7 Unexpected Ways To Save Money At Your Local Library


Public libraries are one of the older institutions we have here in the U.S.! The first publicly funded library was established in Peterborough, New Hampshire in 1833, and today there are over 16,000 public library buildings across the country!

But libraries are not just a relic of the pre-internet era. In fact, libraries continue to offer valuable information and services to their communities, free of charge! Your library exists to provide these services, and using these services is a great way to save money.


So today I wanted to shed some light on library services by sharing 7 unexpected items you can borrow from them for free! If you don’t already have a library card, you’ll definitely want one by the end of this post! :-)

Disclaimer: While many of these items are available at my local library and may be available at yours, I can’t make any guarantees! For specific details about the services offered by your local library, I encourage you to visit their website, give them a call, or stop by to chat with a librarian. :-)

7 Surprising Library Services That Can Save You Money


1. Mobile Hotspots

In addition to offering internet access at the library itself, many libraries are making mobile hotspots available to their patrons too. Check-out periods are typically limited to a few days at a time, but it could be a lifesaver if you’re in a bind!


2. Book Club Supplies

Many libraries offer book club supplies in the form of a Book Club Kit or a Book Club in a Box. These kits include multiple copies of a popular book and a discussion guide about the book.

With one of these kits, hosting a book club has never been easier (or cheaper!) Just check out a kit, distribute the books to your group, and set a date for your book discussion!


3. Seeds

Some public libraries feature a “seed library,” where you can borrow seeds to help start your garden. Obviously you won’t be able to “return” those specific seeds to the library, but you’re encouraged to donate seeds from the plants you grew so someone else can make use of them!

Libraries with seed libraries will have information about how to collect seeds from your plants so you can donate them.


4. Games

For your next family gathering, why not plan a game night? Many libraries offer board games, video games, and even lawn games for patrons to check out.

In addition to offering cheap family fun, checking out a game from the library is a great way to “try before you buy.” You can learn the rules and try it out before committing to buying your own copy.


5. Tools & Equipment

Increasingly, public libraries are offering way more than just books! In fact, many libraries now feature tools, equipment, and other items that patrons can borrow or use for a variety of purposes.


For instance, our local library recently got a new 3D printer. They’re now offering classes where kids can learn to use the printer to make their own action figures!

In addition to 3D printers, your library might offer power tools, instruments, kitchen tools, science equipment, and more. Ask a librarian to find out what tools and equipment your local library has stashed away!


6. Admission Passes

Another great service that many libraries offer is access to local cultural centers! Our local library offers one-week rentals of Utah State Parks Passes, meaning we could spend a full week visiting our beautiful state parks for free!


7. Meeting Space

Need a place to hold a business or community meeting? Check with your local library! Many libraries have conference rooms you can reserve for free.

And in the rare event that your library charges a fee to use their conference rooms, it will likely be significantly cheaper than it would be to rent a conference room at a commercial workspace!


Visit Your Local Library!

If there’s anything I want you to take away from today’s post, it’s that library services can save you money and enrich your life! You can learn more by visiting your local library to talk with a librarian!

They’ll be happy to tell you exactly what kinds of surprises lie in store for you there! :-)

Have you ever borrowed a non-book item from your local library?

Read This Next

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Bright Ideas

  • I use the library for a lot of things. Recently I discovered the ‘law’ librsry. I needed a form for real estate. The lcoal company wanted $15 for it and $5 to down load it. After asking one of the librarians, they hooked me up with what I needed. So awesome!

  • We never really used our local library until we had a toddler. She’s above her reading level and devours books like they are candy. One day, she read all 15 books we had checked out earlier that day. We probably spent hundreds of dollars on new books before using our library dawned on me. During summer break at age 6 she read 147 books and did reviews on all of them.

    They also have fun kids’ programs and classes from Legos to robots to planting seeds.

    I read alot of books on the Overdrive app. Audiobooks are also available on there.

