Quick: What’s the first thing you do after you move to a new place, unpack your linens, put away the pots and pans and stock the pantry? I locate the public library and fill out whatever forms are necessary to get that card into my hands. Wondering why I put so much importance on pocketing a card that allows me to borrow books? Because book checkout is just one of the benefits of having a library card and frankly, I save a lot of money by using all of the services of my library to enrich my life. My library card not only saves me from spending money, it also opens doors to free entertainment, enrichment, education and even friendship.
Books Galore. Have you checked out the prices on book dust jackets lately? Unless you’re on the fast track to millionaire status (which begs this question: when do you have time to read?), forking over $30 to be in the know about a New York Times Best Seller pick is simply not in my vocabulary. But, I want to be well-read if only to hold my own in conversations with people who lay claim to having perpetually finished everything on that prestigious reading list. I put holds on books that appeal to me and as soon as my name comes up in the queue, I’ve got my ticket to solid reads. It costs nothing for me to be as well-read as anyone I know.
Deck My Walls. Not every library has this wonderful service, but I’ve been fortunate enough to live in library districts that allowed card-carrying patrons to check out artwork in exactly the same way a book is reserved and borrowed. I’ve enjoyed looking at the works of Matisse, Georgia O’Keefe, Currier and Ives, Andy Warhol and a litany of other acknowledged masters, each secured in a tasteful frame. Lithographs, posters, oil reproductions and other works of art spend a little time in my “living room gallery” before I return the work for another piece. Additionally, the library hosts local artists who talk about their “process,” so I’m doubly enriched.Cost to me for having a perpetual art show? Zero.
Rent Some Tunes. Buying CDs used to be my thing until music downloads were available, but with both, I still forked over cash for tunes I quickly grew tired of hearing, so my morgue of music grew in direct proportion to the amount of dust collected on shelves and space hogged on my device. Now, I simply show up at my library, pick up music I’m in the mood to listen to via CD or download for free and when I’m sick of listening to something, I just return the disk or wipe the song(s) from my player.
Pass the Popcorn. At times, I can’t find a single live-streaming Netflix film I want to watch, and typically, the next DVD in my queue is malingering at my area’s distribution center awaiting shipment. I could head for Red Box where half the DVDs I’ve rented were treated like unwanted children and pay a buck to discover it’s damaged or simply unplayable or I could scoot over to the library and pick up the entire Stig Larsson trilogy for nothing. Besides, when my cable goes down (all too often), DVDs selected from my library’s healthy collection have given me hours of free entertainment.
Kim Did What? I confess to buying a pricey magazine or ordering a subscription because schmoozing with friends often required me to be up on the latest celeb gossip-but I’m no longer willing to do that now that I can allocate a little time to browsing my library shelves where the latest issues of every magazine I could want to read will give me the scoop on the latest Kardashian dust up. Magazines may be losing readers to electronic media, but the look and feel of glossy magazines featuring virgin crossword puzzles still appeal to me. How did I get around the crossword dilemma? Cancelled my People subscription and when the new issue comes in I photocopy it for ten cents and see if I can beat my record for completing it in less than 15 minutes.
Other Entertainments. There are just so many books to be read, tunes to be played, films to be viewed and art prints to hang before I realize that only the company of other humans will do. Activities organized by librarians are eclectic and attract people of all ages and interests year round. My library runs book clubs for adults and kids, free make-and-take craft demonstrations, author visits, language clubs, DIY workshops and even computer classes. I couldn’t imagine one place with as much entertainment under a single roof, which is why my library card is one of the most valuable resources in my wallet.