Non-Book Library Loans: It’s Amazing Everything Libraries Offer!

posted by Andrea | 02/15/2019

A few years ago, I shared 10 reasons we LOVE our local library.

Since then, our family has continued to visit the library at least once a week for various events, activities, classes, story times… and of course, to check out more books! 

We usually have anywhere from 30-50 items checked out at a time, and we return them (and check out more) almost every single week. 

Although our local library is on the smaller size, we still have hundreds of books we haven’t read yet — even after 6+ years of checking out multiple books every week.

It’s crazy to think how much extra clutter we keep out of our house by reading borrowed books instead of buying them all ourselves! 

The other day, I was sharing a funny story from a recent library experience when my friend stopped me mid-sentence and said, “You can check out puzzles from your library?”

Why yes, we CAN check out puzzles from our library — and so many other items as well! 

That got me thinking about ALL the different things we can borrow (FOR FREE) from our local library… here’s my incomplete list!

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1. DVDS

Yes, my first item is a movie — but honestly, I’d probably rather have my kids watch a movie versus countless TV shows with commercials and advertisements.

Plus, they think it’s a HUGE treat to be able to choose their own DVD (DBD as the boys say!) 

We don’t get DVDs every week, but at least once a month they can all pick out a DVD to take home and watch at some point. 

Dave and I have also checked out free DVDs — sometimes seasons of shows we want to watch, other times just a movie we’re interested in. I’m not one to watch a movie more than once, so watching it once and then returning it is a huge perk for me! 

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2. CDs (music and audio books)

Although I am very musical, I’ve never been one to listen to music (I drive in silence!), which means I never buy CDs. However, our kids think CDs are super cool and LOVE trying to “carefully” take the CD out of the case and put it into their CD player in the play bedroom

They get particularly excited about any type of “dance music” so we usually try to find at least one up-beat children’s CD each week. We also borrow children’s sing-along CDs for road trips or just to have at home. 

Nora was a huge fan of audio books for a while, but now that she can read, we haven’t checked out any audio books for a while. The boys like using their headphones, but generally need me to listen with them so they know when to turn the pages. 

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3. Puzzles and Games

Yes! Our library offers a huge assortment of puzzles and games for weekly or bi-weekly borrowing! 

Although our kids are still somewhat young for many of the games and harder puzzles, we’ve gotten a few over the years and it’s always fun to be able to enjoy the game for a week or so and then bring it right back again. 

There have been a couple of games we’ve REALLY enjoyed, and after knowing how much fun they were, I scoured our local thrift stores until I found them for $0.50 a piece! 

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4. Digital Books

Dave and I almost exclusively “borrow” digital books from our library (with the exception of my cookbooks!) and it’s SO nice. We can simply select the books we want to read, and then send them to our phones (usually using the Kindle App) or get our name on the “hold list” to be notified when the book is next available. 

Of course, they don’t have every single book we want — but between our library and Amazon Prime, we can find digital copies of almost everything we want to read FOR FREE! 

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5. Museum, Aquarium, and Zoo Family Passes

Our library offers week-long family passes to local museums, aquariums, and zoos. They usually only have 2 family passes for each organization, and you can only have the pass for 1 week from the day you check it out (so there’s no guarantee you’ll get it) but it’s probably worth checking on if you plan to hit up a local museum, aquarium, zoo, or other family activity. 

The admission fees can be pricey — especially for a whole family! Free is always better… right!?

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6. Admission to State Parks and other In-State Attractions

I’m not sure what other states offer, but to the best of my knowledge, all Michigan libraries offer a Michigan Activity Pass (MAP) that provides free or reduced-price access to hundreds of state parks, museums, exhibits, historical sites, and other attractions. 

Of course, there are some stipulations, but it’s definitely something to check out if you’re looking for local activities to do with your family! 

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7. Magazines, Newspapers, and other Print Subscriptions

We do not subscribe to any magazines and we canceled our newspaper subscription several years ago… however, we can find almost any magazine or newspaper we want at the library. 

I honestly don’t have a burning desire to read magazines anymore — but sometimes I flip through them while I’m watching the kids play at the library. Other times, we’ll check out a few craft or cooking magazines just to try some of the projects and recipes at home. 

Simon also recently discovered the comic book and kids’ magazine section — so that’s now his favorite place to hang out on our weekly library visits! 

I realize magazines and newspapers are super important for some people, but the amount of money and clutter we have saved by canceling our subscriptions is CRAZY! 

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8. Cookbooks

Yes I know, these are still “books” but so many people I know don’t think to check their library for cookbooks. 

