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Why You Should Run, Not Walk, to Your Public Library

Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

I’ve got THE BEST money-saving, freebie deal to share with you today. This is the big one, friends. A completely legit, no-coupon-code required, money-saving deal that will blow your mind.

What if I told you that by using this deal, my family has saved over $4,000 dollars in the last six months alone in free books? Free books! We don’t get to keep them of course; this deal is more like Netflix -- where you pay a monthly subscription to get access to all of these books but you do have to give them back when you are done. Except unlike Netflix, this deal is absolutely free.

It’s called ... wait for it ... the public library.

You probably have one right in your hometown. It’s this completely magical building where anyone can just walk in off the street and (regardless of credit history or the size of one's bank account) gain access to as much free reading material as he/she wants.

The library in our town is so magical that even if they don’t have the book we are looking for, they can use some kind of wizard summoning spell to make it appear in the library, sometimes as quickly as the NEXT DAY.

Wait, there’s more. If I can’t make it to the library, I can get on my computer and press a few buttons and then the next time I visit, all of the books I want will be waiting on a special shelf with my name on them, for FREE!

Did I mention how all of this is free?

My youngest waiting for the library doors to open so he could begin his summer reading program.

Listen, in all seriousness, I can’t sing the praises of the public library loud enough. Our local library has been a cornerstone to the experience of raising my children.

I started started bringing them to story time as babies, and by the time they were precocious preschoolers, they knew some of the librarians by name and these wonderful ladies knew them, too. They knew what books my boys would want to read, and before long, they knew which children’s books I would want to read myself.

I met mamas and their kids at the library that are still friends today. Our family has had the opportunity of meeting some of our favorite authors in this public space and the privilege to be inspired by their stories.

These experiences are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what our local library offers. If you want to start a business, the library offers myriad resources on how to go about doing that.

Want to know more about your family tree? The library has people on staff who will help you sort out your genealogy (but they won’t help you sort out your family ... there has to be a limit to what these wizards can accomplish).

Need to use a computer? They have one for you, for free!

Test coming up? The library offers practice exams for academic, civil service, military and many professional industries.

Need help with your taxes? The library has accountants on hand during tax season to answer your questions.

Our local library even brings in adorable, furry dogs to snuggle up and read to if you just really love dogs. I feel like I forgot to mention that all of this is free.

In the last six months alone, our family has checked out more than 300 books from our local library system. I found this handy calculator on my library’s website, which is how I found out that we had, in fact, saved over $4,000 in materials and resources in six months.

While there are books I am so thrilled to own, and bookstores I love to support, our budget simply cannot keep up with our reading habit without our library.

Our library habit is so intense it requires one of these really large rolling carts. And that's just the books for the kids.

There is substantial research illustrating the direct correlation between reading aloud to our babies and children and their academic success down the road. If you are research-minded, I’d highly encourage you to check out this article or this one.

If you’ve already had the experience of raising a reader, you may already know this intrinsically. You’ve felt the weight of your baby's warm body snuggled into you while you read Goodnight Moon or the wiggling, giggling toddler squirming on your lap while saying "No!" to the pigeon in Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus for the one hundredth time, or the wide-eyed, breathless anticipation of your young child desperate to know what happens to Harry Potter in the next chapter.

You’ve watched your child grow into a reader and watched him disappear behind a book and discover the possibility of living so many kinds of lives, and you’ve seen your child re-enact her favorite scenes with her dolls.

You’ve seen your teenager find empathy for someone whose experiences he can only imagine because of a book, and you yourself have left behind a busy day of work and diapers and bills and difficult relationships to sink beneath the sheets with a copy of your favorite author’s latest novel. You don’t need to read the research to know the magic of books.

So, today, if you are already a regular at your local library, take a minute to thank the men and women who make the magic happen. Take a friend while you are at it, and if you aren’t a library regular, get in your car and go now.

Sign up for a library card, ask for a book recommendation and see for yourself. This really is the deal of a lifetime.

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