12 Life-Changing Services You Didn't Know Your Library Offered

You basically never have to pay for information or entertainment again.

BuzzFeed Books sent out an (unscientific) survey to librarians back in September, asking about their jobs, projects, pet peeves, and more. About 1,400 librarians responded, mostly in the US. Here are the resources and services they wish more people would use.

1. Databases and subscriptions

"Most libraries have a TON of databases to get information from. Peer reviewed journals to use as sources for a research paper? The repair manual for your 1992 Chrysler Dynasty? Pick a topic, there's probably a database with the answer somewhere on it, and your library most likely has access to it." —Rose

"Next time you want to make a big purchase, instead of Googling and just reading random people's opinions, go to your library's online databases and find the product you are purchasing in Consumer Reports. They do science to test products! I've used my library subscription to Consumer Reports to buy laminate flooring, a washer, a dryer, a fridge, and a dishwasher!" —Annie

"Materials from the Federal Depository Library Program. Libraries that participate are given free materials from the Government Printing Office (GPO) to allow patrons to use them. There are some amazing items in there." —Charlie

"Public libraries now have online guides on what car to buy (Consumer Reports), where to invest (Morningstar), how to learn a language, how to find your ancestors, and so much more." —Celia E.

2. E-books, e-mags, and audiobooks

"Patrons can use a magazine app called Flipster where they can read magazines for free!" —Cindy I.

"Overdrive and Libby for ebooks and downloadable audiobooks!" —Taylor W.

3. Music, TV, and movie streaming

"Take advantage of our e-resources such as Hoopla, Freegal, and Kanopy. You can basically have all your forms of entertainment taken care of." —Melissa

4. Language tools

"Mango Languages: That's 71 languages at your fingertips for free just for having a library card." —Chelsea

"We have free English classes and help with naturalization." —Kate

5. Accessibility tools

"Open Dyslexic Font. It's available on all of our digital ebooks and you can pair it with the margins, spacing, and background color you need. So few people ask us about accommodation for special needs, and while we often lack the resources, this is a huge one that's made the patrons I do have that use it thrilled." —Victoria

"The Talking Book Program [a free program for people with low vision, blindness, or a physical disability that prevents them from holding a book] — although not available to everyone, the average library user might know someone who meets the requirements for the free service." —Dyana

6. College prep, job prep, and tutoring

"Learning Express Library: Library-goers have access to a wide variety of current college admissions and occupation test preparation eBooks and practice tests with their library card, all for free" —Ashley

"I'm in love with Brainfuse. It offers live tutoring all the way up to the college level. They’ll also review papers, resumes, cover letters." —Shannon M.

"Studiosity! It’s free, individualized online homework help for students. It’s delivered by professionals and is exactly what I wish I could have offered my students when I was still teaching!" —Rachael

7. Cultural events, programs, and classes

"All the cool FREE programs that take place daily: writing workshops, author visits, teen bullet journal meet-ups, anime club, career counseling, movie screenings, coding club, gaming night, MakerSpaces, health resources, teen leadership opportunities, work out classes, tech coaching... so many more!" —Abbey

"A lot of libraries in cities have some version of a 'Cultural Pass,' where patrons can use their library card to get free admission to places like art museums, science museums, public parks, local exhibits, etc. Also, new parents should go STRAIGHT to the library. Not only are there programs for babies themselves, but parents can mingle with one another and escape the isolation of being alone all day with an infant. I have parents and babies that hang out in the kids section of the library for hours every day, playing with toys, reading books, and chatting with other kids and parents." —Allison

"For everyone who says they're struggling to make friends as adults, go to the library and attend programs. I guarantee you'll meet new people." —Marissa

8. Archiving and digitizing

"Memory Lab–type services where you can learn how to preserve a digital archive. They are free and include classes on digital preservation so you won't lose all your personal information, and usually also have free equipment you can use to digitize VHS, audiocassettes, and scan old family photos and documents." —Erin P.

9. Library of Things

"Seed Libraries are a new awesome thing where you can borrow and donate seeds to grow in your own garden" —Melissa

"A few years ago we added 'The Library of Things' and our library was the test market for Washington county. Now most county libraries are building their own collections. We have karaoke machines, acoustic guitars, keyboards, violins, food dehydrators, telescopes to see the beautiful stars, cotton candy machines, popcorn makers, and kits to measure the wattage used in one's home. Too much to list here." —Marna

10. "My Library Rewards"

"If your library has it, mylibraryrewards.com. It's such a cool service! Everything you check out in house, you get points for, then you redeem them for local coupons." —Ashley M.

11. Finding that next read

"Use Library Extension on Chrome to search all your libraries at once, automatically." —Christina

"Need to find what to read next? Novelist can suggest things based on your favorite books!" —Kelsey S.

"The holds list! My patrons don't take advantage of it enough and are frequently just hoping a book will be in when they want it." —Caroline

"Using the librarians for readers advisory! We read a lot, so we always have good recommendations for what to read next. Kids are great at asking us for new books they should read, but adults don't always think to ask us." —Lisa W.

12. The librarians themselves!

"Book-a-Librarian! At my library (and most libraries), we will sit with you one-on-one to teach you how to use your electronic devices (Kindle, iPhone, etc.) or how to use programs such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. We have a lot of seniors who are gifted items by their children that they have no idea how to use. We are here and happy to help!" —Peggy L.

"Librarians can help you find the answers to really bizarre questions without judgment. How to use your computer or why a rock moves around your yard at night. That movie you watched as a kid but can’t remember the title? A librarian can help!" —Sara

"So many people suffer from library anxiety (this is a studied phenomenon) and are afraid to ask questions, but most librarians I know got into this business because they like helping people. Talk to us! Most of us don't bite." —Emily W.

And if you're interested in something that your library doesn't have, ask for it — and then use it.

"Campaign for them to get it. The whole goal is for local public libraries to have whatever resources would be most useful for that community!" —Celia E.

"The more people who use our libraries, the more funding we get so we can expand our services." —Marna

This article is part of a series of stories celebrating libraries and free access to information.

Skip to footer