The Incredible Value of the Local Library (A Visual Tour)

As I’ve said before many (many) times, the local public library is the single biggest entertainment value available to you. Unlimited books, DVDs, CDs, audio books, civic groups, films, presentations, live performances, and countless other opportunities are available at your public library, either in your own town or in the nearest significantly-sized town. The best part? It’s all free.

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During my last visit to my library of choice, the Ames Public Library in Ames, Iowa, I realized that for many people, the best way to make clear the abundance of value at public libraries is to simply show those values.

So that’s exactly what I’m going to do today. Here are some of the multitude of wonderful free things that can be had at your friendly local public library.

Books

Books
Yes, books are the one big thing that libraries are known for. That doesn’t mean that there’s not an abundance of value there.

For starters, the library is far and away my top source for research materials and personal finance books to read and review for The Simple Dollar. I constantly trawl the personal finance section for books and occasionally request specific ones for reservation or through interlibrary loan, both of which I can do from home at my computer.

Not only that, I check out piles of fiction and non-fiction from the library for personal enjoyment. I’ve checked out approximately one and a half books a week this year solely for my own enrichment, ranging from classic literature like early John Updike novels and challenging material like a biography of Woodrow Wilson to pageturners like the Traveler trilogy by John Twelve Hawks. These resources are a constant source of entertainment, learning, and growth in my life.

Internet / Computer Access

Internet Access
Most libraries have publicly-available internet terminals that allow members to access the internet, visit websites, check their email, and research topics, free of charge.

Many libraries (all of the ones I regularly visit, anyway) also have wireless internet access, so if you have a laptop, you can simply sit down anywhere in the library and get online, again, free of charge.

If you’re around the Ames library often enough, you’ll eventually find me somewhere with my laptop open, jotting down notes or ideas for some project or another – or simply checking my email or approving comments.

Live Events

Live Events
Many libraries offer free live events to the public, from music concerts (like the one advertised above, for the Barn Owl Band) to film showings and public discussions.

When I lived closer to the library (and didn’t have children), I was a semi-regular attendee of the free films shown at the library. The films were usually thought-provoking, much more so than the slapstick comedy at the theatre, plus the cost was right.

Another great feature of most libraries is the presence of special interest groups. People often use the library as a venue for having meetings related to specific interests, like a historical romance reading club or an investment club. It’s quite enjoyable to meet with well-read like-minded people.

DVDs

DVDs
Many libraries have a wide assortment of DVDs that you can check out, just like a book. Feature films of all kinds, documentaries, foreign films, and countless other interesting things are available. The sheer number of films available here means that you’ll eventually be able to find something that matches your tastes – and it’s all without cost.

I often watch a lot of films during the winter months and the library’s selection of DVDs is one of my first stops in that journey. Almost always, I wind up finding something completely unexpected and surprisingly enjoyable on the racks.

(And, yes, that’s my son in the lower left corner. He’s eyeing the graphic novel selections, particularly a Spider-Man collection.)

CDs

CDs
Much like DVDs, most libraries have an extensive music collection that you can check out, just like books. I happen to quite like bluegrass music, so I took a picture of the bluegrass section of CDs on offer.

The library offers a great opportunity to get free exposure to all kinds of different music. If you’ve ever wanted to explore a musical genre without popping open your wallet and buying things without having any idea what you like or what’s good, the library is the perfect solution.

I’ve discovered countless artists thanks to the public library (my most recent discovery is Laura Nyro).

Audiobooks

Audiobooks
Whenever I go on a long road trip, I love to have an audiobook or two along for the ride. It’s a great way to absorb a story or a set of ideas while you’re whittling away the hours behind the wheel or on an airplane.

Unfortunately, audiobooks can be pretty expensive. Fortunately, the local library usually has a mountain of them for you to listen to (like the very nice Charlie Wilson’s War audiobook you can see above).

I usually snag three or four of these from the library before any long trip, just so I have some backups in case one of them has a poor reader. Why not? That’s what the library is there for – and it’s all free.

Kid's Room

Children’s Resources
I thought I’d close by showing the part that my children love the most about the library – the children’s room.

Not only is it loaded with picture books of all kinds and shapes and sizes, there are also a lot of free-form learning toys available as well as puppets for impromptu puppet shows. On top of that, there are always reading programs going on, plus very regular story times in which someone reads a book to whichever children are present to listen.

My children actually get excited to go – and I’m certainly happy to encourage it!

In the end, a good library has a wealth of free resoures just waiting for you to use them – so why not use them? You can be entertained, learn something new, meet new people – and it doesn’t cost a dime.

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94 thoughts on “The Incredible Value of the Local Library (A Visual Tour)

  1. Sara says:

    I recently discovered that my public library has state park passes available for check out! I was previously paying $5 per visit or $50 for a year long pass. Now before we go to a park, we plan a stop at the library first.

  2. Lisa says:

    I’m a huge fan of the library and a frequent visitor to my local branches, so I will completely agree that libraries are great places for all kinds of free resources. That said, a lot of libraries are beginning to charge for DVDs (it’s $1 per movie here) because of budget cuts. It’s still inexpensive, but not free, and at my library at least, not marked well. I didn’t know there was a fee until I had checked the movie out. Oops.

  3. Raghu Bilhana says:

    I agree that libraries in US are good sources of knowledge and in fact I myself use them a lot.

    But many libraries in US are fast becoming day homes to homeless people, who just sit there or sleep there all day long.

    Libraries smell a lot too. :-)

  4. Deb Russell says:

    I LOVE the Ames Public Library! My family and I spend a lot of time there.

  5. valleycat1 says:

    Our library also has a dedicated room for teens, since so many hang out there after school anyway. Books aimed at their age bracket, computer terminals, coffee-house type seating, enough supervision to keep the noise level down & avoid trouble, but not so much that they go elsewhere.

    Among our live events are several weekly children’s story hours based on age group. and we have a couple of poets’ writing groups. I’ve also found their public-use bulletin board helpful, as many groups & the local government post notices there I might not see otherwise.

    We can also deliver used batteries to the library for recycling, and they usually have at least one collection bin out for a local service project.

  6. Felipe Castillo says:

    I love my library here in Champaign, Illinois! One of the greatest features is that they provide free access to Consumer Reports online. When at home, I can use my library card number to log in.

