Free (Almost) Everything!


I finally couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t squeeze one more item onto our bookshelf. This thought brought a tear of joy at having so many stories I loved… or was it sadness at not being able to fit any more… or was it a bead of sweat from the strain of forcing that last one reluctantly into it’s proper alphabetical position?

Whatever it was, something had to give before I ended up on Hoarders* for Nerds. I collapsed in an exhausted heap, and then it hit me: a flash from the past.

This Ain’t Your Grandma’s Library

Boys and girls, back in my day, the library held these strange things called books, and the only way to find the one you wanted was by digging through a card catalog cabinet like this. That’s right, take a good look at this ol’ fossil. And if someone else already checked out the book you wanted, you were out of luck.

My, how the times have changed. Here are 20 amazing ways that my library (and likely yours!) has improved during my 20-year hiatus.

  1. ALL the branches can be your local branch.
    • Phoenix Public Library has 17 branches, all searchable with a single online catalog. You can check out items from any of them and return them wherever you want. There’s even a drive through!
  2. The catalog is ONLINE.
    • Of course, right? But at least I can search for what I want at home and see if it’s available before making a trip. If it’s checked out or the library doesn’t have a copy, I can buy it elsewhere and save the time, gas, and hassle of a wasted trip.
  3. It’s still FREE.
    • Technically, your tax dollars have already paid for it, but there’s no additional cost to use it, so take full advantage and get your money’s worth!
  4. AUTOMATIC renewals!
    • No longer do you have to actually go to the library or even remember to click a button online to renew your items. If no one else is waiting for your item, it will automatically renew five times for a total of 18 weeks. And seriously, if you haven’t finished it by then…
  5. CHEAP late fees.

    • So, I’ve heard that late fees are only 20 cents per day for adult items and 10 cents per day for children’s items. It may be worth a small late fee for one more day to finish that last chapter or watch that last Breaking Bad episode, but remember that if your item hasn’t renewed automatically that’s because someone else is waiting for it.
  6. All flavors of BOOKS.
    • With hardcover, paperback, large print, audiobooks, and e-books, there’s one for everyone. Read on the beach or listen on the go.
  7. MORE than just books.
    • Don’t forget the CDs and DVDs. The library gets new series about as quickly as Amazon and Netflix, and you don’t have to worry about a slow internet connection or using up all the data on your phone.
  8. SET IT and forget it.
    • If a movie isn’t out yet or a book is currently in use, place a hold online. When it’s available, it will be shipped to the location of your choice and you’ll receive an email letting you know it’s ready. You’ll feel like a VIP when you find it on a special shelf– literally with your name on it.
  9. Get your CULTURE on.
    • Attend an art show with local artists or check out a culture pass for free admission for two to local museums, shows, and even the botanical garden! Be a tourist in your own city.
  10. Be SOCIAL.
    • Join a book club and chat it up, or kick back for a movie screening and lively discussion.
  11. Plant a SEED.Garden
    • Explore the new local seed library! Check out free seeds and attend gardening classes to let the pros teach you how to turn your thumb green.
  12. Go GREEN in other ways.
    • Use a Kill-A-Watt meter to find out how much electricity your appliances and electronics use, then slay those energy vampires.
  13. Bring the BABIES.
    • Start early with baby play groups, story time, and baby sign language classes. They’re better than play dates because there’s no pressure to clean your home!
  14. PHONE a friend.
    • Bring your phone, tablet, or other portable device and the friendly staff will teach you how to access your library’s online resources.
  15. Don’t leave out the LITTLES.
    • Sign up your kiddos for Kindergarten Boot Camp and Lego Lab. You can never have enough air-conditioned options for getting your little guys and gals out of the house.
  16. Know the CODE.
    • Learn CSS with coding classes for teenagers and adults. No experience is necessary, but be prepared to be schooled by your Minecraft-loving kid.
  17. STRETCH your limits.
    Yoga Cat

    Downward Dog?

    • Roll out your mat and heal your mind, body and spirit with a free yoga class. Bonus– you might just make a friend too.
  18. Get your GROUP on.
    • Reserve study rooms and meeting spaces for group projects and enjoy the free Wi-Fi without the distractions of your home or a noisy coffee shop.
  19. EMPTY the nest.
    • Bring your teens to SAT and college prep classes. You can never be too prepared.
  20. Show some CLASS.
    • Adult education options abound with parenting, ESL, computer, and job search classes on-site and hundreds of other options– including foreign language classes– online. Learn what you want at your own pace.


When was the last time you visited your local library? What surprised you? What special features does your city’s library offer?

*I haven’t actually seen this show as it would likely give me nightmares.

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Comments 4

    1. Post
  1. I usually buy most of the books I read used of Amazon (most are personal finance or personal development and I like to put notes in them)

    My wife uses kindle unlimited excessively as well.

    I have checked out a few books from our library – mostly casual reading or books that are still crazy expensive (even used)

    Great tips!

    1. Post

      Thanks, Chris!
      Do you refer back to your notes often? Even the practice of writing the notes probably helps the info sink in better, but as a library-raised kid it’s almost sacrilegious to me!

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