Nearly half of U.S. adults, age 16 and older, visited a library or bookmobile in the past year, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. And while about 64 percent of them went there to check out a book or two, many visited for other reasons.
Indeed, these days, you’ll find more in the library than just shelves of books and librarians shushing you. For bargain hunters and individuals and families looking to cut their expenses, the library can be a treasure trove of deals.
For students struggling with reading or even advanced physics, the library can be the go-to place for support and help. According to the American Library Association, 95 percent of public libraries offer online homework help.
Many libraries also offer on-site tutoring programs for kids from grade school to high school. In some cases, retirees help out students who need a boost. In other cases, it’s local high school or college students who are chipping in to earn volunteer hours. In either case, it could save families from hiring costly tutors to ensure their students stay on track.
And you won’t find just one-on-one tutoring help at your neighborhood library. They also lineup academic enrichment programs too. According to the library association, more than 30 percent of libraries provide literacy, GED prep and after-school programs.
Movies to rent and stream
Ages ago, libraries began adding VHS tapes and then DVDs to their collections, so patrons could check out a movie or two with their books. Now those same libraries are signing up with streaming services such as Hoopla Digital or Kanopy. Through these services, library goers just need their library card to watch TV shows, movies and other content for free at home.
Family events and programs
Whether it’s a mommy-and-me storytime, a Harry Potter festival or, in the case of some large libraries, a major concert, most libraries offer up daily or weekly free activities, events and programs.
A growing number of libraries also are opening so-called makerspaces, so community members can try out everything from 3D printers and laser cutters to sewing machines and other crafting tools.
And these events aren’t just for little kids. About 61 percent of libraries host social connections for adults, according to the library association. About the same number offer up activities for teens, including book clubs and gaming programs.
Admission to local children’s museums or science museums can add up for a family of four. Libraries are filling in the gaps for families who are living on a tight budget by letting them check out passes for free, so they can spend a day at a local museum.
The Seattle Public Library, for instance, offers passes to more than a dozen museums, along with a zoo and aquarium. The Boston Public Library offers passes for 16 different attractions, including museums, kayak rentals, tours and even live theater.
Support for job seekers
For many job seekers, the library should be the first place they go as they launch their hunt. Not only is there free access to computers and the internet, but libraries also offer job search programs, including workshops on crafting resumes or improving interview skills. According to the library association, 73 percent of libraries support those applying for jobs and 68 percent provide access to online job opportunity resources.
So, as you look for family fun or prep for your next career move, check out your library for more than a book. They might just have all of the resources you need -- for free.
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