  7. L says:

    Please remember that libraries are NOT “free.” They are paid for with your taxes. In this environment today of we-don’t-want-to-pay-any-taxes-but-we-want-all-the-services-we-can-get, remember that when you fight tooth and nail against local and state taxes, don’t be upset when your local library cuts hours, doesn’t have the latest releases, cuts back on subscriptions, doesn’t replace computers, etc. There is no “free” about the library or anything else. Everything has to be paid for, one way or another. And before the tea-partiers start whining about “waste,” “fraud,” and “abuse,” let me say that as a state employee, all the low-hanging, easy to pick fruit has been gone for years. I haven’t had a raise as has no one in my state for 6 years, and last year we all got a pay cut. We’re all doing the job of 3 people each. When times were good and the private sector was popping champagne corks and doling out bonuses like they were party favors, no one was sharing that with state workers, yet now they are hollering for government workers’ blood now that times are bad. There is nothing left to cut but blood and bone. So when you want to cut taxes, don’t whine about library hours, street lights, crossing guards for your kids’ school, public safety inspectors for your parents assisted living kitchens, etc. That is where the cuts are made. Nothing is free, and you are fools to think that you can get something for nothing.

  8. valleycat1 says:

    Lisa – our library had deep budget cuts a few years ago (I live in california) & had to reduce their hours, but now they’re back up to full speed. And they used to charge for interlibrary loans & nonbook items, but apparently decided they were spending too much on the bookkeeping, so everything’s free now – although the late fees on nonbook items are higher.

    I also have signed up for online access to my library account & can browse the entire area’s collections & reserve books from home, check the status if the items have checked out, save a list of books I want to read someday, etc. They also have an online homework helper program for school kids.

  9. Kate says:

    Thank you for this post, Trent! As a school librarian, I am too aware of how funding for our school and public libraries is decreasing rapidly. Many school libraries are losing their librarians and many public libraries are closing branches and running with shorter hours. This is coming at a time when more people are using our libraries because of the economic situation.
    Other opportunites that are available at Trent’s library and at most libraries around the country:

    a library website that offers a wealth of opportunities that you can access right from the comfort of your own home such as: searchable databases, an electronic catalog, and the ability to reserve books online.
    free internet access for visitors–when my husband and I travel we check e-mail, etc. at a local library so we don’t have to worry about keeping up with a laptop.
    bookmobiles and home delivery for shut-ins.
    computer and other types of classes.

    Hooray for libraries! :o)

  10. L says:

    And I should add, before anyone accuses me of goofing off on state time, that I am out on sick leave today with the flu, not able to do much but hang on my computer and blow my nose. So no taxpayer money is being wasted.

  11. Dee says:

    Many libraries have e-media books that you can download to your ipod or mp3 player for free. These are not just books in the public domain but more recent fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books. You may also burn them to disks if you wish. I’ve been doing this for over 3 years now and have never bought an audio book.

  12. Beth says:

    Further to Dee’s comment, many libraries offer e-books you can download to an e-reader or read on your computer. I’m happy to see my local library building it’s digital collection. If you have a Kindle or other proprietary device, you can convert files to read on it — you just need the right software. (Like Calibre, which is free.)

  13. Kristen says:

    I adore the library. I just found out the other day that my library carries Wii games that you can rent for a week free of charge–a great money-saver for us! Another benefit is magazines. If you’re addicted to them (like me), you can cut the subscription fees and get them through the library.

  14. Leah says:

    yes, L, you’ve got it! I am so frustrated at my local government that wants to “spread the pain” of service cuts (rather than raise taxes even a tiny bit per person). They decided to cut $1-2k out of every budget. Well, that means they cut almost 10 hours out of the library time in my town. Ten hours!!! I’m livid. The library is already closed on Sundays and is now closed most evenings too. I’m not sure when kids are supposed to go to the library.

    As a child, I went to the library almost every single day in the summer and at least once a week during the school year. It was my safe, sacred, awesome space. By the time I have kids, my big goal is to be living in a community that values and supports services like libraries.

  15. Our local library systems also have day passes to museums and activity centers in the area.

    Trent, thanks for posting about the benefits of the library. I use the local library all the time, but in your tour of your library, I was suddenly taken back to my childhood, when the whole family would head out to the library on Saturday morning to stock up for the week. You’re building great memories for your kids!

  16. psychsarah says:

    I was going to comment about what Dee and Beth beat me too-for those who are concerned about “smelly” libraries (an issue I’ve never noticed, BTW), you can still access a lot of e-resources from the comfort of your home, like e-books, audiobooks, and research tools.

    The libary was my favourite place when I was a kid. I couldn’t believe I could have all the books I wanted to read and didn’t have to pay anything.

    I hear what L said-that these services are paid for by our taxes, but I think the point is that we already paid for it, we might as well make use of the services those tax dollars paid for.

  17. Lioness says:

    I love love love love the library for everything that it offers. I’ve been an avid visitor since at least 3rd grade. It was with great pride that I was able to introduce my children to the library the moment they were able to write their own name. The budget cuts make me sad because it’s such a valuable tool to so many who can’t afford a lot of the services you mentioned.

    If you can, please give to the library. I’ve gotten so much from them that it was an absolute pleasure to give back. It wasn’t much but I did my part and will do it again.

  18. dangermom says:

    Libraries are about the best bang for your tax buck there is. A really good library system can be run on about $30 or so per taxpayer per year (ours gets $16). That’s about what you’d pay for one hardback book, and for that you get access to unlimited knowledge.

    In addition, IMO libraries are one of the pillars of a free society–no matter how small-government you are (and I am!), libraries are a core service. For one thing, they are one mechanism by which a populace examines its own goverment–libraries collect all those gov’t docs so that you can see exactly what your local, state, and federal gov’ts are up to. For another thing, a free society must be an educated society, and libraries are a major way to ensure that everyone has access to knowledge, which access should never be limited to those with money to pay. Libraries are about the only places where knowledge is free and available to all people, and as such are essential to American ideals.

  19. Kevin Wright says:

    The Ames library has nice “travel bags” which are a whole bag of travel guides to a particular destination (e.g. Chicago, Minnesota).

    At other libraries I have seen puppets for kids, musical instruments, specialty cake pans, tax resources & consulting, genealogical archives (paper and web), software, etc.

  20. MacKay says:

    Because I live in a rural town without a library, I can get books, movies and CDs mailed to me for free through inter-library loan. For a while I got some movies through interlibrary loan, but then started to look at the cost of the postage that tax payers were spending to send movies to me. Several dollars a pop. Now I get Netflix, and with the $8.99 plan, if I turn around DVDs quickly, I can get 10 a month. So less than $1 per movie. My husband still gets books (mostly mystery novels) and I just checked; one way postage is $3. I think about this, when I know thrift shops charge $1 or less for books. My state has a massive budget shortfall, such that it owes tens of millions to area hospitals. So I second the sentiment of prior folks who remind us that the libraries are not free.

  21. Johanna says:

    Every library is different. Maybe psychsarah’s local library isn’t “smelly,” but maybe Raghu Bilhana’s library is. Neither experience negates the other.

