Ask Not: Things Your Library Can Do For You (That You Probably Didn’t Know About)

One of the things that excited me the most about moving to Philadelphia was the Philadelphia Free Library.   It’s one of the oldest and largest in country, has millions of members and over fifty locations.

This is all good news, because nearly all school libraries in Philly had to sell their books due to lack of funding.  A fact that infuriates my book loving heart.

However, what I learned when we moved here is our local library in Evansville, Indiana was just as good (if not better) in many ways.  The Library is an amazingly underused resource and many think it’s just a place for renting dusty old books.  Here are some things your library can do for you that you maybe didn’t know.

Rent Books, Audiobooks, Television Shows and Movies FREE Online

This is my FAVORITE feature.  Most libraries have subscription services allowing you to rent just about anything you could in library.  The most popular ones your library will likely offer are:

  • Hoopla – You can stream music, movies, TV shows, audiobooks and books to your phone.  Unlike some of the other services you don’t need a kindle to do so.  All genres are covered (including new releases) and you can rent up to five at a time.
  • Freegal – allows library card holders to rent a specific number songs or music videos a week.  Plays on most devices and it’s even possible to download to iTunes.
  • Zinio/Flipster – allows card holders to download mainstream magazine titles that don’t expire.
  • OverDrive – Probably my favorite of the the free’s.  It’s where I get 70% of my books and 85% of my audiobooks.  It’s a large library and some libraries let you request books.   I have found that if I can’t find something on OverDrive often times Hoopla can pick up the slack, so between the two I’m set.  Downside to Onedrive is you need a kindle.  Upside, Amazon regularly has sales OR your library may rent one to you.

A small library may serve you well here.  Evansville has a larger online access with a shorter waiting list than Philadelphia.  My sister hypothesis this is due to funding, supply and demand.

Bonus: All are available as Apps.

Pro Tip: When looking for online resources use the wider online library catalogue.  It will research all the databases and tell you where to find what you’re looking for.  I’ve found if I just search OneDrive I’m missing things on Hoopla and vice versa. The Online Catalogue will search everything.

Museum Passes

This is something I didn’t know about until I saw a billboard in Philly.  A feature often reserved for larger libraries this is a great resource to tap into if you’re visiting a big city.  Some even offer VERY discounted sports events tickets (less than $10).

If your local library doesn’t have museum passes it could be an interesting project to get started.

Historical Information

Many libraries will give you access to old newspapers, photographs, and genealogy.  Bonus: you can get to know a Librarian by asking them for help.   Librarians are trained in the fine art of research and they can likely help you find what you’re looking for.

Electronic Items

It’s possible that your library will rent you popular electronic devises like a E-readers, laptops, pedometers, construction tools, or even mobile phone apps.  Oddly enough some also have unusually shaped cake pans you can rent as well.   See this article on why.


Audiobooks are super expensive for something you are only going to listen to once.   Most libraries have a HUGE collection of audio CDs and playway (playway is a self-contained audiobook you just add headphones to.) Perfect for long car rides or spring cleaning.   A bonus to the CD is you can copy it to your computer for later.  I did this when I lived abroad so I had constant access to new material.

Practice Tests, Homework Help, Etc

The Library can give you access to practice ACT, SAT, GRE (etc) often online.  Many libraries offer 24/7 online homework help or after school tutoring programs.


While you’re at it, learn a new skill.  From yoga to language to cooking classes.  Computer classes are another popular choice. If you’re new to the United States many offer ESL classes and other services for new Americans.

Meeting Rooms

I lead a Hospice support group in Evansville using this resources.  Most libraries will rent out meeting rooms for support groups, book clubs etc.  Meeting space is free and if your group is open to the public they may even advertise for you.

Volunteer Opportunities

From teaching ESL to clerical work to assisting with author events there are plenty of opportunities for the book-worm to help out with the community.

Book Clubs

Check the list of events to see when books clubs meet at your local library.  In addition many libraries offer a “one book” program where the whole city is encouraged to read the same book at the same time.

Homebound Services

I had a friend who was blind and homebound.  Our local library delivered audiobooks to her.  It was her primary form of entertainment throughout the long days (although she didn’t like the mushy stuff).

Special Stuff for Kids and Teens

Digital learning, Overdrive Kid’s E-reading room, homework help, story times, crafts, college prep, movie screenings… Libraries are full of special events for kids and teens.

Author Events

Have a chance to meet authors and get your book signed.  Popular in larger cities but smaller libraries will often times have local authors.

Build Your Career

The library may have classes or resources to help you start a business, help you with job searches, hold a workshop on career changes, or help you build a resume.

Fine Forgiveness

At one point all my neighbors and I were banned from renting books because we had too high of a fine.  Yikes.  If your fine is too high ask about amnesty day, various libraries will hold fine forgiveness day.  Our Evansville library offered a dollar forgiveness for every canned good brought in during November.  Ask your librarian if they have days and when they are.

Pro Tip:  Even if you have fees you can usually still rent books/audiobooks/movies online… and because they disappear on their due day you’ll never have another fee!


Did I miss anything??  Comment below if your library has made your life easier and I missed it.

About Kaitey Moore 40 Articles

Kaitlin Moore Morley is passionate about storytelling, the kind of our imagination and the kind of our experiences.

She works as a hospital chaplain where she collects love stories and as a pastor where she collect biblical narrative. She holds an undergraduate in Social Anthropology from the University of Manchester in England and a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky.

She lives in Evansville, Indiana in an old (very cold) Victorian house with her husband, Darren and their dog Olga.

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