Our lives would be very different without our free library. It provides a sense of community, promotes sharing resources, skills and ideas, and makes minimalism a whole lot easier.
For the past 7 years we have chosen to live within walking distance of a free library. We are extremely fortunate to currently live in a small community that embraces, supports, and appreciates this incredible resource. As we evolve through our minimalist journey, we make use of the library more and more each year. The library has made it easier for us to live with less by enabling us to share this community space as well as materials.
I want to share 17 things that many libraries provide, most often free of charge, that you can and should make use of. Your tax dollars go to pay for these things, so why spend more money buying things that are already paid for and are there for your use.
- Books – Let’s list the most obvious library resource first. There are reference, entertainment, educational, cooking, crafts, and how-to books. Use these instead of having a home library. Your local library will keep the most up-to-date issues and new releases of many of these for you to use as needed.
- Seed library – This is becoming common-place in several districts. You can “borrow” organic, non-GMO, local heirloom seeds with the agreement that you bring back seeds from your harvest to donate for the following season.
- Tool library – If your library has this, you would be crazy to buy a garage full of expensive tools that you rarely use.
- Downloadable/Streaming media (books, magazines, music and movies) – OK, these don’t take up space, but they do clutter up your digital world. In most cases, people only read a book or magazine once, so borrow it, read it and let it return itself. Music is a little different because we will listen to the same tracks hundreds of times. Still there are so many ways to stream your favorite songs for free, like from your library, you don’t have to own them.
- Databases (research) – Students and job seekers of all ages, did you know that your library probably spends tens of thousands of dollars on databases for your use every year? You can use database tutorials to master a new software skill, access historical facts,f ind academic journal entries on almost any subject you can imagine, and much more.
- Tutoring and proctoring – If you need help with math, reading, writing, a language, getting your GED or even your citizenship, chances are that your library has a Lifelong Learning Center staffed with volunteer tutors to help.
- Computers and the Internet – Somethings that we, as a minimalist box free family, haven’t been able to part with are our computers and internet access at home. It’s nice to know that if we ever take that leap, our local library can fill the void with public computers and high speed internet access available to us daily.
- CDs and DVDs – If you use the library computers in lieu of owning your own, and therefore can’t stream music and movies, then borrow the CDs and DVDs. Instead of amassing a huge collection of your own, just borrow them whenever you want. True, you may have to wait to get the ones that you want, but if you plan ahead and place requests early, this is a good option.
- Printers – Unless you’re printing multiple pages everyday, you can just go to your local library and use their printers. There is a probably a minimal charge for this, but it can be as cheaper, or cheaper than having your own printer at home. Cost it out and see for yourself.
- Taxes – Some libraries bring in free tax help from AARP (available to everyone, not just retirees) in the early part of the year. One year they saved us over $4000. Libraries also stock basic tax forms. You can print out whatever they don’t have, read the instructions on their internet computers and even file on line.
- Scanners – Much like the printers, why own your own unless you use it constantly. Our library has a printer that you can plug a thumb drive into to scan directly to or print directly from. It will also scan and email or fax documents. Best of all the library staff are trained and can show you how these things work.
- Basic office supplies – Our library will let us use their stapler, hole punch, tape, notepaper, pens/pencils, headphones and old fashioned electric typewriter. In today’s world, it’s rare that our family needs these things. Even though we do still have some of these basics at home, we don’t have to, because we can just use the ones at the library.
- Classes and informative programs – Most free libraries invite interesting and highly skilled people from your community and from further afield to come and share and teach what they know to you, for free. In many cases, we find it hard to believe that these programs are poorly attended. Most people just don’t realize that their library provides these things. If you visit your library’s website, you’ll probably find several interesting and helpful classes and programs that you’ll wish you’d known about sooner.
- Kids programs – Parents spend a lot of money on things and activities to keep their kids entertained. Your local library may have free activities ranging from movies and video game nights to crafts, cooking classes, robotics, gardening, and reading to dogs.
- Bookmobile and Outreach – You may not even need to live near the library or own a car to use library materials and resources. Besides the obvious options of using public transit, biking or walking, some libraries will come to you. A few districts have bookmobiles that bring a rotating collection of materials and sometimes internet computers to a locations near you on a weekly basis. There may even be an Outreach program for those who are house bound. This program delivers and picks up library materials to and from your home.
- A place to socialize – Meet people with a shared interest at library programs. There aren’t many places to do that where it’s free. If you really want to meet like-minded people you can even start a free group or club and use the meeting rooms at the library. Use the library’s internet computers to make posters, and to advertise your group on Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter and other free local advertising methods.
- Common shared space – Your home doesn’t have to be huge when you have a library to go to. The library is a common space for everyone in the community to use. Find a quiet corner to read a book, use the lobby to meet a friend and sip coffee, or start that new group and use the meeting rooms as a place to get together.
I’m sure that there are more ways that your library can enhance your minimalist or even non-minimalist life. Drop in and start talking to the staff or just visit the library’s website and explore all that they have to offer.