    The problem I have with my local library isn’t the smell but the fact that there’s very little there that I want to read. They seem to be surviving on donated books, meaning books that were popular 10-15 years ago, but that nobody wants to read anymore, either because the information is outdated or because they weren’t that good in the first place.

  22. MM Brown says:

    This past month, I donated all my DVDs to my local library. I had a small collection, limited to my favorites, so it was no easy decision–but I’m glad to know they’ll be in frequent use, rather than gathering dust between their one or two viewings per year.

    This is not a suggestion for everyone! But it’s a reminder that libraries are often great alternatives to thrift stores when you have media to donate.

  23. Kate says:

    Johanna, that makes me very sad. Our local library used to be like that because it was run more from funds of the Friends than from tax money, I think. We got a new library director years ago and there were gradual changes and then major changes. What it took was someone with vision. I think back to our old library building and shudder…I couldn’t take one of my children there because of the mold. It would trigger his asthma. Not so now, though. We have new buildings and lots of resources.

  24. Monica says:

    I love the library! I just wish the library system for my county had a better selection. Many times I hear about a book I want to read, and then go look it up and it’s not available. It’s really disappointing, and frustrating given that I live in a large city. I wish I could get a library card for the county I work in, which has a much better library system!

  25. Bob says:

    I recently “rediscovered” the library…I forgot how great it is…and its only a few blocks from my house. Although, people are a lot louder than they used to be, wish it was a no-cell zone.

  26. Kate says:

    Monica: have you tried getting one in the county you work in? I have library cards from three counties–the county where I live, the county where I work and another neighboring county that has a reciprocal borrowing agreement with my county library system.

  27. Brenda W. says:

    One of the most amazing things for loan that I’ve read about from another person’s library is CAKE PANS!! VeganDad has blogged a couple times about borrowing cake pans from the library!! (He lives in Ontario, Canada).

  28. Stacey says:

    I’m lucky, my state (Ohio) has one of the best library systems in the country, and the Cuyahoga County Library system is amazing. When the Govenor wanted to cut the library system for the state by millions of dollars, there was a letter campaign in support of NOT cutting. I stated there were MANY state programs my tax dollars paid for that I DON’T qualify to use. The library is one of the places I can use. Thankfully, the proposed cuts did not go through.

    I don’t think people mind paying the FAIR SHARE of taxes. I don’t have kids, but I am happy to pay taxes to ensure I have a good library system, a good school system, police, fire, emergency services, town maintenance etc. But it is hard to support increased tax levy’s to pay for these services, when the FBI is investigating county officials for corruption, and of the 94 named, 45 have pled guilty for a variety of charges. The remaining have not been indited yet. Just something to think about.

  29. Sara A. says:

    A few other things:

    1. Most libraries will have computer classes and ESL classes. They frequently also have classes on other misc. topics as well.

    2. The databases you can access through the library are awesome. For example, they have genealogy databases, or databases of stock legal forms like wills or leases. Your librarian can help you with where to start.

    3. Interlibrary loans allow you to borrow from other libraries in your state (or even the whole country) if your local library does not have an item. You usually have to get setup for the interlibrary system separately from your regular library card, but a librarian can help you.

    4. Free air conditioning and heating. Its a good place to hang out with a book or your laptop and save on your utilities.

    5. Almost all libraries are accessible by public transportation. I can only think of one library (in a very rural area) that I’ve seen that was not.

  30. AnnJo says:

    @L,

    Sorry you’re out sick. Thank the taxpayers that you get paid for being out sick, and get to cash out your unused sick leave down the road. Many in the private sector, especially in small businesses, and business owners like myself can’t realistically expect to be paid for doing nothing.

    My library system recently asked for a tax increase through a levy. I’m a huge fan of the library and I don’t mind paying REASONABLE taxes for the services I get, but I don’t believe in writing anyone a blank check. The levy request made me curious about the costs of their operations.

    I learned that an employee with 10 years’ tenure is entitled to 47 paid days off per year – 9 1/2 weeks. They get Cadillac medical, vision, dental and disability plans, the right to retire at age 55 with 20 years of service at 40% of their HIGHEST pay, not their average pay (+2% more for each year over 20) – guaranteed by the taxpayers no matter how well or badly the State’s pension board manages its investments. (Whether I have any retirement income beyond Soc. Sec. depends entirely on how wisely I manage my IRA and savings, and I get no guarantees of anything.)

    When you add the cost of their benefits to their pay, the AVERAGE cost per employee in my library system is well over $100,000. And yes, they are cutting hours and services, but not pay and benefits.

    And job security is far superior; in this economic downturn, while 7 million people in the private sector lost their jobs between 2007 and 2009, government employment GREW by a few hundred thousand.

    L, this isn’t meant as an attack on you, or government workers in general, but I really think you and they don’t quite understand the gap that has opened up between the public and private sectors and that is driving the current tax-resistant mood. Many in the public sector do good and important work but that shouldn’t translate into becoming a privileged class that yet manaages to be resentful of the taxpayers instead of thankful for its privileges.

    Feel better soon. Next year, think about the flu vaccine. Since my business could suffer a world of hurt if I got sick at the wrong time, I get it every year religiously. Your insurance will cover it. Mine doesn’t.

  31. reulte says:

    I love my libraries and would like to mention university libraries as another source – which may allow non-affiliated participation. Or maybe not, but it can’t hurt to check. It’s also interesting to ask the librarian “What service does the library offer than I probably don’t know about?”.

  32. Monica says:

    Kate: Thatnks for the suggestion! I’d be in heaven with 3 cards :) I have looked into it, but the only non-residents who are eligible for a card are teachers and business owners. They do allow anyone to have a county library card if you pay a $40 non-refundable fee. I’ll have to check into the reciprocal borrowing agreement to see if there is one in my area.

  33. elledee says:

    Great post…I am a library fanatic. It’s my first stop when I hear of a movie to rent, book to read, artist to listen to. I feel blessed to live in a city with a fantastic public library system (Minneapolis). I pay some late fees every year (if I have 50 pages left and it’s due today, I just keep it to finish it up quick) but it’s well worth it. I always donate at the end of the year to assist their programming because I find it so valuable.

  34. Keri says:

    Nice article. You forgot the most important service libraries provide: Librarians. We have expert knowledge in many different fields and can provide reading recommendations, assistance in searching for information and we can find information both online and in print that even a regular internet user cannot.

  35. Tara says:

    That’s my library too, Trent, and it’s a wonderful one. I never go in without running into a few friends and neighbors, and I always come out with something great in addition to whatever I stopped by to pick up. Same with the website…I always discover new things…just today I found that we can get downloadable audiobooks for free.

    Our Ames library (and probably most libraries) also has an excellent online catalog, and you can request books or movies to be held for you. Drop in and grab your reserved items from the alphabetized shelves and you’re all set!

