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Published March 21, 2024
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Tight on Cash? The Library Is Your New BFF

Modern public libraries can give you access to a surprising number of goods and services — completely free.

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The term library usually brings about images of quiet spaces with students studying and people borrowing hardbound books. Not anymore.

Modern public libraries — there are over 600 library systems in Canada with over 3,300 branches — can give you access to a surprising number of goods and services.

If you’re on a quest to save some money, your library card might just be your new best friend.

Endless ebooks and audiobooks

Libraries are known for their collections of physical books, but these days you can find literature in multiple formats. Traditional paperbacks or hardcovers and books on CDs are typical, but most libraries now also offer audiobooks and ebooks as well. 

Whether you’re someone who loves to curl up with a traditional hardcover or prefers to listen to an audiobook while driving, free access to digital book services like OverDrive, Naxos Spoken Word Library and others may allow you to cancel your Audible or Scribd subscription while still keeping up with your reading goals.

No-cost streaming

Canadian libraries offer free access to several types of streaming services. With all of these options at your fingertips, you may be able to breakup with Netflix and Spotify while staying well entertained.

Hoopla and Kanopy Streaming Video are two common services offering free access to films and television shows to those with a library card.

Naxos Music Library and Hoopla offer access to a world of music, including current and popular albums, that you can listen to online or even download.

Borrow fun and useful things

Today’s public library has become much more than a place to find reading material: Did you know that you can also borrow physical items, like video games, musical instruments and even tools?

Video games

Gaming is a popular hobby but also an expensive one. Especially if you’re someone who’ll play a game once and be done with it. Instead of buying a game at full price, check your local library to see if they’ll let you borrow it instead. Libraries often have options for multiple gaming systems including Xbox, Playstation and Nintendo.

Musical instruments

If you want to explore your musical side, your local library can help you get started for no cost. Some lend out musical instruments, like guitars, banjos and electric keyboards, for weeks at a time. There are usually a few rules when it comes to borrowing musical instruments. For example, your library card needs to be in good standing and you may have to agree to cover the cost of any damages that occur.

Special equipment

Some libraries have “libraries of things” for members to borrow, like laptops, sewing machines, 3D printers, bike repair kids, power tools and telescopes. In this way, the library provides access without from having to purchase items that are expensive, but often infrequently used.

How to get more from your library 

With everything from movies and music to video games and musical instruments, libraries have become spaces that encourage learning, creativity and play. A few things we could all use a little more of, regardless of our age. Especially if it’s free.

Claim your library card

Depending on your region, you may be able to apply for your library card online. Otherwise, you can visit a library branch in person.

You will need likely need proof of address and a photo ID. If you’re under the age of 15, you will need a parent’s signature to obtain your library card. To obtain a library card, you generally need to be a resident of the area.

That being said, if you are just visiting, many libraries will offer temporary cards for a small fee. Alternatively, if you live outside the city but plan to use your library regularly, you may be able to get a non-resident card for yourself and your family.

Ask about programs and services

In addition to lending things, libraries often offer the chance to participate in low-cost workshops, attend lectures, brush up on professional skills, or participate in book clubs. Check your library’s online event calendar or talk to a librarian about fun opportunities might be available.

Pay attention to due dates

Borrowed items have return dates otherwise, you will be responsible for late fees. You also need to take care of the items and make sure that they are in good condition — ideally, in the same shape you borrowed them in. Otherwise, you might find yourself on the hook for replacing them. Finally, make sure to also take care of your library card. If it is lost or stolen, report it right away. Any items borrowed on the card are your responsibility. 


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