Library BookWhen I first bought my Kindle, I used it all the time. I could have most books delivered in a matter of seconds and could take a dozen of them with me on vacation (or on my lengthy commute) by carrying something that was less than the size and weight of one typical book. I still think this is pretty amazing.

However, my Kindle got me into the habit of buying books whenever I needed one. I wouldn’t even look anywhere else; I would just buy.

Years later we had kids and that reminded me of a wonderful pastime from my own childhood: our family’s weekly trips to the library. Kids go through so many books that there’s no way you can pay for them all. Suddenly, instead of being a forgotten building that I never used, the library became a treasure trove of not only books, but quality time spent with my children. When money started to feel tight after we moved to DC, my habit of spending money on my Kindle was one of the first to go. I used to spend at least $20 a month on books, but now I only make a Kindle purchase when I absolutely have to and I almost never buy a regular, physical book.

Why I Love the Library

  1. It’s free. Enough said.
  2. Book delivery: Large library systems (like ours in Fairfax County, VA) have many branches and will deliver the book we want to our local branch. It takes a few days, but it saves you lots of time.
  3. Holds: Hold requests allow you to get in line for a book and be notified when it’s available. Then, you can just pop into the library, grab the book, and pop out again. Yes, you do have to wait for popular books, but that just gives you time to finish the stack you already have.
  4. Quality Time: Most libraries have a great children’s section with comfy chairs and small tables. My kids can spend a lot of time there.
  5. Reading programs: Libraries put on great, free programs all the time. It’s the perfect way to entertain your kids on a cold winter day.
  6. Requests: Many libraries let you request books they don’t have. While there’s no guarantee that they’ll get them, if you can wait, this is a nice alternative to buying the book.
  7. Donations: Libraries also accept donations! You can bring your stacks of unused books to the library and write them off on your taxes. We traded in at least 30 books last year for an estimated tax deduction of $2-$9 each.
  8. E-Books: Most libraries carry a limited selection of e-books, so you can still enjoy the benefits of your kindle without paying a cent.

How to Search the Library’s Website

There is one thing I really hate about the library. Most of them have horrible website search systems that are nearly useless. While I am optimistic that someone will improve this system and make it easier to find books, my best advice is to know which book you want before trying to find it at the library. For me, that means searching on Amazon first, then, instead of using the library’s “Subject” search, search on the author or exact title in quotes.

Library Search

Library Search by Title

If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for ahead of time, find something close, figure out which section of the library it’s in and then browse the nearby similar titles.

I estimate I’m saving $100-$200 per year at the library. Are you?

Find your local library here.