  36. Kate says:

    #23 AnnJo:
    I feel that some of your points might be based on truth for your state/area of the country but not for all. I am a state employee and I have to pay for a flu shot. I have been furloughed and have not had any kind of raise for several years. So my income has decreased but my job description has not changed, in fact the amount of work I am expected/required to do has increased. While I do have the option for several kinds of health plans, none of them would even begin to qualify as a Cadillac plan. The dental and vision plans are extra and the benefits of those are so minimal that I don’t pay the extra amount. And, too, while in the past unused sick days could be cashed in at retirement, that is quickly (and very quietly) going away.
    I would love to know what source you use are citing for the growth in the number of government jobs. It would help me with some research that I have been doing.

  37. L says:

    @AnnJo, Thanks for the respectful reply, that’s a lot more than most govt. workers get these days, believe me. I’m not going to play “guess who’s hurting more” — that’s not productive. But there is a whole lot of misinformation out there about how cushy govt. workers have it. For one thing, when you’re talking about early retirement, job protections, outrageous salaries, etc., where you need to look is the FEDERAL workers, not the state or local workers, for the most part. My jaw drops when I hear of the perks those folks have.
    Some facts about me (in the state of FL):
    I have 3 degrees, including a doctorate. Phi Beta Kappa, graduated with honors. 16 years out of my doctorate, I make a grand total of 61k. NO job protection, none. They could fire me tomorrow for no reason and I’d have no recourse, not any. There is no union for my job category. I can retire after 30 years if I could afford to pay for my healthcare — my state pays a grand total of $150/month if you’ve worked 30 years towards your health care premiums before you go on medicare — the rest is out of pocket. The pension is modest at best — the average state employee brings home around $1800/month. Yes, my health insurance is decent, but gets more costly every year, like for everyone. I can cash out my sick leave up to 480 hours or so (I think) at 25% (in other words, they only pay me 25% of my sick leave, the rest is a gift to the state). I do get 104 hours of sick leave and 176 hours of annual leave a year, so that’s generous.
    I am an excellent employee. I always get top of the line reviews, and supervise many other employees. Why do I stay? I could make a lot more money in the private sector.
    I stay because I want to make a difference. The work I do is important. I sleep well at night. I protect public safety. Old people in nursing homes are safer because of the work I do.
    Last year I got a pay cut. I had to pay for my own licensure fee. They say they want to run government like a business, but EVERY person who does what I do in a private firm, the firm pays that licensure fee for their employees. They try to have it both ways — so which is it, run it like a business or like government?
    I love what I do but it’s getting awfully hard to do it for so little and then get slapped and disrespected and maligned by those who should know better for cynical political gain as lazy, bloodsucking leaches, when the truth is we’re doing the work of 3 people each for less and less. My poor assistant, who’s been doing this for 20 years, has had to get food stamps. That’s just wrong.

    Still think I’m doing so well? Still think I should be so grateful?

    And yes, I did get a flu shot, covered by my insurance. And I still got sick!

    Nothing is free. You want services from the government, you have to pay. Period.

  38. Briana @ GBR says:

    I hadn’t been to the library in years, but my younger sister (16) asked me to take her so she can pick up some books. I forgot how “cool” it was to go. As another commenter mentioned, libraries are becoming the homes of the homeless, so it does sort of discourage me from going, but with all the free media, I think I need a new library card.

  39. reulte says:

    AnnJo – Government work benefits are nice and, as a single mom, I stay at this work for the job security, but we weigh various benefits when we choose to work in the public or private sector — maybe with laser-like direction (always wanted to be a doctor) or simply by accident (like me, it was the first job offer I got).

    SEC Lawyer had some excellent comments in the August 26 Reader Mailbag – “… if you have any talent and ambition, you don’t work for the government — not for long, anyway.”

    BtW, is that priviledge class attitude? :-)

  40. L says:

    Oh, and I forgot to mention, I’ve worked for the state of FL for 13.5 years now. Zero seniority. Zero job security. For my job classification (Select Exempt, a professional classification) there is no job security.

  41. Jaime says:

    I realize there are many benefits to libraries, but what about supporting artists with our money? I’m not saying go broke, take advantage of the library but its important to support artists, otherwise why would these people bother to create art, if it wasn’t for them trying to create art, then there would be nothing for us to enjoy.

  42. MM Brown says:

    I think L’s comments are a good reminder that a library is what you make it, right down to the dollars invested from the taxes you pay. So, some of the complaints people gave offered as deterrents are actually great reasons to start investing time an money into your library system.

    So, for example, by donating my favorite DVD–Whig were in terrific condition–I have done a little something to make the library’s collection reflect my interests.

  43. MM Brown says:

    I think L’s comments are a good reminder that a library is what you make it, right down to the dollars invested from the taxes you pay. So, some of the complaints people gave offered as deterrents are actually great reasons to start investing time an money into your library system.

    So, for example, by donating my favorite DVD–Whig were in terrific condition–I have done a little something to make the library’s collection reflect my interests.

  44. L says:

    Sorry to keep chiming in — maybe it’s the Nyquil speaking — but reulte reminded me of something I wanted to say.
    A lot of people, myself included, enter govt. work because, at least in part, we’re somewhat rist-averse. That is, we’re willing to trade off the potential for a much higher salary for greater security and better benefits. That’s the bargain we make, and that’s why we’re mostly content during the go-go days when the economy is soaring and the champagne is flowing and people in the private sector are making money hand over fist, while we just plug along. We’re the tortoises to their hares. But now that serious pain has come along and the party has ended for the hares, the focus of the partiers has shifted to those of us who traded away those years of high flying the harees enjoyed for security… and now they want to yank that security away from us. “Share in our pain,” they demand. “But wait a minute,” we reply. “When did you invite us to share in your feast?” And they reply, “What are you, some kind of socialist? No, it’s not a two-way street. Pain flows both ways, rewards only flow to the risk-takers.”
    I think I need to take a nap. I hope my point is clear. When I went into govt. work I knew I’d never be rich. But I never thought anyone would come along who’d be actively trying to make me a lot poorer.

  45. 8sml says:

    @AnnJo #23, re: statements like “Your insurance will cover it. Mine doesn’t.”

    Do you really want others to have your work situation, which you seem to be describing as full of negatives?

    I don’t get the argument, which I hear so often, of “I get low pay, little vacation, and poor benefits, so you all should suffer along with me.” I can understand questioning pay scale, vacation, etc., especially for public employees, but it seems like sour grapes to me to say that those who have a working situation that recognizes that employees are people who get sick and need time off in order to be at their most productive and at the same time pays them enough to support themselves or their families should be given a dose of the “real world”. Given that real wages for most people have been stagnating for at least a decade now, why would you want *everyone* to be in the unenviable situation that *most people* are in?

