Do you like to practice continual self-improvement? Do you like to expand your mind, learning about different topics? Do you like to read for entertainment? Do you subscribe to magazines or other periodicals? Do you like to rent movies or CDs? Do you like to save money?
If the answer yes to any of the above (I know the part about saving money is a given!), then you may want to take another look at your local public library. Depending on where you live, your library might surprise you with what it has to offer.
I do realize that some communities have mediocre libraries, or might even be in locations where the nearest library is quite a drive away. In such cases, a public library might not be the best use of one’s time. In other locations, where the facilities are decently funded, your library might be worth your while. In fact, it could be much better than you think.
Last year I paid a visit to my local library, which is in a solid, middle class suburban location. I recently moved to this community, and had heard good things about the library, so I thought I would check it out. My expectations were really modest – I thought I would see current periodicals, but mostly dated books and audio-visual material. Basically, I thought the library might be a place where I could go to get some things done, as an alternative to a coffee house. I like to periodically go to a coffee house to get some things done in a relaxed work environment.
Anyway, I did find it to be a quiet environment, with WiFi and comfortable surroundings. Much better than libraries I remember from being a kid, or from back in undergad days or from graduate school. But what really surprised me was the high quality of the materials the library had to offer. They did have current periodicals as I expected, but had a much larger variety that I would have thought. And the books….well, that was the big surprise. Instead of a selection of dated books with only a few newer releases, the library had a selection of dated books which was also accompanied by a surprising inventory of newer releases. The newer releases cut across topics, and the depth of the offering was very impressive. What really impressed me was that most of the top best sellers, fiction and nonfiction, were stocked and available. If not, the wait wasn’t long at all. Best yet – you could have up to 50 items checked out at one time! Not that I have the time to read that much, but its good to have the flexibility to have 5 or 6 good books with you.
For those of you who regularly patronize your local library, this might not be news. But for myself and I am sure many others, it is good to remember that your local bookstores aren’t the only places to get some of the new releases you want to read.
From a financial point of view, as a squirreler, it can save you a significant amount of money. For example – if you buy a book per month at a bookstore, either in person or online, you might be looking at $20 per month or $240 annually. You might be able to get half of those books at your library, and save $120 per year. Remember, you can usually renew books, so if you can’t read it all in a few weeks, you can often get additional weeks so that ultimately you have 6 weeks or more to read a given book. Additionally, as I mentioned, you can frequently check out a large number of books at one time, so this provides more opportunities as well.
Its a great deal – read, learn, and save money. And if you read on personal finance or career growth, you can save money while learning to save or make more money. So your savings can be compounded! Its worth checking out, especially since your hard earned tax dollars are already paying for these books. Technically that’s a sunk cost so it shouldn’t influence your decision to use the library from that perspective, but its something to think about!