even even if you’re a prodigious reader like me, you don’t have to spend money on books.

Librarians tend to frown on recreations of this scene using their library ladders. Take it from one who knows.

“Oh, but I like to write in the margins and underline stuff and dog-ear the pages and then hold onto books for years and years so I know that they’re really mine and no one else’s!” Ok, that’s cool. You do you. But that’s a luxury you have to pay for.

Maybe practice a little restraint and avoid marking up your books? Keep a notebook or try Goodreads instead? And get thee to the goddamn library.

The library has so much more than books

Some people aren’t big readers. Fine! I acknowledge their existence even if I cannot understand them. But the library has so much more than just books.

Other kinds of media

It’s got multiple forms of media for education and entertainment. That includes…

  • Audiobooks, which you can rent and stream on your phone
  • Music
  • Movies and TV shows
  • Magazines and newspapers (inside the paywall, baby!)
  • Comic books and graphic novels
  • Sheet music
  • Academic journals
  • Technical manuals
  • Members-only websites (like Consumer Reports)
  • Textbooks (HUGE potential money savings for students)

Unique experiences

There’s also lots of unique experiences. Local libraries host tons of live events, usually for free or a very low cost. Things like…

  • Free or discounted admission to local museums, zoos, and aquariums
  • Music concerts and recitals
  • Live readings of poetry, plays, and new books
  • Classes and lectures
  • Fitness and yoga classes
  • Facilitated play activities for families with children
  • Clubs and study groups for teens and students
  • Food trucks, especially in the summertime
  • Community gardens

Useful facilities

Have I mentioned their facilities? Many public libraries boast amazing on-location conveniences such as…

  • Free internet and wifi
  • Dirt-cheap use of printers, scanners, and faxes
  • Free private rooms for meetings and rehearsals
  • Lots of desks, tables, armchairs, and other workspaces
  • Private study rooms
  • Bathrooms and a warm place to hang out if that’s all you need for now

Free apps

Weird stuff

All libraries rent actual, physical books. But lots of them rent other things too! Some of them are pretty straightforward, like pieces of expensive cutting-edge technology. (I mean, that is what books used to be.)

  • Computers, tablets, and e-readers
  • 3-D printers
  • Digital and video cameras
  • Green screens
  • Computer software
  • Video game consoles

But also, there’s way weirder things! Kitty’s small suburban library has a pretty astonishing collection of “things” for rent. It’s a pretty wild assortment of things like…

  • Camping gear, like tents
  • Outdoor gear, like fishing poles and snow shoes
  • Crafting supplies, like sewing machines
  • Bicycles, plus accessories like locks and pumps
  • Seeds that you take in the spring and replenish in the fall
  • Musical instruments
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Basic household tools
  • Board games and lawn games
  • THERAPY DOGS?!

Absolutely incredible. And it can all be yours if you just go to the damn library!

Whatever the library doesn’t have, it can get

“But sometimes the library just doesn’t have the thing I want to consume when I want to consume it!” This is legit. Fortunately, the library has systems in place to help.

There’s inter-library loan, in which you can ask another library far, far away to lend a thing to your library branch so that your branch can then lend it to you. It takes a bit longer to get your free stuff this way, but it works and librarians are happy to make it happen for you. And beggars (for free shit anyway) can’t be choosers, amirite?

Or if it looks like there’s not a single library in a five-county radius that has the obscure printing of The Books of the Chilam Balam in the original K’iche’ Maya that you’re looking for, you can ask your library to order it.

That’s right: you have power over which books are stocked at your local library! All you have to do is fill out a request. They’ll buy the book and lend it out to you as often as you like.

Librarians are paladins in the war between ignorance and enlightenment 

My mother-in-law is a librarian. She went to librarian school for many, many years, and I’m pretty sure what they taught her there was everything.

Librarians are trained to help you find knowledge. It’s a core part of their job. No matter how obscure or weird the topic, librarians will come through.

Need help writing that goddamn essay on Wuthering Heights for your 8 a.m. Brit Lit class? A librarian will supply you with every scholarly deconstruction ever written on that shitty excuse for a classic! (They’ll probably come up with your thesis statement for you just for fun. It’ll be something like: “Heathcliff and Catherine deserve each other because they’re both miserable monsters who destroy everything they touch and think their inability to set aside personal pride and apologize once in awhile is somehow more important than the genuine suffering of others.”)

Cinematic reenactment of the moment I finished reading “Wuthering Heights.”

These are just some of the official research and advisory services the library might offer help with.

  • Homework and research
  • Resume writing and job hunting
  • Free legal consultations for common legal problems
  • Filing your taxes
  • Credit repair services
  • First-time home buying classes
  • Standardized test prep sessions
  • Citizenship classes

I’ve seen some librarians do some amazing shit. Help an unemployed man write his resume. Teach an elderly woman how to use her first Kindle. Meet a mother at her car door with the stack of books she had on hold so she didn’t have to drag her five children inside.

Librarians are great people. They love to help their patrons, so go make use of them.

Go to the fucking library

  • Can’t afford to pay your Internet bill this month? The library has free wifi.
  • Hit your limit on shared Netflix devices? The library has many binge-worthy shows.
  • Need to save on entertainment so you can focus on paying off debt? Libraries have have pretty much everything, including new releases and bestsellers.
  • Can’t afford to buy your college textbooks? The library probably has copies.
  • Annoying roommate disrupting your studies? The library makes a great workspace.
  • No place to meet to discuss a group project? Reserve one in the library for a few hours.
  • Need somewhere warm to pass a few hours? The library is a great safe place to pass some quiet time.
  • Need help with almost literally anything? From sticking with NaNoWriMo to escaping domestic violence? C’mon, you’ve figured out the theme! Go. To. The. Library.