    My gut feeling is:
    - questioning what employees need in order to be healthy & productive = necessary
    - saying that some people should be paid less simply because you are = jealousy

  46. reulte says:

    I’m a federal employee, an office manager. After 15 years, I receive 13 days of sick and 26 days of vacation leave a year. When I’m overseas I also get local holidays off as well as the US federal holidays up to 20 days a year. That’s all nice.

    My health insurance is good, but does get more expensive every year and does not include dental or vision — as Kate says dental and vision plans are extra with minimal benefits.

    On the other hand, I can be sent anywhere in the world (with or without my son) at any time and my only recourse would be to quit.

    Anyone who wants to find out what kind of benefits are available to federal workers can find out at the Office of Personnel Management website at opm dot gov.

  47. Jane says:

    Our local library offers “museum passes” (in quotes because the service includes passes to the zoo, aquarium, farms, historic mansions, state parks, and theaters, as well as your standard museums), which allow deeply discounted or free admission. You can reserve them online or in person.

  48. Johanna says:

    @AnnJo: I thought the reason (or one of them) that employers offer paid sick leave is so that workers have an incentive to stay home when they’re sick so that they don’t make everyone else in the office sick. Are you saying that employers shouldn’t do that?

    And it looks to me like a blatant contradiction to say that the library system is cutting hours and services (which must mean that they’re laying people off) but that the employees enjoy such great job security.

    And I thought you said once before that you chose a bare-bones health insurance plan because it saves you money in the long run. So I don’t know why you’re complaining now that it doesn’t cover your flu shot.

  49. Jackie says:

    I love the library. My office is less than a block from my local library so I end up going there at least once a week. Our selection isn’t spectacular, but I can reserve books online and then pick them up when they become available. We also have a small selection of audio books and I think those a fun to browse when I know I have a lot of driving coming up (we don’t have the nifty digital audio yet).

    We just had a library levy on the ballot this season and I voted for it, and will always do so.

  50. The library in my community is a private library. It is small which was a huge turn off for me in the beginning. Once I became a bit more involved I discovered they have an inter-loan service with the other libraries. If they don’t have the book they find it and get it to me within a week. No different then if I ordered on Amazon!

  51. Cindy says:

    Thanks for posting this! As a librarian in training (almost done with library school), I am always happy to see advertising about all the great resources offered at libraries. My library also offers resources for hearing impaired patrons, as well as job help, adult literacy training, and other educational opportunities including speakers of books coming for free to the public. It’s amazing the wealth of resources many libraries offer!

  52. Lizbeth says:

    great info.
    i had turned away from the library because i thought that buying my books was much more cool. i’ve recently returned to the world of the library because of the simple dollar. i learned to bake bread here, so now, i want to bake the very best loaf of bread my family can have. i check out six books at a time.

    L- i also wanted to comment on some of what you said. i completely agree with you. nothing is free. the librarian needs to pay his/her mortgage and needs a living wage, lighbulbs need to be purchased, lawns need to be cut, and this is not free. as a homeowner, i pay about $200 in property taxes that go towards my local library. honestly, now that i understand money better, that’s a bargain. i’m happy to pay it. it gives me a wonderful resource in my little town.

  53. chacha1 says:

    As a kid, the public library was a terrific resource. As an adult, it’s become less so, but I still value the public services it provides.

    Chiming in on the complaints. If you don’t like the selection, all libraries accept donations: organize a new media donation drive. If you don’t like the way the place looks (or smells) volunteer some time or donate materials for landscaping, repainting, deep cleaning, or just dusting. If homeless people camp out at the library, start a movement to open a day shelter in your community.

    It’s not enough to say “I don’t like it because X.”

  54. Tom Denver, CO says:

    My girlfriend and I used to go on library ‘dates’ and hit the local pub at happy hour. A couple drinks, an appetizer, then around the corner to the library to check out a book. Not sure what happened to that tradition so I’m adding it back to the date mix…this time, by bicycle.

  55. Johanna says:

    @chacha1: “It’s not enough to say “I don’t like it because X.””

    Why on Earth not? Or rather: Do I have to do this for every activity I don’t like? If I don’t like to go to the movies because I think 99% of movies these days are terrible, do I have to start a movement to convince Hollywood to make some movies that are more to my tastes? If I don’t like to go to my local shopping mall because there’s nothing there that I want to buy, do I have to write letters to all my favorite retailers to try to convince them to open a location there? Why isn’t it enough for me to say “This activity doesn’t work for me, so I’m going to do something else that I like better”?

    If there’s a book I want to read or an album I want to listen to, it’s easy enough for me to get it from another source. I earn enough money (and am frugal enough in other areas of my life) that I can afford to do this. The few times I’ve been to my local library, it’s always been packed with people, so clearly they’re providing a service of value to somebody. Just not to me. What’s wrong with that?

  56. Lise says:

    This is great, Trent. I tell people how much use I get out of my library, and they don’t believe me. “Oh, mine isn’t that nice,” they tell me, but I’m willing to bet that most of these people don’t actually know that; they’re just guessing. A visual tour, I hope, will convince some naysayers.

    And yes, libraries differ, but I make a point of going to ones other than my local library (because I can, as I mention below), and they’re all very good. It can’t possibly be because I live in a state where people understand the value of paying taxes, can it? ;)

    The best part of my library is its membership in the Central and Western MA system, which means that I can take items out of any of the libraries in the system. It is very hard to find a book that is not in one of those libraries’ catalogs!

    @AnnJo: As they say on Wikipedia, [citation needed].

  57. KC says:

    My compliments to your librarians. The collection looks wonderful Course I can’t judge how comprehensive it is from your pictures. But just from a few shots I can tell they keep the collection up-to-date and clean. The shelves aren’t overcrowded – the mylar covers (those clear things over the dustjacket) are clean and not torn (or have been replaced when they look torn up and dirty). They do a good job of collection maintenance there. It also means they probably do a good job of collection development as the two go hand in hand. That benefits you because you’ll have timely, relevant materials that will span many subject area – not just the ones popular/dominant in your neighborhood/city/region. Chances are the best resource in your library isn’t mentioned in your article – the staff there is probably excellent.

  58. AnnJo says:

    @Kate,
    The source I use for employment data is the Current Employment Statistics page of the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Down at the bottom of the page are links to historical data.

    @8sml,

    My work situation is fine; I’m not “jealous” of government workers, I’m just convinced that ON AVERAGE they are costing the taxpayers more than is necessary to get the job done. Just as I try to avoid overpaying for health insurance, groceries, utilities, etc., I don’t want to overpay on government services.