I have borrowed huge quantities of cookbooks over the years — especially recently as I’ve devoured everything I can find about cooking with whole grains, grinding grain, etc

I usually only find 1 or 2 recipes I like from each cookbook, so I simply write them on a piece of paper and store them in my recipe box with a note from which book it came from. This way, I don’t need to keep 40 cookbooks on my shelves! 

I could also take pictures of the recipes, but I prefer writing them down. 🙂

NOTE: here’s a link to the few cookbooks I actually do own

 

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9. Tablets

Our kids do not know this is an option yet… but our library has a full shelf of kid-friendly tablets with pre-loaded educational games, activities, books, etc. all revolving around one central topic (like animals, cars, weather, crafts, etc.)

I know Nora would be ready for something like this, but the boys are still too young and I don’t need it to start any “wars” at our house, so I haven’t introduced our kids to the tablets yet! Maybe if we take a long road trip in the future!

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10. Tax Documentation

We pay our accountant to do our taxes, but I know our library offers many different tax forms, documents, and information to help people file their own taxes. 

Definitely something to check into before you go out and buy your own tax software. 

NOTE: Here’s how we organize all our tax documents.

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11. College Admission Test Prep

Do you have a high school student preparing for the ACT, SAT, or another college entrance exam? Most libraries offer online materials to help you (and your student) prepare — and yes, it’s all free! 

I also recently noticed our library offers materials to help prepare for a taking a high school GED test.

 

12. Event Tickets

Our library regular offers free (or super reduced price) tickets to local sporting events, local concerts, local events, and more. 

These are usually  on a first-come-first-served basis and are rarely advertised, so I have to ask about them. 

Although we don’t use this perk often, we have gotten free tickets to a local minor league baseball game and a couple fun children’s events. I have a feeling we’ll use this more as the kids get older. 

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13. Online Courses

If you’re interested in learning a new skill, ask your local library how they can help. 

Not only will they have countless books on the topic, they might even offer online courses… for FREE! 

Michigan libraries have something they call “Learning Express Library”. Any card holder can create an online account and enroll in various free online courses like computer basics, Internet basics, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, MS Office tools, second languages, resume creation, job prep, and so much more! 

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Like I mentioned above… this is most definitely an “incomplete list”. I may continue to add to it as I learn more about what libraries offer!

Also, I’d love to know if YOUR library loans any unique, non-book items?? 

I’ve heard that some libraries loan out clothing, toys, and musical instruments

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43 comments

  1. Betsy

    02/18/2019

    I’m loving your post and all of the comments. Our library in a city just outside of Dallas offers much of what you mentioned plus a few other things… They opened a Maker Space in the last year that includes several 3D printers, a laser cutter, a Carvey CNC milling machine, sewing machines, and an embroidery machine. You can check out a mobile hotspot for up to a week that allows up to 15 devices to connect to it. You can mobile print to library printers from your home. You can check out a laptop to be used in the library for up to 4 hours at a time. There’s a digital media lab for creating and editing. Along with awesome summer reading program, they have teen activities such as gaming (board games and D&D type stuff), teddy bear sleep overs (kiddos bring their stuffed animals who then get to “sleep over” and are picked up the next day along with fun pictures of the activities they had. And so much more… I love the library! Kids are allowed to get their library cards when they turn 5 and can sign their own names, so that was a rite of passage for our children. Love it!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow — this is amazing! So many fabulous things — all for free!!!!

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  2. Amy Peterson

    02/18/2019

    As a library director – this article and comments warm my heart. As your kids get older, help them talk to the librarians to suggest books – I have a helped a few kids find new series to read because I see what all the other kids are checking out and commenting on.

    Also remember most libraries are tax payer funded – so find out where yours is funded from and make sure those officials know how much you use the library and enjoy what they have to offer. These comments and letters go much farther than me telling them how much we are doing, or just seeing statistics on a report.

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    Andrea Reply:

    good to know — yes, we should let the officials know how much we love the library!

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  3. Mandy

    02/17/2019

    We love our local libraries! Not only do my kids love going, I’ve met some of my closest friends at programs there. Not sure what I would do as a stay at home mom if we weren’t near a library!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I’ve met 2 really good friends thanks to the library. We are so fortunate to live SO close to our library! Plus, it’s right next to our favorite thrift store (and the kids school) so it’s very easy to make it into a fun outing of school, library, thrift store, etc.!

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  4. Wendy

    02/17/2019

    I forgot to mention that the library in my town is a Carnegie Library, paid for with money Andrew Carnegie gave.

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  5. Wendy

    02/17/2019

    I’m not sure they have this all over the country, but I check out books from the library on my Kindle. Here in Tennessee, we go to reads.lib.overdrive, and pick out the library we need. You have to enter your card number. The books are listed according to topic. Click on the topic and many, many books come up. You might have to wait a while to get the book. You’ll get an e-mail when the book you want is available. Usually, you get the books for 21 days. They have THOUSANDS of books on every topic.

