Lesser-Known Freebies From Your Public Library

by Chris Bjorklund

I was at my public library picking up a book for my book club when I noticed that the woman ahead of me was checking out a pass to the Exploratorium for her family. I asked the librarian for more information and found out that San Francisco libraries and others in the Bay Area have a “Discover & Go” pass, which offers free and discounted tickets to attractions such as the California Academy of Sciences, the Legion of Honor, the Oakland Zoo, the Lawrence Hall of Science, and the Pacific Pinball Museum. You log in with your library card and the listings include details about the conditions and how to make online reservations. The passes can be printed at home.

What are some of the lesser-known freebies at your public library? I was surprised when I did some more exploring. My library has special programs for teens where they can learn how to produce their own audio/video or take cooking workshops on how to make orange-chocolate smoothies. They can even get free help with homework and online tutoring. For younger children, there are puppet shows and story times. The last one I saw featured an old-style Japanese storytelling technique called “Kamishibai,” which are stories told using both a narrator and storyboards painted on sliding wood slats.

It’s impossible to describe all the freebies you might discover, but here are a few more that I found:

  1. Tai chi classes
  2. Genealogical resources
  3. Free meeting rooms
  4. Immigration and citizenship resources, including ESL classes
  5. Kanopy, a free streaming service that allows access to 30,000 commercial-free movies
  6. 3D printers and laser engraving machines

Also, don’t overlook the cooking equipment that might be on loan from your library. Some offer pasta makers, fondue pots, coffee makers and chocolate fountains—things for big parties that you might not want to buy!

There’s so much to discover…so what are you waiting for?