    @L,
    I do get what you’re saying about government workers choosing that work because they are risk-averse. But you kind of drop that thought when you talk about how the private sector was on a champagne binge until recently. Risk means that for every winner, there are losers, and even in boom times there were plenty of people who weren’t breaking out the champagne. You’re comparing the average gov. employee to the top private sector worker. Wrong comparison.

    For you, as an exempt employee, there is less job security in the sense that you serve at your agency head’s discretion, but you still enjoy the assurance that your employer is very unlikely to ever go out of business. And as an exempt employee, you get the 2%/yr of service pension, so even if you never get another raise, if you work 30 years, your pension will be at least $3,050 a month + your health insurance subsidy of $150, so $3,200 a month, not $1,800. And you get a cost of living adjustment on that and the power of your state’s tax system to guarantee you’ll always get it.

    To put that in perspective, I will need a bit over $1 million in my IRA and savings to give me reasonable assurance of matching that retirement income after 30 years of work, and even then, I’m completely at the mercy of the wisdom of my own investment decisions, with no back-up for mistakes.

    I’m not complaining about my situation at all, and I surely don’t know enough about you and what you do to say whether you are over- or under-paid, and I surely believe that senior care centers do need to be inspected, libraries need to remain open, fire and police services must be maintained, etc.

    But the total weight of government pay and benefits is unsustainable and if we don’t fix it, it will come crashing down, as it already is in some places. In the private sector, pay is fixed based on what it takes to hire someone with the needed skills. In the public sector (with the possible exception of exempt employees like you), pay is based on what unions can negotiate with politicians whom they play a big role in electing, and who will be long gone by the time the chickens come home to roost.

    My library has people in secure jobs getting paid (in salary and benefits) $28 an hour to do work that private employers could easily hire someone to do for $15 an hour including benefits and without job security. This is nice for the employee, but it is an economic “waste” for the taxpayers and it means someone else is not getting the job doing some other work that the taxpayers would also like done.

  59. Kate says:

    The outsourcing argument makes no sense to me. Some jobs require a higher level of expertise and that should provide a higher level of compensation.

  60. Johanna says:

    “I’m completely at the mercy of the wisdom of my own investment decisions, with no back-up for mistakes.”

    Well, there’s Social Security. But some people would rather turn that over to the mercy of Wall Street too.

  61. AnnJo says:

    @Kate, I’m not sure your comment was in response to mine, but if so, I wasn’t proposing ‘outsourcing.’ I simply meant that if it costs a private employer $15 an hour to hire a person with Skill-set X, then a public employer who needs an employee with Skill-set X should not be paying more than $15 an hour, and if it does, it’s wasting money. Of course there are jobs at libraries that require more skills and therefore more compensation, but there are also $15/hr type jobs, except they’re paid $28/hr.

  62. AnnJo says:

    @Johanna, very true, and there’s also welfare. Like Social Security, they’re both backed up by the tax and/or printing power of the government, so they’re at the mercy of Congress. I’m not sure which is more dangerous – my trying to match wits with some pretty sharp minds on Wall Street, or my counting on the brains in Congress to do the wisest thing and keep us from becoming another Zimbabwe. Risk is everywhere. Solution: Diversify. And knock on wood or pray, according to your ‘faith tradition,’ as they’re calling it these days.

  63. L says:

    I’m a trial lawyer for the state, in the agency that regulates nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, etc. When there are problems, complaints, any terrible situation you can think of (and some you couldn’t even imagine), my agency is the one that inspects these facilities, fines them, makes them clean up their act and so forth. I take them to court when necessary, sanction them, yank their licenses, bring in all the big guns of government on behalf of the people of the state of FL to punish these greedy corporate folks who are cutting corners that endanger peoples’ lives and in many case have already cost lives. I could tell you stories that would make your hair stand on end. I’m a good lawyer too. I’ve lost only
    three cases in all these years.
    You better believe that 16 years after graduating from law school I could have been a partner in a big firm making well over $200k plus. I could be on the other side, having taken all the knowledge I learned working for the state and putting it to use for the powers of darkness. But I fight for the angels in what I do. And, let’s not kid ourselves, I don’t really want to work 80 hours a week. A government job lets me work a solid 50 hours a week (no, not 40 or 30, we work more than 40, contrary to what people think). So it’s a lifestyle choice and a security choice.
    So yes, even though I technically have no security, I do feel kind of secure becuase, really, who else would be stupid enough to do what I do so well for so little? No one.
    And I’m sure a bunch of you out there are thinking, geez, L, you are an idiot, stop complaining, that was your choice to work for govt.
    As I said, I never wanted to get rich, but I really do resent being made poorer every year, and on top of that being told that I’m lazy and that I should be kissing the taxpayers’ feet for the opportunity at every chance. A “thank you for all you do and all you have sacrificed” would be nice now and then, but then again, I really don’t want my head to explode.
    So, am I worth that paltry $61k? I get offers nearly every month to jump to the private sector. If I go, believe me, the people of FL will be the poorer for it, although they would never know it.
    It just gets so tiring, the constant criticism from people who have no idea what they’re talking about.

  64. deb says:

    I adore the library and have my whole life. I would NEVER consider buying a home in a city without one. Unfortunately our city is closing our library next summer to save money. Housing values have fallen and the city has less tax money to run on (our home’s value fell 50%). There was a ballot proposal in our last election for a small tax increase to keep the library open and the citizens voted it down. The increase for each house would have been less that what it costs to get a non-citizen card at a neighboring library ($100). Now in November we have 4, yes, 4 proposals on the ballot. It’s all very confusing and the “no tax no way” crowd did it on purpose to confuse and irritate. One proposal is from the Friends of the Library who I hear would be running the library if it passed. Not sure how I feel about that, as I appreciate a collection that is non-biased. It also feels like this is part of some bicker-fest going on amongst the city leaders.

    Anyway, it stuns me to imagine how people can be so short-sighted and ignorant in this matter. The public library serves many very important functions for an “educated society”. I can only imagine our city will continue to decline along with our property values as this sad story plays out.

  65. Johanna says:

    “Like Social Security, they’re both backed up by the tax and/or printing power of the government, so they’re at the mercy of Congress.”

    So this makes them different from government employee pensions how?

    And even at its worst, the US government is nothing like Zimbabwe’s. I know you know that, so don’t even go there.

  66. Kate says:

    #54 Deb: I hate to hear that about your libraries. It is happening more and more these days as “lets cut taxes” people come into local governments. They do not seem to understand the positive benefits that things like libraries bring to a community. Many people seem to think that libraries are no longer needed because all people do at the library is “get on the internet” and “all of the information we need is on the internet, anyway”. Which is just wrong.
    I admire Friends groups that are able to step up to the plate to help libraries–I have been a member for many years and served as an officer. But you are completely right to be apprehensive about the aspect of having the Friends run it.

