One of the first things I do when moving to a new town is I apply for a library card. It’s up there with setting up my utilities, finding a good coffee shop, and figuring out the street sweeping schedule so we don’t get ticketed. Why do I love the library so much? They offer amazing freebies. And you’re already paying taxes to take advantage of these awesome local perks, so get to the library and CHECK IT OUT (pun intended).
I’ve lived in Chicago, in the western suburbs of Chicago, in Scottsdale AZ, and also in San Diego. Every library is a little different, so I do ask you to go to your local library’s website so you can see which free services you can take advantage of. My list below is accurate for the San Diego public library system. COVID and library closures may also affect what each location is able to offer right now. Values for each of these items is listed throughout the blog post, and totaled again at the bottom.
I’ll start with my all-time favorite perk: Museum Passes
I love art museums, natural history museums, any museum. It’s a great idea for a date night and an excellent place to bring the kids for a day of learning and fun. Here are the museum passes I can get through my local library:
|Museum Name||What is included||Value of those free passes|
|San Diego Museum of Us||This pass is good for up to two adults and up to four children. It may also be used for discounts in our museum store and on event tickets||Adults 18+ $13 |
|San Diego Museum of Art||Free Museum admission for two adults and up to four children under 18.||Adult $15 |
Senior 65+ $10
College Student $8
Children age 17 and under are FREE
Value $30 (unless you have 18 year old children with you. Then it’s could possibly be $60)
|The New Children’s Museum||Valid for up to four people per visit||Adults $15.50ea |
Children 1+ $15.50ea Max
Nature Backpack – $50 Value
Something unique to San Diego’s library system is the ability to check out a Nature Backpack! Our weather is pretty consistent here year-round so it’s a safe bet that you’ll be able to go check out the cool tide pools, the bugs on the hiking paths and more. And you can pick up a Nature Backpack for your children to use on these trips. The packs can be borrowed from the library like a book and include field guides, activity books, binoculars, bug kits, a water bottle, first aid kit, compass, and more.
- Bug observer and magnifying glass – please return bugs to their natural habitat when done viewing
- Ruler – you can measure long caterpillars with this
- Compass – an excellent skill to teach kids is how to use a compass. They may end up on a survival reality show some day.
- First aid kit – you never know what can happen out there. Good to be prepared.
- Hand sanitizer spray – perfect during COVID, but also just in general. You might have dirty hands before eating a snack on your trip so you can clean your hands.
- Guides (contents listed on pouch) – What bird was that? What kind of shrub?
- Wildlife Explorers workbooks and Local Activities – activities for getting the most from your adventure.
- Water bottle – always bring water. Especially in So-Cal. It can get really hot here, especially out west of the city.
- Whistle – if you need help. Maybe hide this item if your child will be blowing on it for hours.
Nature Backpacks are valued at $50 each!
Test prep for SAT tests
Do you have a child 9th – 12th Grade? If so, many libraries offer SAT pre-tests, classes and practice tests all for FREE. An improved SAT score could lead to a higher scholarship bracket as well, saving on their education.
Most libraries offer career services of some sort. San Diego’s main downtown library offers the following:
The Bank of America – Merrill Lynch Career Center offers free career development services to job seekers. Operated by the San Diego Workforce Partnership, it provides:
- free individual and small group counseling;
- resource materials;
- computer and resume assistance;
- training workshops;
- bilingual resources; and
- specialized veteran services.
This is one of the cooler perks of this career center. Are you interviewing for a job but don’t have a tie or a professional portfolio/bag to complete the look? You can check that out just like a book from the San Diego Tie-brary. (see what they did there?) Check out their selection of ties here!
Technology & Equipment – more than just computers
Yes, your library offers free computers to go online and free wi-fi to connect your laptop to. I used the free computers at the library when I was creating my resume and I didn’t have a laptop or desktop computer at home to use. And I got the job which moved me out to California. Which then eventually led to an even better job here in San Diego. The Scottsdale library did a lot of heavy lifting with my resume and I don’t know if I’d be here today without their help.
But did you know that libraries also have some other pretty neat technology you can use? San Diego offers the following equipment to use FOR FREE while at the library (and with a card).
3D Printer – there’s a 2 hour printing max per day, and anything over 2 hours requires an appointment. My library currently has 8 3D printers/scanners on site, but the Makerbot Replicator3 is valued at $1,999 and they have 2 of those.
VR Headsets – My library has both Oculus Rift (Value $299) and HTC Vive (Value $499) headsets and controllers. Sessions are limited to 20 minutes each. When I saw that I thought, what is the benefit to having a VR headset on site? Well, what I found out what pretty awesome.
What else is VR used for besides gaming?
- Employee Training.
- Help paraplegics regain body functions.
- Treat PTSD via exposure therapy.
- Treat fear and anxiety.
- Help children and teens with autism develop social skills.
- Better model architects’ and other 3D designs.
- Help immobile older adults experience the world.
Silhouette Cameo Vinyl Cutter (Value $199) – Bring your own vinyl/materials, and they have the machine for your crafting needs.
Silhouette Cameo Uses:
- Silhouette Cameos can cut and draw on different types of materials.
- Card making or scrapbooking.
- Make custom vinyl decals.
- Make stencils for glass etching or screen printing.
- Cut fabric for custom textile projects.
Yea, our lab has sewing machines. 8 sewing machines and a serger to be exact. I will say this right now, I’m terrible at sewing. I can add a button back onto pants or a shirt. But sewing a full item of clothing. Nope. But hey, more power to you if you can use this.
I only wish I had the photos where my friend and I tried to sew a Zenon Girl of the 21st Century outfit. I’ll post the reference photo, but just know it did not look anything like that.
Homework Help and Free online tutoring
Do you have a child learning at home right now? There are tons of homework help features and resources through your local library. I, personally, don’t have children but I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to balance work and homeschooling right now. Some of the things that they’re learning are things I haven’t thought about since I learned about them in school. But definitely lean on the resources provided by your local library and know you’re not in it alone. Then, we can 3D print you an award because that is no small feat teaching children from home. Here are just some of the homework help options that my library offers:
The homework help program includes:
- Free access to paid Coaches and caring volunteers who are available to help K-8 students with their homework assignments;
- Free access to school supplies and materials; and
- Free access to computers, online research tools, and other digital resources available at the library.
If you need help with your homework, my library offers free, live online tutoring every day from 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. via Brainfuse Help Now. Get help in English or Spanish, for all grades K-12. In addition, you’ll find writing assistance and help with standardized tests, such as the SAT, ACT, AP, TOEFL, GED, and ASVAB. They also offer many online resources, broken down by grade and by subject that are free with a library card.
So to sum it up, here are just some of the perks and values covered in this post:
- Museum Passes – Varies – You can check out these passes as often as you’d like. So the value is really unlimited. One trip to the Children’s Museum could cost you $62 with 2 adults and 4 kids. That could all be free through the library.
- Nature Backpack – $50
- Test Prep for SAT Tests
- Career Services
- 3D printer – Varies – two of the printers are valued at $1,999 each
- VR Headsets – Oculus Rift (Value $299) and HTC Vive (Value $499)
- Silhouette Cameo Vinyl Cutter (Value $199)
- Sewing machines
- Homework help & free online tutoring – priceless
I’d love to hear what perks your local library offers and if you’ve taken advantage of any of them before! I’ve been to so many museums with the free passes and I’m going to use the 3D printer next.
Comment on this post so I can hear all about your favorite library offerings around the country.