Libraries are making a comeback in these tough economic times as consumers watch every dollar they spend. They've become the ultimate low or zero cost destination and not just for books. If you haven't been in a library since the 80s, you might have quite the surprise in store.
Gone are those microfiche machines and big card catalogs. In their place are computers, media rooms, and business centers. Want to rent a DVD? Head to the library. Starting a business and looking for some office space, the library has comfortable furniture and room to spread out your paper. It's quiet and air conditioned and you can read the Wall Street Journal and the local paper for free. Tired of paying $10 a month for WIFI for a Hot-spot, the library will connect your laptop at no charge. On a sales trip and need a stopover for a few hours to catch up on work? head to the library. They might even offer you a free cup of coffee. They have videos, CD's, computers, magazines, and of course they still have books on the shelves.
One of the best things about a library is that have and eager staff to deliver top quality service at an exceptional price - nothing. Need to know the best book on how to market your new Inernet site, the staff will point you in the right direction. Need to get some ideas on some contemporary fiction, the staff has dozens of recommendations. Remember most librarians pride themselves on their encyclopedic knowlede of books and music and a whole bunch of other things. And because of their low salaries, they're likely to be cheap which makes for great company. You'll rarely encounter a harried librarian. They might not make the fattest paychecks but they love their work.
Finding a book in a library has gotten much easier. You can even do it from home on the Internet. No more old card catalogs that made you sneeze when you opened a drawer. Computer terminals are everywhere and you can use powerful searches to find the exact book you're looking for. If your local library doesn't have the book you want, they'll tell you if it's available at another branch or how to get it on Amazon.com. It's simply amazing how far we've come in the last 25 years.
For the younger set, there's all kinds of activities like "Story Time" that not only entertain - they spark an interest in reading at an early age. That's why making weekly trips to your local library is a great investment in your kid's education and it's very easy on the budget. When my four children were young, we made frequent visits to our local library just like my mother did with me. They've all turned out to be avid readers and have the fondest memories of these family outings. I'll admit they sometimes used the facilities for a little hide and seek because kids just love a wide open space with high cielings and bright lights - especially in the winter. The rows of shelves are like an open air maze. As long as they're quite - nobody will mind.
Now your local library might be free but libraries are chronically underfunded. Your city library gets some of its funding from the city, some from federal and state grants, but there is almost always a gap in their budgets. That's why most libraries have nonprofit "Friends of the Library" associations where you can make contributions and your donations are tax-deductible. It's always a good idea to donate books and CDs and attend their fund raisers where you might land some exceptional deals to add to your private book collection. So if you use the library, think about how much money you are saving and give a little back by putting them on your short list of favorite charities.
The Frugal Grandma writes about the good things in life that are free for LiveCheap.com.
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