  67. 8sml says:

    @ AnnJo #48: “I’m not “jealous” of government workers, I’m just convinced that ON AVERAGE they are costing the taxpayers more than is necessary to get the job done.”

    I just feel you could make that point without comparing their situation to your own. To me, what you said came across as complaining.

    I guess I just don’t trust that the private sector will always pay the “right” wages and provide the “right” working conditions (whatever those are), so I don’t see a comparison between public and private employee situations as a good way to decide what a good working environment and good compensation might be. I see two separate issues here: 1) how much should people be compensated for their work? 2) what will the source of that compensation (profits, taxes, other) be? And I don’t think the answer to #1 should be dictated by the answer to #2.

  68. Lisa says:

    I love libraries too. I found myself there so often I started volunteering at my local branch – and since then I found so many more things to love about it! (Computer class, tutoring, GED prep, amazing databases – including geneology and language learning programs, musuem passes, music/media, conference rooms, and of course amazing librarians!)
    The budget these days is tough and they rely much more on volunteers, but they’ve done a fabulous job of keeping everything free and open to the public 7 days a week still (with slightly reduced hours).

  69. Kim says:

    As a librarian, I’m always singing the praises of public libraries, but it’s especially rewarding to see that a patron recognizes the value as well (and notes that libraries are not “just books”).

    I’d highly recommend printing this article and sending it to your state and federal legislators to consider for the next budget cycle. As library budgets continue to be slashed in this economy, use is up by individuals and families looking for free educational and entertainment resources. I think that pointing out the value in such a unique way (with nice photos no less!) would make your message stand out in any pile of legislator mail.

    Thanks for the great post :-)

  70. Pnut says:

    @L

    I like your posts. I learned a lot and didn’t even visit my library today.

  71. AnnJo says:

    @Johanna, welfare, Social Security AND government pensions all derive from the same source, all three in contrast to most private retirement options, which is what I was contrasting them to.

    The U.S. government is indeed far from where Zimbabwe is, and not “going there” is exactly what I hope for. Zimbabwe’s government also used to be far from where Zimbabwe is now; it actually used to be one of the more prosperous of African nations.

    But when enough people believe, as 8sml seems to, that the government’s job is decide what the “right” pay is and that, long-term, those kinds of decisions are best made by politicians and bureaucrats instead of market forces, a paradigm shift occurs and we’re on a different road than we’ve been on for most of our short history. France is on that path, Greece is farther along, and Zimbabwe is the end of that road.

    If you believe it is impossible for the U.S. to end up in such conditions, you take a more optimistic view of the lessons of history than I do.

  72. Sharon says:

    L–I certainly want you to be well-paid. I would rather have governmental employees well-paid by the government so that they are not tempted by bribes.

  73. Johanna says:

    “welfare, Social Security AND government pensions all derive from the same source, all three in contrast to most private retirement options, which is what I was contrasting them to.”

    Then I guess I’m confused about what your point is. First, it sounded like you were saying that government pensions are perfectly safe (“And you get a cost of living adjustment on that and the power of your state’s tax system to guarantee you’ll always get it.”)

    But then, you were saying that Social Security was just as risky as investing in stocks (“I’m not sure which is more dangerous – my trying to match wits with some pretty sharp minds on Wall Street, or my counting on the brains in Congress to do the wisest thing and keep us from becoming another Zimbabwe. Risk is everywhere.”)

    Could you maybe clarify what you’re trying to say?

  74. STL Mom says:

    At my library, I can also borrow an electricity meter to see how much power I’m using at each outlet. Free to borrow, and then I can use the information to save on my electricity bill.
    #54 Deb: You need one of these t-shirts:
    http://savelibraries.org/wp-content/uploads/Cutting_Front_Color-BlackWhite.jpg
    (If you don’t want to follow the link, it says, “Cutting libraries in a recession is like cutting hospitals in a plague”

  75. AnnJo says:

    @L, I hope you don’t think I was calling you lazy or overcompensated. It sounds like you’re not either of those things and FL is lucky to have you. But that says nothing, really, about whether ON AVERAGE government compensation is rational or sustainable.

    I realize there are people who broadly talk of government employees the way you complain of and that is obviously not fair, but there has to be some way of talking about this subject as a matter of policy, without having it be seen as a personal attack on government workers. Some reputable estimates of the nation’s unfunded liability on government employees’ pensions and retiree health benefits are truly frightening. If you think public services are underfunded now wait until they are competing for tax dollars with future retirees.

  76. AnnJo says:

    @Johanna,
    I’ll try to explain.

    Public pensions, Social Security and welfare carry an implicit promise by the state to use whatever force is necessary to collect enough taxes or print enough money to pay the nominal amount due. In that sense, they are “safer” than my IRA, which contains investments in companies that cannot promise the use of force or the printing press to pay me my dividends. I could shelter under the same blanket if I invested solely in U.S. government bonds, but unlike government workers, first I have to get the money to invest in the bonds. So I have to be more aggressive and take more risks, including the risk of having my stake wiped out. To minimize this, I try to diversify. So far it’s working, but there’s no guarantee, except:

    All government programs, including pensions, SS and bonds, depend on the power of government to collect taxes or print money. Both powers are self-limiting, but the limits are nasty. Excessive taxation stifles economic activity, drives it underground, becomes costly to enforce and requires ever more severe coercive measures (travel restrictions, invasions of privacy, etc.). Excessive money-printing leads to inflation and, if pursued long enough, hyperinflation. And my stake will be subject to both dangers.

    So I consider my stake to be far more at the mercy of Congress than of Wall Street. I can diversify and study my way around most Wall Street risks. It’s pretty much impossible to safeguard adequately against a Congress that ignores economic reality.

  77. Prasanth says:

    Ah the library!! I lived in the states for 3 years before returning to India and one thing that I and my kids miss the most is the wonderful local library!! Here in India, we do not have anything remotely comparable with the libraries you have. Lucky you!!. If this is the way taxes are used, I’m all for it.

  78. deRuiter says:

    Our library has a yard sale once a year, also two book sales where everyone brings unwanted books, tapes and CD’s and donates them. The library has the sale and sells the books or items cheaply to new owners to earn money for the library. These sales make money for the library, get new people to the library as well as those who are regulars, are a fun social event, help the environment, and keep American money IN America instead of going to China for new things, so they are even good for America’s balance of trade!

  79. Maggie says:

    I really appreciate my library. I love everything it has to offer: books, movies, music, free programs etc and so forth. A fantastic place.

