Who knew you could use your card for more than just books?

By Rebecca Renner
Updated March 30, 2018
Library Books on Shelf
Credit: Remcy Manabat/Getty Images

You can borrow a surprising number of things for free with your library card. From subscriptions and apps, to seeds and museum passes, you’ll have plenty of fun ways to spend your free time without wreaking havoc on your wallet.

Library Books on Shelf
Credit: Remcy Manabat/Getty Images

Access to Mango, a program to learn a new language

Most people would love to learn a new language, but language learning software can be expensive. Signing up for a class at the local university can cost even more. Luckily, many local libraries have programs to help patrons learn a language for free. Most library systems have a license for Mango, a language-learning software that lets library patrons learn a language at their own pace. Other libraries have conversation groups where card-holders can get together and practice their new language together.

Passes to museums, art galleries, historic sites, and more

Several large public library systems offer passes that let library patrons get into arts and cultural attractions for free. Members of the Miami-Dade Public Library System can obtain passes for museums, historic sights and homes, art galleries, and even Zoo Miami. The Portland Public Library offers day passes to state parks, museums, the Portland Observatory, and the Southworth Planetarium.

Courses in a variety of new skills, from coding to music production

With subscriptions to websites like Lynda.com and Tutor.com, libraries help people bring learning home. Courses on Lynda touch on a range of skills including coding, digital illustration, management, and music production. Lynda and a library card can help library users learn anything they want to know for free. Tutor.com helps library patrons already on their learning journeys sharpen their skills. With Tutor.com subscriptions, libraries connect patrons with real experts so they can improve their knowledge in a variety of subjects.

The ability to borrow beyond books, from toys to seeds

Libraries aren’t just for books anymore. A number of libraries let their patrons borrow things you’d never expect. Many libraries have participated in events by The Human Library, which lets card-holders borrow a person and learn from their knowledge, expertise, and experiences. Some libraries offer seed banks, where patrons can borrow seeds to grow vegetables and flowers in their own gardens. Even more libraries are beginning to offer items like tools and toys to check out for free with their library cards, just like books.

Subscriptions to newspapers, movies, and audiobooks

One of the best ways to get the most out of your library card is to take advantage of digital descriptions through apps like Overdrive (and related app, Libby), Hoopla and RBdigital. With these apps, library borrowers can nab the latest audiobooks, ebooks and movies without leaving the couch. Members can also subscribe to have issues of their favorite magazines and newspapers delivered to their devices each month. With these services, sometimes it’s even easier to get the latest novel everyone’s reading without having to spend eons on the waiting list.