  • My local library also has tools to help you figure out what appliances are using the most electricity. Many also have job hunting tools. One of the most important things a library has are librarians–people who are trained in curating information so you get an accurate and unbiased answer to your question. (Don’t worry, they’ve heard it all.)

  • As President of one of out local Friend of the Library, I can attest to the sale of books, audios, movies, music CDs , games, and E games in our permanent Sale corner, for pennies on the $$$. In addition, we have 2 big Sales with 6000-8000 items for sale. All proceeds to the Library for Social events, Children’s Parties, etc. One of our biggest purchases was a new Book Drop.
    We take Out of Date books from the Library’s inventory as well as donations.

  • When e-readers first became popular, I did some research and settled on a Nook (this is not an endorsement, just my opinion). I chose it over a Kindle only because in my research, I found it was the only e-reader that allowed me to “borrow” books from my local library. I went there, they helped me get it set up, and off I went! Once you borrow a book, you have two weeks to read it (just like a paper book), otherwise it will no longer open.

    • Thanks for sharing this information, Nina. Today you can check out eBooks from the library that are compatible with any e-reader. You actually do not even need an e-reader anymore. You can download the Kindle, Nook or iBooks app on any device and read your eBooks on the app.

    • Like you, Gaby, I “read” tons of audiobooks while driving to work and on trips. But when we purchased our new car, NO CD PLAYER! I learned most new cars don’t have CD players any longer. A friend told me about Libby where you can borrow audiobooks and play them through bluetooth in your vehicle. Love it!

  • As a librarian, your post makes my heart sing! At the San Diego Public Library, we have something called a Memory Lab where patrons can make an appointment and use our equipment to convert old media to new. So VHS, film reels, 35mm, etc. and convert it to a digital format of choice.

  • Library also offers tons of audiobooks/Digital books these days in Apps. Lot of these apps has movies/music/Tv shows as well which can be checked out. These Apps has tons of bestsellers books to read/audiobooks. Best Apps are Hoopla, Overdrive, Libby, RBdigital

    • The newest app for Library is KANOPY. You can set it up with tv to watch movies you have checked out online from library. I just got mine set up. Works great. 6 free movies a month. I understand they have thousands and thousands of movies to choose from.

  • My library has an art gallery where you can check out pieces of art – statutes, knick-knacks and framed art, even bigger pieces. What a cool way to get an art piece for a theme party! I live in an urban area and many of our branch locations are also safe-spots for latch-key kids who need somewhere to go after school. No better place for a kid then a library, where reading and studying are encouraged!

  • My library in Ohio also offered free tax filing service to low income/ simple tax returns during tax season. There was a website on the desktop to file for free, volunteers with VITA, and printed source materials.

  • My library in Ohio had an Ellison paper shape cutting machine which made school projects or work community boards a quick task. Also we could borrow music and dvds, which make free date-nights. physical books and audiobooks are the most common reason for heading into town though.

  • My library offers access to Ancestry.com, genealogical microfilm inter library access, many historical documents (phone books, club directories, old maps etc) They even have a team of genealogy volunteers to help you get started.

    • One of the branches of our Libraries has one that’s just for family history type stuff. It’s been great for people in our area to be able have access to more genealogical records etc.

  • Another great thing: Many libraries SELL used books as fundraisers for their Friends of the Library group. I’ve bought hundreds of paperbacks for 50 cents each, hardcovers for $1.

    • As President of one of out local Friend of the Library, I can attest to the purchase of books, audios, movies, music CDs , games, E games in our permanent Sale corner, for pennies on the $$$. In addition, we have 2 big Sales with 6-8000 items for sale. All proceeds to the Library for Social events, Children’s Parties, etc. One of our biggest purchases was a new Book Drop.
      We take Out of Date books from the Library’s inventory as well as donations.

  • I can’t say enough good about the library.

    When I lived in Houston, I borrowed a wide range of DVDs, took computer classes, learned to use a 3D printer, and used a lot of their available services. Sometimes I went in to print, since it was cheaper than Staples. But I could get nearly anything there free for asking.

