The Simple Joy of Public Libraries

Last Christmas, some of my relatives requested a gift card from a chain movie rental store. I was happy to oblige, and as I was standing in the store purchasing the gift card, I realized my husband and I have not rented a movie from a traditional video rental store — or even set foot in one of these stores — since the early days of our marriage more than 11 years ago. When we were newlyweds with two full-time jobs, no children, and more margin in our budget, we frequently ate out on Friday evenings and then browsed the movie rental aisles in search of something to watch back at our apartment.

Our habits changed quickly once we had children and I stopped working full time. On movie nights, we came instead to rely heavily upon the offerings at our local public library, which are free unless you rack up fines, which we try hard (and usually successfully) not to do. More accurately, our library system is paid for with tax money, so we figure we might as well take advantage of what we’re already spending on. In that sense, using the public library is in keeping with Shop From Your Pantry’s philosophy of using what you already have to improve your life and save money.

public libraries

Common items you may — depending on the size of your library — be able to check out from your library include:

  • Books of all genres and for all ages
  • Music (for children and grownups)
  • Video games (for children and grownups)
  • Movies (for children and grownups)
  • Audiobooks
  • Books for e-readers
  • Books with read-along CDs for children
  • Educational and science activity kits for children
  • Toys for children
  • Telescopes (Yes, my library has telescopes!)

In addition, all kinds of services and resources can be found at libraries, including:

  • Computers and Wifi for public use
  • Printers, fax machines, and copy machines (for a small fee)
  • Play areas and toys for children (in some libraries)
  • Quiet study, work, or reading areas

Libraries everywhere are great places for community events and programs as well, including:

  • Baby and Preschool story times (where my kids sometimes received free books)
  • Children’s art programs
  • Preschool play dates
  • Musical concerts and performances for all ages
  • Author speaking events/book signings for all ages
  • Dance and theatre workshops
  • Live theatre and dance performances
  • Live animal presentations
  • Puppet shows
  • Movie showings
  • Storytelling festivals
  • Lego clubs for kids
  • Science programs for kids
  • Summer Reading Programs for all ages with prizes (and winter reading programs at my library as well)
  • Knitting, crocheting, quilting and other craft groups
  • Book discussion groups for all ages
  • Yoga
  • Academic tutoring
  • Community gardening
  • Home school resources and programs
  • Used book sales
  • Classes on how to use computers and/or specific computer programs such as PowerPoint, Excel, or Cloud-based storage
  • Classes on how to use various technologies such as phones, Kindles, etc.

All the extra programs, bells, and whistles are great. Sometimes I also just appreciate the simple joy of checking out a book from the library and snuggling with my daughter as she reads. I also enjoy checking out a movie from my library and settling on the couch with my family and some popcorn. It’s free entertainment and good time together as a family.

Do you use your library? What are your favorite things about the library?



About Rachael

Rachael is the creator of Shop From Your Pantry. She is a freelance writer and editor, and you can learn more about her work at
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