  80. cherie says:

    Besides all of the above, plus wonderful programs, my library ALSO offers
    Video games – a cheap way to let my kids have a chance at the wii games available – they also have games for psp and xbox
    Free Museum Pases! My library has passes for a family available for our local children’s museum and art museum as well as for the Met and Moma in NYC [we're in the burbs] – a wonderful savings! You can sign up about a month in advace for a few days’ slot

    It’s always worth asking what’s available – both of these things snuck up on me – I should’ve asked sooner!

  81. 8sml says:

    @ AnnJo #59: “But when enough people believe, as 8sml seems to, that the government’s job is decide what the “right” pay is…”

    I think it’s society’s job to decide what the “right” pay is, and that deciding what the “right” pay is very difficult (I don’t know the best way to do it). But who should decide what public workers are paid? Is there another way to do it, other than for the government (who, for better or worse, are supposed to represent the wishes of the people) to set pay rates & compensation?

    Again, I’m not saying that I know the answer or even that I think there is an answer. And when I say that I don’t think the private sector has got it right, that doesn’t mean that I think the government has got it right either.

  82. 8sml says:

    I love our local library. One of its great features is that if they don’t have a book available in the system or by inter-library loan, you can request that they purchase it. They will consider the request and if they think the book will be an asset to the library, they’ll buy it.

  83. AlBlack says:

    @AnnJo

    “My library has people in secure jobs getting paid (in salary and benefits) $28 an hour to do work that private employers could easily hire someone to do for $15 an hour including benefits and without job security.”

    Did you know that there are also private industry librarians who work the same type of jobs that the $28 per hour public librarians do? And guess what, on average they make more with similar benefits. They have similar skill sets and education as the public librarians. Private employers don’t pay these librarians $15 an hour. Why should your public library do so?

  84. elderly librarian says:

    Great Youtube video– “Librarians do GaGa”– from the U. of Washington Information School.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_uzUh1VT98

  85. lynne powell says:

    I use our local library regularly. I check out books, audio-books, and movies. I have never checked out music, but perhaps in the future I’ll check into it. I use a branch of the library that has free parking available.Every Sunday after reading the book reviews in the paper, I put in a request for books I have not previously read. I have borrowed books that have come from all over northern California through our library system’s participation in sharing assets with other other libraries. Each summer I sign my grandchildren up for the reading program and they earn rewards for each book they read. (I remember participating in very similar programs when I was a child). I do believe that the public library system is a representation of a government program at its best

  86. guinness416 says:

    My library system, Toronto Public Library, totally rocks. In fact, after a large fire in a high-rise last night that has led to many people being displaced I noticed that one of our branches opened on it’s off-day today (sunday) to provide a place to relax for residents.

    It makes me sad that others are speaking to their municipalities cutting back on library hours and services, so I always make sure to give mine some cash donations on the days they collect them in addition to the ol’ property tax. Anyway beyond the obvious stuff above and excellent promotion of local and new books/authors here’s what my library offers:

    * Hosting spaces for and free access to different classes and lectures – in genealogy, career advice, house buying, ESL, job application for recent immigrants, parenting stuff, etc etc.
    * E-books downloadable from the website.
    * Online access to journals of many types (ie downloadable as pdfs).
    * The free museum passes other commenters mention
    * Large files of study materials for citizenship/other immigration stuff.
    * “Cool zones” for the community ie access to air conditioning and iced water for all on very hot days.
    * A mobile branch (ie a van) which moves around the city as required.

    And for those put off by the homeless in the library or it being overrun with noisy kids or whatever – do check out your system’s website. Hopefully most stuff is accessible and bookable online. Unless attending a seminar of some sort I physically step into my local branch only for a few minutes at a time.

  87. Jaime says:

    I don’t go to libraries,nothing against libraries, but I would rather prefer to buy the books and own them. This is what works for me. I also prefer the internet, its like a giant library to me. Also when I pay for e-books on Barnes & Noble and Amazon, it makes me feel good knowing that I’m supporting artists. Plus I’m an aspiring writer.

    This is very important to me. I did use libraries as a teen, but eventually I gave up.I would return my books late, rack up fees, because I lived in a huge city at the time, everyone would try to put themselves on the list for a popular book, movies, cd, etc. It got tiring of being on the waiting list.

    Libraries were fun when I was a kid, now that I’m in my twenties, I would rather buy e-books, they’re cheaper, I can support the author, I don’t have to worry about returning a book late, with fees, don’t have to worry about it being on hold.

    Its what works for me, for many people libraries work for them, but I tend to read my books a million times or so, in the long run this is what works for me.

    Please don’t judge me for not using the library, my computer is like my own digital library. ;)

  88. Sarah B.B. says:

    I homeschool my children, and have made use of the library for free curriculum materials. The childrens’ nonfiction section has an amazing supply of science and craft books that have saved us countless dollars as we check them out and do the activities that interest us. For read-aloud time, I check out books like Charlotte’s Web or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and then check out the movie from the DVD section so that we can enjoy both mediums for the same story. All free. It is amazing how much money can be spent on homeschooling at the bookstore, and how much can be saved at the library.

  89. reulte says:

    AnnJo (#63) – “… but unlike government workers, first I have to get the money to invest in the bonds.” Huh? You mean I DON’T have to pay to purchase bonds? Sorry, but you’re wrong about that. Government workers have to pay for pretty much everything that private sector workers have to pay for that doesn’t have to do with the job and we have to learn to economize also.

  90. sjw says:

    guinness416 @ 71

    Did you know that the Toronto Public Library also loans out family passes to different museums and the like? I went to the AGO recently, it would have been $50 for the two of us, but instead it was just $12 (we went to one of the extra exhibits).

    My local branch isn’t great, but the website lets me request anything I want (it’s just not good for browsing).

  91. Shari says:

    Thank you for highlighting your local public library! Believe me, those of us who are librarians appreciate any and all support in getting the word out about the services we provide. Libraries make good financial sense.

  92. RSL says:

    I just wanted to say that I’m so touched by your continued endorsement of public libraries. As a very frequent library user, library volunteer, and now a Master of Library Science grad, I think libraries are an incredible resource for a community and I think your posting outlines beautifully the variety of services and events offered by public libraries.

  93. Matt says:

    Clerks at the front desk do not make $28 and hour. If you think you can hire someone who has a masters degree or doctorate for $15 in the private sector you are kidding yourself.

    On another topic, artists would not make more money if people didn’t use libraries. The vast majority of people simply wouldn’t be able to afford to buy their stuff. Libraries purchase a lot of stuff. And many people use them to find out what they really like. As a result, they go out and buy from artists they know they want as opposed to just taking a chance and wasting money. And e-books are vastly underpriced so I doubt artists are getting what they deserve out of those sales.

  94. Free DVDs surprised me -I’ve never been in a library that offers free DVD loans (I’m in the UK). Also my local library doesn’t have a personal finance section.

    But you’re right, they are often an overlooked resource of great information.

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