One thing that I think many people don’t take sufficient advantage of is their public library. When moving from San Francisco to Chicago I’ve had some bumps in the road with adapting to the local library, but I still love it. In both places, we’ve been about a 10 minute walk from a library – in SF, the Main Library and in Chicago a regional branch.
- Placing holds online is awesome! Pretty much any public library these days has an online database where you can search all the materials in the library system. You can browse stuff you’d like to check out, enter your account info and set the item to be delivered to whichever library is most convenient to you and then pick them up at your convenience. Cost: $0. Extra work over buying books on Amazon: Marginal, and none if the delivery guy misses you and you have to go pick up your package.
- They have movies! I don’t think people realize, the library has TONS of DVDs (and VHSs if you’re old school) – and not just documentaries and PBS series – they have all the blockbusters, usually a great array of cool foreign films, hit TV series (we watched the entire Sopranos series from the library), classics (I’m a huge fan of the Critereon Collection). Combine this with and well… Cost: $0, Extra work over Netflix: Only pick-up from the library instead of delivery to your door.
- They have music! Again, it’s not just opera and classical, the library has all kinds of popular music. Not to promote anything illegal, but just sayin’ Exact Audio Copy is awesome and works great on CDs that might be scratched from a lot of handling.
- Books are awesome! Seriously. Reading is amazing. I can tear through fiction but I’m trying to teach myself to get better at reading non-fiction too. I’m not sure what my problem is because even the type of non-fiction that’s written to read like a novel doesn’t usually grab me (though I was enthralled by Mad in America and found it incredibly readable). – unless it’s a business book (a lot of which are awful – I thought Up the Organization was amazing and the concepts are timeless (even if the talk about the “girls in the steno pool” isn’t)). There are so many amazing books in the world – currently we have 12 items out – three novels for me, some amazing photo books, a couple books for A, some art books, and a movie.
And 4 surprise special bonus reasons!
The library in Chicago also has museum passes that you can check out for free admission to certain museums, which I find pretty amazing, especially given the quality of the museums here (the collection at the Art Institute of Chicago kind of blew my mind).
Both Chicago and San Francisco libraries offer free WiFi which is nice – though I’ve gotta say that if you’re going to camp out and do work, I’d personally prefer home where I can be comfy or a cafe so I can sip some coffee while I go, whereas libraries don’t like food or drink in the building. I actually set up for a day at the Chicago library just after I moved and was trying to work but didn’t have internet yet – it didn’t work that great though because I needed to talk on the phone which is also not cool to do at the library, so I kept having to go down to the lobby and outside.
If you’re into eBooks (including for the Kindle) or audio books (total white noise for me), you can check these out from the library too – by downloading them online.
The long and the short of it is the library is an amazing resource that is available to you at no cost (or you’re paying for it through taxes anyway so it’s wasteful not to use it).