    Now that I live in central Louisiana, the library is smaller and the services are not as numerous, but my local library is quite nice. Had no Internet service for months, so I went every day with my trusty old laptop. A couple of months later I got on Upwork, started getting copywriting clients, and was able to start paying for Internet service at home six months later. I’ve been on Upwork for over 2 years, and working from home for just over 2. I was able to replace my old laptop, and take care of a lot of things I neglected after two layoffs and long-term unemployment in Texas. If it wasn’t for the free WiFi, I don’t know what I would have done (and let’s not think about it, either, because Louisiana can be very. . .unsophisticated.)

    The folks at our local library are always helpful, very nice, and don’t mind if I buzz by and work every now and again. Check out their website, go in and ask. Our little library even has free coffee!

  • I knit and crochet and am frequently seen in public (usually doctors’ offices but occasionally restaurants and other places that require one to wait) doing my needle arts. Sometimes I’ll be approached about how could one learn to do that craft – and while I’d love to teach everybody, that’s not often possible. I recommend they visit their local library and enquire whether there might be a knitting/crocheting group that meets there. My advice is to show up at the designated time and day with the appropriate tools required to do the craft (yarn and knitting needles or a crochet hook) and ask whoever seems to be “in charge” of the group if there might be someone who would be willing to teach them. Believe me, we are eager to teach our crafts to a new generation!

  • Thank you, Jillee, for posting about the library. As a librarian, I am constantly amazed by how little people realize what librarians do and what their libraries can do for them. It is so nice to hear someone advertising our services!! And remember, just as not everyone who works in the hospital is a doctor, not everyone who works in the library is a librarian. When you are doing research, be sure to ask for a Reference librarian.

  • We have a huge assortment of DVD movies to rent. Also, I have accessed the library website from home to learn a new language. Our library has some gadgets to rent for free to check electricity usage/waste at outlets. We have a system here where we can automatically get a library card and access to a neighboring city library if we are members at our own city library. We have lots and lots of free classes at our library, such as social media, gardening in the dessert, etc. I love our local library. Mine’s within walking distance.

  • My Library, Orange Public Library in California, also provides engravers & Ukulele’s! We have a regular group of about 60 who attend our Ukulele Soup program and it keeps growing! We also have many of the things you shared. Thanks for posting this Jillee!

  • Another REALLY fabulous feature is that if you’re doing genealogical research, the public library has free access to Ancestry, Fold One, HeritageQuest, and other paid subscriptions services. You can log in using the library computers, and I think even at home I can access the systems thru my library’s website (though I haven’t done that in a long time, so I can’t verify that right now). There are some disadvantages, such as not having your “own” account on the services to save info unless you have also a paid account, but it’s a GREAT tool that can save hundreds in annual fees.

  • I have become a real fan of audiobooks and listen to them while working around the house, as well as when walking. My local library has a good selection available and saves me the expense of buying them.

  • I have an old card but haven’t used in years. Not sure if I should just get a new one. My sister has in the past reserved copies for my mom of her book clubs books. My sister said you can also download copies of books on tape to your devices.

  • I have a library card but I haven’t used it in years.Not sure how hard it would be to re-activate it or I should just get a new one. My sister has been able to reserve copies of books my mom reads for book club. I also found out our library has an app called Libby where you can listen to podcasts.

  • I’m an avid reader when I take the time to really get lost in a book. If I’m in a bad mood or depressed I go to my HAPPY PLACE, THE LIBRARY. My eyes have problems with small print and the selection of large print books is beyond belief. They have DVDS, packages of DVDS to borrow if bad weather is predicted. Minot Library is fabulous.

  • Read your favorite magazines at the library instead of paying for subscriptions. If there is a page that you would want to keep, instead of tearing it out as you would if it was your magazine, take a picture of it with your phone.

    • Our library offers Flipster, an eMagazine service that you can use there or online. I find it especially helpful when I want to look up product reviews in Consumer Reports.

  • >