Many of us who have been practicing the frugal lifestyle already know about the ability to borrow books, audiobooks, movies, music, software (maybe not all libraries), etc. for free from our local libraries. But it occurs to me that fewer people might be aware of the many more resources available online through our libraries’ websites.
Most library websites these days go way beyond the ability to check your account and renew books. Rather, you have access to:
- Free e-book, audiobook, video and music downloads
- Career and skill building resources
- Homework help for students
- School and career test preparation
- Databases of resources on a variety of subjects including (but not limited to):
- Consumer information
- Business and Career
e-Books, Audiobooks, Videos & Music
Many California libraries belong to a program called Califa, where users of participating libraries can log-in with their library card numbers and check out e-books, audiobooks and music. I’m sure library systems in other states have similar programs.
Materials available through Califa include fiction, non-fiction, children’s and young adult literature. The Califa system offers public domain and non-public domain items. Copyrighted material is copy-protected so that while you can use them, they can’t be copies. Non-copyrighted material can be copied to your computer to keep indefinitely.
My favorite of the offerings are the audiobooks. The system is quite up to date and offers contemporary works and bestsellers such as The Da Vinci Code, Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events, as well as classics such as Pride and Prejudice, Moby Dick, etc.
Our favorites that we have listened to several times are the Chronicles of Narnia. The recording quality is good, download is fast, installation and operation of the software was easy.
How the Califa system works
- Browse the catalog for e-books, audiobooks or music you want to check out
- Add the items you want to check out in your “book bag”
- Check out when you are ready (I believe the loan period is 3 weeks).
- Enter your library card number and PIN (Visit or contact your library to get a PIN or if you don’t know yours. It’s often the last 4 digits of your phone number.)
- Download the Overdrive software to play audiobooks or music on your computer
- You can listen to the material on your computer for a period of time before it expires
- The Overdrive program also has MP3 download for iPod, iPhone and iPod Touch
The best part is that even though our current local library isn’t part of the Califa system, I was able to access the system using my old library card from when I lived in Alameda County (in the Bay Area). Older library cards do expire after several years, but if you recently lived in a bigger county or city system, you may still be able to access online resources through those libraries’ websites using your old library card. In California, most libraries will issue you a card as long as you are resident of the state.
So get on our library’s website and check out all the great resources you have access to. If you don’t have a library card, go and get yourself one!
For more on the benefits of a library card, check out a post I wrote earlier this year: The Library Card, Your Other Rewards Credit Card.