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    Andrea Reply:

    we do use Overdrive to checkout books — not sure if it’s exactly the same as your system though. Either way, it’s SO fun to be able to choose from SO many books for free!!

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  6. Cathleen Marie

    02/15/2019

    I live on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state and you can really tell by what you can sign out at our library! In addition to the things you listed you can sign out bags that have bird watching kits complete with binoculars and bird books. There are also flower, ocean life and tree identification kits that you can sign out. Some are geared towards specific sites for example the tide pools nearby and the kit is about identifying the things you might find there. They also have Lego sets that you can sign out. They might have more but I have a teenager now and I haven’t looked lately.

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    Andrea Reply:

    so many cool things — all for free!!!

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    Brenda Reply:

    Another cool thing about our area is the libraries are interconnected. So we live in Jefferson County, but can get library cards in other counties as well. I have plans to get over to the Seattle area and sign up for a card, which is totally allowed. Then I’ll be able to utilize the online library from all the libraries in and around Seattle.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, we have the same sort of thing with our libraries. However, we are not allowed to sign up for a library card outside of our home library (which is a bummer).

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  7. Crystal

    02/15/2019

    Our library has tons of non-book items. We have borrowed a sewing machine, astronomy binoculars and a wifi hotspot for a road trip! It also has the family passes you mentioned and an inter-library loan system for books they might not have. You can also request the library purchase up to 4 books/ebooks/movies each week!

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow! That’s great! We don’t have all of those at our library — I should inquire about these items 🙂

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  8. Debra Massack

    02/15/2019

    What a great post! We love the library. Reading is so important. At our library, we have storybook “read to a dog” day with therapy dogs — it’s so cute to watch and both the kids and dogs just love it.

    Also, our library recently partnered with Hoopla digital and now we can borrow a lot of audio and e-books, along with movies, television episodes, music, etc. to download to our tablets. You just register with Hoopla with a username and password and your library card number. The library is allowed so many “borrows” per day and they reset every day at midnight. Each patron is allowed 10 items per month and they automatically “return” at the end of the loan (I think 21 days?) I’ve been able to download and read a lot of books that I wanted on Amazon or Kindle for free. It also has a great selection of movies, both for kids and adults.

    If you are interested in something like that and your library doesn’t offer it, it’s worth a mention to them to see if it’s something they can look into. If you do have it and haven’t checked it out yet, it’s great. We love it.

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow — what a fun idea with the dog!
    And yes, our library partners with Hoopla too! We go through seasons of using it a lot and then not using it all that often!

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  9. Dawn Kaestner

    02/15/2019

    I am so happy to see you promote the library! I have worked for almost two decades as a library associate for the public library system (I am the preschool “storytime lady”) and I love my job and seeing families like yours taking advantage of such a valuable community resource. We aren’t obsolete yet and keep growing as technology does:)

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    Andrea Reply:

    we LOVE story time at the library — I’m sure your young families appreciate your services!

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  10. Carol Triebel

    02/15/2019

    One local library in our area offers Wilton cake pans to borrow! Great when you want to make a bunny cake or something for a special occasion. They have a huge selection which was donated from an estate.

    We also have large oil paintings and framed prints if you need something for your walls and want to change it out every three weeks!

    There was talk of lending out tools but I’m not sure if this has been offered yet–great idea though!

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    Andrea Reply:

    that is such an awesome idea! I need to talk to our library about the baking pans!

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    Luna Reply:

    Hi!

    I’m not sure if Bulk Barn exists in the US, but I figured it’s worth mentioning. I have went there few times in my area and I do remember that they lend baking pans to their customers. Maybe you could look into that?

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    Crystal Reply:

    Bulk Barn doesn’t exist in the US…but boy oh bot is it one of my Canadian “must stops” any time I’m there. Gosh I love me a Bulk Barn!!!!

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    Crystal Reply:

    *boy 😉

    My Bulk Barn excitement got the better of my spell checking! Lol

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — Bulk Barn sounds really cool!

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    Andrea Reply:

    no Bulk Barns here — but they sound like fun!

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  11. JJ

    02/15/2019

    Our library has the Read 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, and each of my kids got a tote filled with goodies(free book, coloring book, crayons, etc.) when they completed it. I know that’s about books, but it was really fun and rewarding. The only thing was that I thought they had to be 1,000 different books, so the first 600 to record took what seemed forever since they often want me to reread their favorites. When the librarian told me that it could be the same book 10 times in a row, my jaw dropped. At least they were exposed to many types of books, right? And at my son’s 3 year well check they asked if he had been exposed to reading and was often read to. When I told her he’s had at least 1,000 books read(props to having older siblings!), she laughed and said, “Okay, we can check this off then!”

