When I was just a little guy, my mom would take me every couple of weeks to the local public library. I’d spend hours just rifling through aisles and aisles of books. Somehow, over time, we all got “over it” and got tricked into buying and amassing large shelf collections of books from the local bookstore. I had too, for a while. But in the past few years, library usage, at least in Canada, has been steadily on the rise.

Beyond library books

One of the reasons attributed to the increase in usage, is that libraries have evolved from being just books to carrying other forms of media. Our library also carries a great selection of the latest:

  • music CDs & audiobooks
  • DVD movies & TV shows
  • great selection of e-books, that I view on my computer, iPad or smartphone
  • and yes, even video games. Pretty hip, eh?

Besides borrowing, it also allows you to spend some quality time with your children. As a parent, the public library’s been a blessing. Our local library has a kids play area, filled with train sets and toy houses – a place where my daughter can roam around freely with all the other kids. They also have story and craft time, computers, meeting rooms and resourceful staff and librarians, if you ever need any help.

What are your collections costing you?

Now, how many times have you walked into a bookstore, bought a book, only to never read it? Or bought a movie, that’s never left its wrapper. Now, I’m not saying that it’s an either/or situation. There are a select few books and movies that I own as well. Those are the ones that earn space on my shelves. Everything else I get from our local library. When you factor in, for example, the cost of a DVD alone is about $20. Think of all the movies, books and CDs you’ve collected over the years, and that can really add up (and you’re probably continuously upgrading them. First it was VHS, then DVD, then BlueRay, what next?). Not to mention the space they take up. My daughter gets through about one week of really liking a book/movie, until she’s bored. Sound familiar? Look at what you’re spending.

The public library, on the other hand, is a FREE resource by every sense of the word (well, okay, we pay taxes to support it, but it’s there to use, so we may as well get good use out of it). Think of it as try before you buy. If you like what you borrow at the library, then just borrow it again. If you think you’ll borrow it again and again, then buy it.

So make the most of your visit

Here’s five tips to make the most out of your library experience and save money doing it.

  1. Check out your local branch. Sign up for a library card and see what they have to offer. You might be surprised.
  2. Search their website. If you’re time-strapped and don’t want to spend it rifling through a library to get what you want. Check out their website and reserve your copy.
  3. If the item you want is out? Chances are, they may have been put on hold. You can do the same for the items you want. Most libraries have a service where you can be notified FREE by either email or by phone when your item is shipped FREE to your local branch.
  4. Renew. If you haven’t had a chance to read/listen/view it, then renew it. It varies by location, but for us, books and CDs are usually three week rentals while DVD movies are one, with the option of renewing them two times. So you have up to three weeks for DVDs, and nine weeks for everything else, unless someone is requesting that item on hold.
  5. Don’t forget those late fees. Now that libraries are all online, there really is no excuse to have an overdue payment. Set a reminder, or if you remember that the due date is drawing near, just renew the book until you can get to the library. Most libraries allow you to drop off at any branch within your area. And if you do have to pay a fee, don’t be upset about it. Consider it a donation to supporting your local library and as a thank you for not having to buy all the things you would have previously bought or rented.

No matter how you look at it, the public library is a fantastic resource and I strongly encourage everyone to visit their local library. I used to love buying books and CDs, only to collect dust and take up space on a shelf, now I’ve revived my love for the library.

 

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