Money at 30: Your Local Library Could Save You More Than You Think

I suspect that when many people my age or slightly younger think about libraries they have sudden flashbacks to college cram sessions before midterms. Of course there are plenty of others who might assume that there’s hardly a need for libraries in today’s society where the Internet can give us access to any piece of knowledge or form of entertainment we desire. However when is the last time you actually visited your local library and saw what they had to offer?

When my wife and I considered moving to Springfield, Missouri, one of the first places we visited on our research trip was the main library branch. See, we had come to adore the location that was in walking distance of our Glendale apartment and needed to ensure that this “little town” was up to snuff. When we walked in we were blown away. Not only did they have plenty of computers available for use but also had iPad’s you could borrow for a few hours, museum exhibits to explore (and that are updated quarterly), U.S. passport services, and most importantly tons of book, audiobooks, DVDs, and CDs to check out.

Now nearly two years later, I can say that I love my local library. In addition to being an oddly fun place to visit and hang out in, my free membership has saved me a considerable amount of money. How, you ask? Here are a few budget-friendly perks that libraries offer that you might not have though about before:

No need to buy books

This is clearly the most obvious benefit that libraries provide. Still few may realize that many centers stock the latest titles shortly after they hit store shelves. So why spend $20+ on a new hardcover book that you’re not even sure you’ll like? 

Admittedly there is a downside to trying to nab best sellers from the library and that is the limited quantity that most branches will have on hand. If a book is popular enough you could have to wait months until it’s your turn. Still getting some quality time with a book and reading at your leisure sure beats the other free option of plopping down at the Barnes & Noble for hours on end. On that note, to help reduce your wait time, be sure to visit your library’s website before a book’s release to see if they might already be accepting holds.

Rent movies and TV collections for free

When I was a kid the movies you could rent from the library were limited to educational videos and a handful of classics that a young boy like myself would have little to no interest in. That’s why I was shocked to discover that the libraries in towns I’ve lived in more recently all had an extensive collection of films I actually wanted to see. In fact I’ve often found titles for free at the library that I has previously considered renting from Redbox (or, in some unfortunate cases, had just paid to rent).

While it may not hold true for every city, the libraries in my area not only have recently released films available for checkout but also entire seasons of television. Additionally, while some of the latest titles have a shortened check-out window to help with turnover, most others give you a full week to fit watching the film or TV show into your schedule. With that in mind, if you’re looking to make some cuts to your budget, perhaps you can put a hold on your Netflix account for a few months and see what bingeing options your local library branch offers instead.

Mobile and online content (ebooks, audiobooks, music and more)

You might be surprised to learn that, thanks to technology, you can now enjoy free content without even having to visit the physical library. Today many branches subscribe to services like Hoopla or Overdrive to offer their members access to audiobook, ebooks, and much more. Best of all, it’s entirely free.

If you’re not familiar, Overdrive and Hoopla are both apps available on smartphones, tablets, and online. While Overdrive is limited to ebooks and audiobooks, Hoopla also offers music and movies that you can stream or download temporarily just for holding a library card. Another notable difference between to the two services is that libraries need to purchase Overdrive licenses individually, meaning that you might still have to wait in line to download your content. However Hoopla allows branches to purchase one unlimited license so you’ll be able to get whatever you want, up to 12 titles per month. 

I can’t stress enough how awesome both of these services are. I have consistently been surprised and delighted by the freshness, quality, and selection of content offered on both services. Heck, with Hoopla you might also be able to cancel Spotify or Apple Music along with your Netflix subscription! Bottom line: it’s definitely worth seeing if your local library subscribes to one or both of them.

Like I said, it’s hard to say for sure what kind of services and selection a given library will offer. That being said, if yours is anything like mine, you could be missing out on a goldmine. So if you’re looking to make a little room in your budget, be it to add a little extra to your holiday budget or make some changes for the new year, perhaps a trip to your local branch is in order.


Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site and has recently starting publsihing his own personal finance blog at

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