Free at the library – the reckoning

Using libraries saves you moneySince July I have been writing about what’s free in libraries. It wasn’t an original idea – I got it from an American blog (and no, of course I didn’t pay for it – though I did get permission).
Having worked my way through the library free-o-sphere, I thought it might be a neat idea to sum up the many ways I’ve found to milk Westminster Libraries for all they’ve got.

  1. With a breathtaking statement of the b* obvious, I started with books. Good books, new books, books you’ve heard of, free-to-borrow books. Paying fines would spoil the whole thing, of course, but free alerts make that unlikely. I did suggest splashing out a few pence to reserve books you don’t find on the shelves, but not if it causes your freeloader’s heart too much pain.
  2. From books I progressed to book groups. Westminster has several of these, and of course you can borrow the chosen book free (they always have a decent supply). But even if your book group is not in a Westminster library, one library member can borrow a stash of the same title from a long list.
  3. Free stuff in bed came next – nothing dirty, just all the free things Westminster Libraries can do for their members from a distance, notably by providing a long list of web-based Exclusive Resources, for which they pay a subscription so that you can get informed and have fun for free.
  4. From the bedroom (or lounge or office…), I moved back into the library for those free electronic resources which you can only get on library premises (sometimes every Westminster library, sometimes one or more). These are worth the trip if you need high-quality information on subjects like business, the law, and family history.
  5. For children, the freebies come thick and fast. Apart from the books – a huge expense for parents, but free to borrow from the library – there are special events and regular sessions for all ages from babies to university hopefuls.
  6. I was distracted from the path of freeness by the range of DVDs and CDs they have in Westminster Libraries, my excuse being that the cost is so little and the range so impressive that anyone would be seduced. And don’t forget that browsing – the favourite activity for many non-spenders – is free and available for longer hours than at many shops.
  7. Then things got a bit erudite, with quotes from Shakespeare introducing a post about opportunities for the hard-of-spending to study at or through Westminster Libraries. Computer use and training, computer-based courses, dedicated learning centres – all these are on offer, and the only thing I could find which costs a bit is printing from library computers.
  8. I paused for questions, then told you where to go. No disrespect intended: the direction I pointed you in was towards the reference libraries in Westminster, where they love, nay – adore with a kind of fundamental ache of pleasure – difficult questions. Don’t believe me? Try them.
  9. In case it was all getting just too exciting, I reached for the soothing free music. Not dodgy rip-off CDs – everything is legally cost-free. Music via the Internet, some of it paid for by Westminster Libraries but free to you, was first on my list.
  10. Then I moved on to Westminster Music Library, suggesting that you did the same. Books on music, magazines, scores, songs, expertise (lots of that) – all free, not forgetting the free-to-play electronic piano.
  11. Turning to family history (not mine – too murky), I described all the goodies at Westminster Archives Centre, and the two electronic resources for ancestor-hunters available in any Westminster library.
  12. and 13. Having shared with you my adventures in the world of electronic news databases, with some suitably rabbit-out-of-a-hat examples, I trawled through the amazing range of newspapers and magazines (print versions) available to borrow or rest your eyes under (no sleeping, remember – it’s against the rules!).

I don’t know about you, but I was surprised just what’s out there. I knew there was a good story to tell, but the range, the scope, the weightiness and the fun were a revelation to this hard-bitten professional. And as the days grow colder, I’m starting to appreciate the free heat, too…

[David]

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3 responses to “Free at the library – the reckoning

  1. Some of them also provide free WiFi. I don’t know how important the libraries consider that to be, but for a certain demographic, it is the only reason to go.

    • Good point, James – I think this series is far from exhausted! ALL Westminster Libraries provide free wifi: http://bit.ly/NnCs4
      Mind you, you never know – you might find a gem of information, an unknown resource, a great tip from the staff or even a book to borrow while you’re there… ;-).

  2. A great list of ways to save money by using your local library. If I bought all the books, DVDs and CDs that I get from the library I would be bankrupt!

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