The stacks are filled with unicorns and talking puppies! Perfectly choreographed songbirds will accompany you (and your library finds) home! And you’ll swell with the sense of satisfaction that comes from saving your hard-earned dough for more important things! See a doctor about it.

Seriously, just go to the goddamn library, you fools!

Readers, tell us about your local library! What’s your favorite thing about it? How have your librarians helped you in the past? If it wasn’t clear, we’re leaning pro-library and stanning all library-related comments.

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26 thoughts to “The Library Is a Magical Place and You Should Fucking Go There”

  1. They also often have subscriptions for foreign language learning courseware, song downloads, e-books, audiobooks…man I love my library ^_^

    Oh, and lots of free events and groups! I’m in a free writing workshop held at my local library. #librarylove

    1. They do indeed! Library wonders never cease!

      I remember when I was in hardcore student loan payoff mode. The library was my primary source of entertainment.

  2. I wish the libraries in my country were as stocked with books as the one that I went to the last time I traveled to America. It’s so amazing how many books you can find on so many topics. I did not want to leave. The library in my town has mostly empty shelves. At least the children’s section looks cute.

    1. Empty shelves! At a library! Oh, that breaks my heart! America has a lot of problems, but it’s true that even small towns usually have lovely full, free libraries.

    2. Oh this is so sad! One of my most cherished childhood memories is spending whole days in my hometown library, just browsing and reading while sitting on beanbag chairs between the stacks. It was cozy and probably kept me out of trouble, as my mom could always call the librarians to check up on me.
      Where do you live? Not gonna lie–I’m a little scared that the new administration is going to gut the library budget and we’ll end up the same way.

  3. I worked in my local library system (my city was large enough to have a whole SYSTEM! bless) for 3 years and volunteered there for another 3, and I am *still* finding new resources. God bless libraries.

  4. You know it is amazing. In my next blog post, I’m covering the “FREEBIES” from our library.

    It speaks volumes that ours now supplies meals for children to supplement the “free meals” program through schools, as schools are out for summer.

    I love going to my fucking library!

  5. PREACH IT!! I’m a proud library card carrying book lover who grew up with a librarian aunt. Half my childhood was spent buried in a pile of books taller than me, with nary a dime spent. I went on to work a part time job at my campus library for 6 years (undergrad + masters), and have ALWAYS gotten a library card no matter where I lived (4 states now…) Spread the good word fellow frugal entertainment lover! Librarians are angels on earth.

  6. 3D printers (I am not shitting you).
    Free passes to local museums, zoos, etc.
    Book clubs for ALL ages and genders (NOT just for older women).
    A library store where you can buy those books you HAVE to own for about $1.
    Queues for popular books, movies, etc. Get in line and the library will pull (or ship in from other branches) when it is available and email you to come pick up. They may even offer a drive-thru window!
    Be sure to see if you can get a card from nearby library systems to extend your options. (Texas, for example, has a TexShare card that allows you to get a card at virtually any Texas library that you are willing to travel to once or twice a year to renew.)

    And here is a sampling of the digital services your library may offer – all in the comfort of your own home.

    Freegal: download a set number of songs each week which are yours to keep forever without being a copyright pirate.
    Overdrive/Libby or Axis360 or Cloud Library or RBDigital: access to digital books and/or audio books. Library selects which books to own and you can check out so many at a time (5 is common). RBDigital also has a comic book offshoot called Comics Plus. Overdrive has Kindle versions of books.
    Hoopla: the king of digital books and also has audio books, movies, TV shows, and comics. You get so many check outs per month, but all items are available at all times (no queues). They carry a lot of small publishers, so if you want speciality books like vegan cookbooks, M/M romances, local history, published theses, religious books, etc, this is the best place to look.
    Kanopy: works like the book options above, except it is digital movies, especially independent and foreign films.
    Flipster or Zinio: digital magazines. Your library picks which ones to carry.

    This is a very partial list, so check with your library website!

    1. Coming in somewhat late (er, a year and a half late) to say my library offers library sleep-overs as prizes for the top readers in the kids summer reading clubs. They are hugely popular and apparently very fun, and we (the staff) always come in the next day to find little pranks or decorations hidden around the place. Somehow the Halloween skeleton always ends up sitting at my desk.

  7. But I’m shy and always feel like I’m bothering the nice librarian people when I ask for help
    I haven’t checked out a book from my school library in 4 years of going there because I’m afraid they’ll judge me
    They’re not really “happy” to do things for me, it’s just their (low-paying) jobs (same with retail workers)

    1. Nooooo, this just isn’t so!

      Most librarians have a master’s degree in library science. That’s six years of schooling, at minimum. They study for years to do this because they are extremely passionate about it! And they are paid 2-3x as much as the average hourly retail worker.

      When I have this kind of thought, it helps me to flip it around. If you were working at your job and someone needed your help, but didn’t ask because they didn’t want to bother you, how would you feel? Not good, right? Open your heart and let the librarians in, girl!!

    2. What Kitty said!!!

      Also, if you’re a student, your school’s library might be staffed with work study students. They’re your peers! They’re just like you! Trust me, you’re not bothering them by (politely) asking for them to do what they’re paid to do.

  8. If I lived in a hippie commune *cringe* with nine human beings, and that many dogs, I would be escaping to the library too. When I was in bankruptcy for 7 years that’s one of the things I did for entertainment. It’s a win, win, win, win.

    We’ll see how many exist down the road.

  9. Excellent call out here. I recently learned I get a free Newspapers.com subscription as well, which is an awesome archive. Though now that I’m not living paycheck to paycheck, I try to support the local bookstore when possible, especially for a book I wouldn’t mind keeping on the physical bookshelf. I am the same way with Goodreads, but not nearly as prolific a reader!

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