Unlike the other cards in your wallet, a library card doesn’t come with any fees or payment due dates. It does, however, come with a list of very cool, very FREE perks for the whole family. And we’re not just talking about books, even though that’s certainly one of its best benefits—but the library also contains some little-known perks that can save you money and entertain a few restless kiddos. Bonus: Many of these freebies can be enjoyed 24/7, from the comfort of your own couch.
Read on to discover the extras a library card can unlock:
1. FREE e-books, audiobooks, magazines, newspapers and comics. Your library card grants you access to thousands of e-books, audiobooks, magazines and newspapers from a variety of sources – Bridges, Hoopla, RBdigital, Zinio, Gale Virtual Library, Flipster, Comics Plus and others.
2. FREE streaming and online access via Hoopla. The media service platform, which can be accessed 24/7, offers a variety of digital content. You can borrow videos (including movies, documentaries and TV shows) for 72 hours, music for seven days, and audiobooks, e-books and graphic novels for 21 days.
3. Tumblebooks. Another on-line resource, these animated picture books are perfect for younger kids. You’ll need a library card number to grab them, but they integrate music, narration, and activities into stories to keep kids captivated. Ask your librarian for more information.
4. Extensive FREE online courses. Kids and adults can study an impressive variety of online courses through lynda.com (more than 3,000 courses and 150,000 video tutorials), Gale Courses (six-week interactive online courses for learners over 13 years of age), and an array of language, software, business, enrichment, and career-related courses and online providers.
5. Research assistance. Local libraries offer research assistance services on a number of topics to patrons. Assistance can be provided in person at your local library or on-line through a platfrom like Kids InfoBits.
6. Kids can read to a therapy dog. Are those reading skills a little, er, ruff around the edges? Kids can practice their reading skills with a gentle service dog that will offer lots of positive feedback and help boost self-confidence.
7. Book clubs. Tweens and teens can participate in book clubs with peers that focus on age-appropriate titles and topics. Each library may focus on different titles, so check your local branch’s website to see what it’s offering.
8. Testing help. There are free practice tests available for high school and college students, including the STAAR, GED, AP, and SAT tests.
9. Homework resources. Is homework a contentious topic in your household? The library system has resources to help.
10. Programs and events. The activities offered at local libraries are unparalleled. It’s not just weekly story time (not that there’s anything wrong with that;). Browse calendars for crafts, cooking classes, special events, author visits, movie nights and much much more!
11. Summer Reading Programs. Kids can sign up for this classic summer tradition at their local library and be rewarded for their dedication to reading with incentives and prizes.
12. MakerSpaces and DIY Studios. Several local libraries now have spaces available to work on projects and share ideas. Equipment includes 3-D printers, robotics, computers, photo and video editing equipment and more.
13. FREE passes to local attractions. The Altoona Public Library, Grimes Public Library, Johnston Public Library, Urbandale Public Library and West Des Moines Public Library in partnership with Blank Park Zoo, the Living History Farms, and new this summer the Science Center of Iowa, provides FREE passes to area attractions by using a valid adult Library card and a valid photo ID. Any adult library patron may borrow a pass to enjoy an educational day of family fun.
14. Art Galleries. A few local libraries have dedicated gallery space and most host exhibitions of original artwork making art accessible to the greater community.
15. Other things to check out besides books. There’s some really cool things that local libraries will lend out. STEAM Kits, puppets, cake pans, video games, movies and TV shows (DVDs) and audiobooks (CDs).
Links to local public libraries in the Des Moines area:
All this, and FREE books to borrow?! If you haven’t used your library card lately, it might be time to start a new chapter.