Discover Some Of The Little-Known Freebies At The Library

November 6, 2014
minneapolis central library

Your local public library is bursting at the seams with entertaining, informative and useful stuff – most of which you probably have no idea about.

Yeah, you can get books and do some research and snag some free wi-fi and have a quiet space to work for a while. But the “giant coffee shop with books” thing just barely scratches the surface.

Here’s a sampling of the glorious abundance that lies within the walls of your public library:

Free magazines

And good ones, too. My Stillwater Public Library, part of the Washington County system, gets me free, permanent, ownable digital subscriptions to great magazines like Fast Company, The Economist and even the Harvard Business Review (!). It’s through a commercial service called Zinio, but many libraries offer it for free. Here’s more info from Hennepin County Library and a report on the technology from the Pioneer Press’ tech writer Julio Ojeda-Zapata.


One way or another, nearly every public library in the state offers free e-book check-outs for its patrons. There are several platforms for licensing and delivering the e-books, and libraries are in an interminable battle with publishers over the sky-high costs of e-books. But either way, the books are free for you. Again, here’s HCL’s front door to e-book elation.


At the Stillwater library, a free version of is, far and away, the most popular of the many electronic research resources available to patrons. Learn about your great-great-grandpa, find old birth certificates, and more – for free! HCL offers other great genealogy and local history resources, too.

Inter-library loan

Your library doesn’t have the book you want? They can get it for you from (just about) any other library in the state (and sometimes beyond!). Guess how much it costs? It costs free! It’s called inter-library loan, and it’s the bee’s knees. Go ahead – search for a book.

[photo courtesy of Teresa Boardman via Flickr]