public library


People are shocked at what they can get for free through the public library besides books

Udemy and Coursera courses, musical instruments, zoo passes and more—all for free.

Did you know you might be able to get Udemy and Coursera courses for free with your library card?

It's well-established here at Upworthy that libraries are the greatest human invention ever. An open and welcoming public space where you can borrow books about any subject you want for free as long as you bring them back? Simply brilliant.

But even as awesome as that is, it's not even the half of what makes public libraries great because there is so much more you can get than just books. Lots of people probably know you can check out DVDs from most libraries as well, and many probably know that you can check out digital books and audiobooks as well. (If you haven't checked out the Libby app to check out free audiobooks with your library card, run don't walk.)

But let's go over some of the lesser-known library card perks, which miraculously keep on growing. These offerings will vary by location and may not be available at your local library, but it's worth checking your library's website because you might be surprised.

Zoo and Museum Passes

Many cities—including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle and many more—offer free admission tickets to area museums, parks, gardens, zoos, etc. For most library systems, you get a certain number of tickets per month for free, but these can save you a ton of money. We're talking main attractions in some of these cities, not just obscure museums no one has ever heard of (not that those aren't worthwhile).

Classes through Udemy, Coursera, LinkedIn Learning and more

Online learning platforms like Udemy, Coursera and LinkedIn Learning offer tons of classes about everything under the sun, but many of them you have to pay for. Many libraries offer access to these classes for free. To see if your library does, log into your library's website and look for the digital resources area. (I live in a tiny town that doesn't offer Udemy or Coursera, but it does have LinkedIn Learning and a bunch of other offerings.)

Mango Languages

When I went searching for Udemy on my library's website, it was delighted to find that Mango Languages is available for free with my library card. On the paid site, a single language is $7.99 a month and unlimited languages is $17.99 per month. With multiple languages, you can save over $215 per year simply by going through the public library website. Amazing.

Actual Framed Works of Art

Tired of bare walls but not sure what to put on them? Some libraries in Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia and many other places offer artwork you can check out for a period of time and then switch out. A perfect way to keep your home looking fresh and updated and save on buying art to hang on your walls. Win Win.

Musical Instruments

Yes, really. Some libraries have begun offering musical instruments for their patrons to borrow, from drums to banjos to keyboards and more. If you've ever had the hankering to try out an instrument but didn't want to shell out the money.

Power Tools

Surely now we're joking, right? Nope. If you're in Los Angeles County and need a tool, head to the local library where they have a list of dozens of tools. Drills, sanders, power washers, drill bit sets, you name it. They also offer sewing machines and other sewing equipment. But it's not just L.A. County. And it's not just tools. Some libraries are offering things like baking pans, popcorn makers, telescopes, sports equipment and other useful things we may not have on hand but don't want to have to buy.

The American Library Association estimates that around 2/3 of Americans have a library card. If you don't, highly recommend you get one from your local library. It's free! You can also check the terms and conditions of libraries that aren't local to you to see if they allow non-residents to get a card. There is often a fee associated with a non-resident library card, but sometimes that might be worth it if you're traveling to a city and want to take advantage of their museum passes.

The bottom line is that libraries can be great for your bottom line with free offerings that go so far beyond just books. Yay, libraries. They really are the best invention.