I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but maybe folks can pass this along to friends and neighbors and colleagues looking for a little pick-me-up.  It absolutely amazes me all the services most libraries provide absolutely free.  And it’s not just books.  Clearly, the library is a great place to try out new authors risk-free, or save that $24 on a hardcover edition.  A lot of people also know you can borrow DVDs from the local library.  Audio books, too.  And those suckers are expensive! 

Libraries are becoming more customer-friendly all the time. It was only in the last year or so that I realized how many services were available online.  I belong to both the New York Public Library and the Queens Library, and I love being able to go to their sites to see if they have a certain book.  Not only can they tell me whether the system has it, but they’ll also tell me what branch it’s at and where it’s shelved.  And if I’m still too intimidated by the sprawling layout of the huge Fifth Avenue branch, I can request the book, and they’ll set it aside for me to come pick up.  

At first I thought this was a big-city thing. But my mom, who works in a small library in a small town outside Rochester, NY, told me that they offer the same thing.  Online renewals, too.  And if this library–which only got a bar-code computer checkout system within the last few years–has it, you can bet yours does too.

Lately I’ve been most excited at being able to download library ebooks and audiobooks right from my living room couch.  For FREE!  I don’t even have to worry about late fees or returns because it’s all taken care of.  Again, not just a big-city thing.

Libraries also offer all kinds of great workshops and classes. Ours has everything from jewelry-making to tango lessons.  Last fall, Gemma Halliday and I gave a presentation at the Topeka Library on how to get published. I also love to check out what our friends are doing at the Scottsdale Public Library because they’re such supporters of romance and innovative in their programing and outreach.  

And the only thing you need to get all this amazingly free stuff is a library card.