    My favorite thing our library does in the summer is Touch a Truck. Every summer they do different things, so I hope they do it again!!! I have a really cool picture of my friend’s kids and my kids in the front of a backhoe!

    I will have to look into the free passes!!!! Thanks for posting!!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    sorry for the delayed response — your comment ended up in SPAM 🙁
    Anyway, I wanted to chime in to say that our library also has the 1000 books before kindergarten program and the older 3 kids have all met that goal. They didn’t get a cool tote bag, but they got their names pained on one of the walls in the library.
    And we also have a truck event in the summer — not put on by the library, but by our city (it’s right next to the library though). They have all sorts of big trucks, diggers, etc. in addition to police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, etc. It’s cool (and free!)

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  12. Jen

    02/15/2019

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the library! We have always lived close to one, and the Maryland libraries were AMAZING. Since we’ve moved to SC, the libraries are farther away and less very disappointing in what they offer, but we still use them a lot. Whenever I see a book I may want to read, I go to the library website and add it to my “Want to Read” list that is kept in my account. That way, when I need a new book, I always have a list handy.

    The library is always the first place I check when I want to read a new book. I never buy a book! In Maryland, if the library did not have the book in its collection, you could request they buy it. I did this MANY times and was never denied. Plus, I was the first person who got to check out the book! SC does not have this feature, and I miss it dearly!

    Also, if you’re searching for a book and the local library does not have it, be sure to check the statewide system. In both Maryland and SC, you could borrow a book from ANY state library that may have it in their collection. Sometimes it takes a bit longer to get to you, but it’s worth it!

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    Andrea Reply:

    I bought a grain grinding book a few months ago (after checking it out and renewing it 3 times from the library) and I felt like I was “cheating” on the library! haha! But I’ve been using the book daily for months so it was a good purchase!
    Other than that, I NEVER buy books either!

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  13. Michelle

    02/15/2019

    Ours offers a seed library. Seems like something you would really enjoy.

    A ton of classes for kids. Chess, crochet, coding, reading to therapy dogs, etc

    Scientific calculators and other tools for students.

    It’s also a first stop for people in emergency situations that need financial or other government assistance

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    Andrea Reply:

    cool! I read about other libraries who offer see libraries, but our’s doesn’t (at least not yet!)

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  14. Jenny

    02/15/2019

    If there is something you would like that your library doesn’t have, you can frequently request that they order it. My library also has a Steinway grand piano to practice on (in a soundproof room). Some libraries have 3D printers as well.

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow — so cool about the piano! And yes, I regularly request books and materials from other libraries. So convenient!

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  15. Lori McEvoy

    02/15/2019

    Absolutely ADORE the library!

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  16. Claire Anderson

    02/15/2019

    I loved this post today. I am a big library fan. Our library is two miles from my house and I go all the time. For the last seven years I have worked with a lady there who coordinates my book club making sure that my books are always ready on time. I used to bring my kids to the library every two weeks, all five would bring home five books each. They are all big readers today. I also go once a month in the evening for a gardening program offered from the University of South Florida Master Gardener program. Through this I was able to get my yard certified as a Florida Friendly Yard. This library also has a book club once a month. These are just a few things that they offer. I can’t imagine living without my library. Great read today.

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow — what great service from your librarian! That’s great they will work with you for your book club!

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  17. Ashley Orfe

    02/15/2019

    This is a great post! Seriously, libraries offer so many wonderful things many people do not take advantage of! My husband and I have gone on many dates for free with the museum pass program at ours. It saves us $30-40 in admission fees!

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    Andrea Reply:

    so fun! Dave and I will have to remember this for whenever we start going on dates again 🙂

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  18. Chris

    02/15/2019

    Oh wow, I’ll have to check to see if our library has passes. Our library DOES HAVE fishing poles! 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — well my kids would love to borrow fishing poles sometime. That’s great!

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  19. Mary Ann

    02/15/2019

    Wow! Your library offers a lot of cool stuff! I don’t think ours offers nearly that much–like the admissions and things but I’ll have to check! And I haven’t been to the children’s section in a while so I’m not sure if they offer check out on puzzles and games. I know they have some things to play with in the library. They do offer all kinds of story time and activities, summer concerts, movie nights, craft times, summer reading programs with great prizes etc. for children so we’re excited to check all that out as our daughter grows.

    I love using the inter-library loan system. I “order” my books online and pick them up in the library. Like free shopping. lol

    My sister’s library in TX offered free ballet classes so her then 5 yr old daughter got to attend a few weeks of ballet in the summer for free!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Our library has lots of classes too (mostly for adults though). Many of them are free, the rest are very frugal. And yes, we LOVE the inter-library load system too!

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